City of Rome

Rome officials are considering a ban on pedestrians and — especially — cyclists along the bypass, Veterans Memorial Highway.

"It's really not safe to ride on roads with speed limits of 50 mph," Rome Public Services Manager Kirk Milam told members of the city's public works committee.

Police Capt. Chris Dehart said bicyclists are out every morning during rush hour and officers are responding to an increasing number of colli-sions with vehicles. Most recently, two cyclists were riding as a pair and a driver grazed one and sideswiped the other.

"He's got a long road to recovery," Dehart said about the sideswiped rider. "So far, we haven't had a fatality, but the injuries are nasty."

Milam said a lot of vehicles have extended mirrors that can accidentally clip a cyclist as they pass at a high rate of speed.

The bypass is a state route, but the city can request the prohibition from the Georgia Department of Transportation. However, elected offi-cials have asked for more data before making a decision.

"We're trying to encourage cycling in the community and I'm hesitant to send a message saying 'you're not welcome here," said City Commis-sioner Wendy Davis, a member of the committee where the proposal is being vetted.

Commissioner Sundai Stevenson, who chairs the committee, asked for more information on the accident rate.

"I wouldn't ride a bike on there, but that's just me," she noted.

Dehart said the police department sponsors cycling safety events and tries to get educational materials out where it can, "but it's a two-way street." A departmental video on YouTube posted in mid-2016 had 249 hits as of Sunday.

Milam said he would plan a presentation, including a look at what other communities may be doing to address the issue, during the committee's November meeting. He's also soliciting input from local cycling groups on the proposed restriction.

Public works committee members did sign off on a proposed fix for the traffic jams on Braves Boulevard at the bypass that Milam said could be implemented for under $10,000.

Traffic backs up on the road in front of State Mutual Stadium and often blocks the entrance to RiverPoint Apartments, a 124-unit complex that opened this past spring. And more development is underway on the road, which links to the Armuchee Connector.

"It's not the worst intersection, but we have some approaches that are problematic," Milam said.

A simple solution is to convert the southbound right-turn lane to a second through-lane for cars heading across the bypass onto Riverside Parkway. Milam said computer modeling indicates it would significantly improve the traffic flow.

"That's smart, because that right hand lane feels like it ought to be a through lane anyway," Davis said as the committee voted to back the change.

The modeling also showed there would be a slight improvement to the stack-up on Riverside Parkway, although Milam said he couldn't explain why. Dehart said it's a problem area for accidents because the intersection with Chatillon Road is so close to the bypass.

Milam said a second signal would be the best solution, but also the most expensive. He's looking into a suggestion from Commissioner Randy Quick to direct traffic heading to the bypass onto J.L. Todd Drive.

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