The white stripes come to Price

Proposed bike lane includes on-street parking, only one lane for autos

Artist's rendering of the Price Street proposal

Price Street has long been something of a nightmare for those living along it. Its twin one–way lanes of rapid traffic heading south out of downtown are a magnet for accidents, drunk drivers, and sirens.

For their part, local bicyclists have long pined for a real southbound bike lane out of downtown. (Habersham Street has a narrow northbound lane; Lincoln Street is also northbound but because the bike lane is on essentially the wrong side of the street it’s often used as a southbound lane.)

Both those seemingly unconnected situations could be helped by a City of Savannah plan in which Price would become a single southbound car lane with a six–foot wide, dedicated bike lane running along side it.

And get this: If approved, there will be on–street parking. On Price Street.

“I’m not always an advocate of bike lanes if they’re not well thought out, but this plan looks like it’s really going to be good,” says Frank McIntosh, executive director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign.

“A lot of thought went into engineering it,” he says. “For cyclists there will be huge traffic calming measures. The lives of people living on the street will be improved.”

That said, not much will actually be done to the road: No widening, no resurfacing, no curb cuts.

It mostly comes down to the paint.

“The only thing changing is the white stripes,” says Heather Fish, Citizen Specialist for the City of Savannah. “Adding paint on a road adds the perception of boundaries. Right now the perception is that Price Street has no boundaries.”

The plans call for a lane of parking on the right, a roomy six–foot wide bike lane to its left (the better for bicyclists not to get “doored” by people getting out of their parked cars), and the auto transit lane to the far left.

“All lanes work to protect the others — there’s cushion built in,” says Fish.

This proposal, with bike traffic going the same way as car traffic, fixes a problem with the Lincoln Street lane.

Also, “there’s a better angle of vision for people approaching an intersection,” explains McIntosh. “The great flaw of Lincoln Street is people come off side streets and they’re blocked.”

After this past Tuesday’s final public comment period, the proposed changes will likely come before City Council, and — though one can never completely predict these things — it would seem to face a bright future before that body.

The way here however, was a little less straightforward.

At one point in the roughly five–year discussion about what to do with Price, there was an attempt to make Price fully two–way, like most city streets.

There was also the horrendous idea of making it like East Broad is now: two–way for part of its length, one–way for the rest.

“Both concepts met with opposition,” says Fish, who describes residents who were uncomfortable with the way those proposals were shaping up.

“The residents made it clear they wanted change,” she says, “they just didn’t want a two–way street.”

Fish says a major goal of stakeholders all along Price was to reconnect the east side of the street with the west side.

“The residents see the current plan as being a real win/win for reconnectivity,” says Fish.

While discussion of what to do with Price had been going on for some time, the tipping point came in 2009, when the Savannah Bicycle Campaign approached Mayor Otis Johnson, an avid cyclist himself, with the need for a real southbound bike lane out of downtown.

The mayor liked the idea and saw to it that the proper steps were taken to make it happen through staff.

Fish says the timing was fortuitous: “As it turned out, the discussion about Washington Avenue getting approved for a bike lane happened about the same time Price Street was discussed.”

But that seems to be the way it is with bicycle politics. McIntosh echoes, “People complain about bike lane plans before they’re built, but usually once they’re built people say, ‘Wow, this is wonderful. My property values just went up ten percent.’”

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