Two new PATH trails will serve Emory campus

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Jan. 10, 2019

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The final section of the South Peachtree Creek Trail opened in October, linking Emory’s Clairmont Campus with Medlock Park, Mason Mill Park and nearby neighborhoods. This spring, Emory will begin constructing two new bicycle-pedestrian pathways that will help connect this system to the heart of Emory’s main campus. Emory Photo/Video

Through a partnership between Emory University and Atlanta’s PATH Foundation, two new bicycle-pedestrian pathways will be constructed this year that will help connect the South Peachtree Creek PATH trail system to the heart of campus.

Cyclists and pedestrians on Emory’s Clairmont campus will be able to follow the existing traffic-restricted bike route along Starvine Way to reach the entrance of the new multi-use PATH network, which will begin at Andrews Circle and cross Haygood Drive, presenting two options.

Turn right, and the path will follow Haygood Drive to Clifton Road and continue past the Woodruff Health Sciences Building onto Means Drive, where a new, dedicated path will parallel the pedestrian bridge. The path will then angle past the north side of Emory’s new Student Life Center (now under construction) and terminate at new sheltered bike parking by the Woodruff PE Center [WoodPEC].

Turn left at Haygood, and the path will flow through Emory property across from Druid Hills High School and meander toward North Decatur Road, where it will continue westward along North Decatur Road toward campus, terminating at Clifton Road and the Emory School of Law.

Construction is set to begin in May 2019, shortly after Emory Commencement exercises. Much of the system should be operational when students return to campus this fall. Completion is set for 2020, says David Payne, associate vice president of planning and engagement for the Office of the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration.

With both projects, the aim is to help cyclists and pedestrians get out of traffic, replacing existing sidewalks with wider, dual-direction paths, most of which will be about 10 feet wide, says Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation.

“One of our goals is to connect all of Atlanta’s major universities to the PATH system,” says McBrayer. “With these new trails, the Emory community will have a safe, desirable connection that’s separated from traffic, from North Druid Hills and Medlock Park all the way onto Clifton and North Decatur roads, and that’s a substantial achievement.”

Enhanced safety, connectivity

In addition to providing safer off-road options for campus commuters, the new Emory PATH system will offer increased connectivity for students on Emory’s Clairmont campus.

“We have a lot of students living at Clairmont. For them to have a safe, beautiful biking route into the heart of campus is critical,” says Ciannat Howett, director of Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives. “This really enhances our student experience, creating an important new artery.” 

Many of Emory’s student athletes use facilities at both the SAAC [Student Academic and Activity Center] on the Clairmont campus and the WoodPEC on the main campus, notes Howett. “This will provide such a wonderful amenity, allowing them to travel between them more easily, literally helping them feel more connected and more anchored to our community,” she adds.

The new project marks the culmination of months of planning. In 2016, Emory approved a new Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan that advocated a multi-use path network that would provide safer cycling and pedestrian options, Howett says.

That year, Emory created a working group drawn from faculty, staff and students as well as community experts, representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and area non-profits, and city and county officials to engage in a visioning exercise.

The scope and charge of the committee: look at Emory-owned property and come up with bicycle-pedestrian options to help people move where they need to go safely and connect with larger off-campus networks. 

Quickly, a consensus formed around priority projects, Howett says. “It’s been exciting to start a process and see it come together,” she adds. “We’re thrilled to partner with the PATH Foundation to make it happen. It really promises to be a transformative project for our campus and community.”

Not only do the new paths promise to increase connectivity, they should help get more commuters off roadways, decrease congestion and improve air quality, Howett notes.

‘Connective tissue’ for campus 

This marks the second partnership between Emory and the PATH Foundation, which has helped create 100 miles of public multi-use trails throughout the metro Atlanta region. 

In April, Emory celebrated the opening of the PATH at Emory, a new bicycle-pedestrian trail that runs from the Mason Mill Tennis Center, crosses under busy Clairmont Road, and ends in front of the gates at Emory’s Clairmont campus. 

In October, the South Peachtree Creek Emory Connection Trail opened — the final section of a pedestrian and bike trail that links Emory’s Clairmont campus with Medlock Park, Mason Mill Park, the historic Decatur Waterworks, and several residential neighborhoods as it continues toward North Druid Hills Road. 

Building paths at Emory that link into that system “is creating connective tissue to the main campus, which is great,” says Matthew Early, vice president for the Division of Campus Services, which will partner in constructing the paths. “Knowing that we are able to move forward with this project quickly is very exciting.” 

“From a public safety point of view, getting bicycles off the road is great,” he adds. “It reduces our need for parking infrastructure and our carbon footprint. Now we’ll just need to encourage people to use it.” 

But there are many in the Emory community who will need no convincing. 

Living close to campus, Jean Welsh has often embraced the risks that come with riding her bike to campus. “It really comes down to safety,” says Welsh, an associate professor who conducts research into childhood obesity in Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. 

“When people can bike safely, it won’t just be the die-hard cyclists — you’ll see people coming from greater distances,” adds Welsh, a co-chair of the Emory Employees Cycling Network (EECN), which numbers over 100 members. 

In addition to helping bring more cyclists and pedestrians to campus, the new paths should also help cyclists navigate campus, “which can be a big challenge,” says Mark Hutcheson, managing director of Emory’s Global Diabetes Research Center and the Georgia Center for Diabetes Translation Research.

Hutcheson has been commuting to campus by bicycle for 11 years — about a 30-minute ride on most days. “When I came to Emory, I knew that was going to be part of my transportation plan,” says Hutcheson, EECN co-chair. “Now, on the rare days that I do drive, I’d much rather be on my bike — especially when I’m sitting in traffic.”