Athletes upset over proposed anti-cruising measures
By Amanda Casciaro
Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer
MARIETTA - An ordinance a Cobb commissioner has proposed to limit traffic from cyclists, roller-bladers and inline skaters on Columns Drive near Atlanta Country Club has drawn applause from residents and ire from athletes who use the road as a training ground.
Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the no-cruising ordinance, along with several other county code amendments, during a 7 p.m. meeting tonight.
After years of complaints from residents who allege foot and bicycle traffic has made it difficult to get to and from their homes on Columns Drive, Commissioner Joe Lee Thompson said he proposed the ordinance to open debate on a solution for the 2.2-mile strip.
"The idea came out of concern from people who live along Columns Drive," Thompson said. "There's an awful lot of activity there and it's almost gotten to a point where Columns is a park, and it's not a park. It's a residential street."
The road, which leads to the Chattahoochee River Recreation Area, has become a hotspot for professional-grade cyclists, runners and even wheelchair athletes like Michael Mills.
The ordinance would prohibit anyone from passing any given point on the trail more than twice in one hour.
"On any given day, I'm anywhere between 10 and 15 miles on that road," said Mills, who has used Columns Drive to train for the past year and a half.
The ordinance "would limit my wife, Christie, from going out there with me and helping me train. One of the biggest things I think that bothered Christie and I the most is that we do this as a couple, and there's not a lot a person who's disabled can do with their spouse. It benefits both of us."
According to Mills, who was left paralyzed a 1993 car accident brought on by a drunken driver, the trail is the safest and most convenient means for him to train for events such as the upcoming ING half-marathon in Atlanta and the 2008 Paralympic Games.
"I've been going out there for a year and a half, and I have yet to have someone complain about me rolling past their driveways," Mills said. "If anything, people wave at me."
"Some of the cyclists want to go the whole distance as fast as they can, and of course, that's even faster than some of the automobiles. That creates a problem when you have families walking and skating," he said.
There are other places throughout Cobb where cyclists and other athletes can train, Thompson said, including the Silver Comet Trail and sidewalks along Roswell Road.
"It's the fact that it's a residential street," Thompson said. "You pick a street anyone lives on that all of a sudden starts being used as a park, and it's unfair for people who live there."
If the ordinance is approved Feb. 23, when the commission makes a final decision on proposed ordinances, the Cobb Police Department would be charged with enforcing it, Thompson said.
"A lot of people will obey the law just because it's the law," Thompson said. "But, obviously, the police would enforce it if a homeowner called.
On a crowded day when there were a lot of people there, there will be a marker up so (police) will be able to see who passes it twice in an hour. If that occurs, they can write them a ticket just like if someone didn't use their seatbelt."
Christie Mills, Michael Mill's wife, said the ordinance would affect her ability to train more than it would affect her husband's ability to use Columns Drive.
"It's just one of the few places I feel safe to let Michael train as far as the road goes," Christie Mills said. "He goes out to Silver Comet as well, but the traffic on that trail is so bad it's hard for him to weave around baby carriages and all that safely.
"It's just such a popular place to ride that this ordinance has really gotten a lot of eyebrows raised from cycling groups in the area."