Lessons from Market Street

Some will recognize the image above as a still from the film “A Trip Down Market Street”, shot in 1906 in San Francisco by Harry Miles. Notable for capturing images of San Francisco only days before much of the city was destroyed by earthquake and fire, the film also depicts the American streetscape as it was before the private automobile became the dominant form of transportation.

The freedom of travel and vibrant street life on display is a world apart from today’s urban streetscapes: streetcars, horsedrawn carriages, cars, pedestrians, and cyclists move across an open, shared streetscape, unconstrained by lanes, speed limits, or stoplights. It’s a snapshot of an urban streetscape before private cars became the dominant form of transportation. For today’s urbanists, the democratic design of Market Street contains a lesson that can, and should, be reincorporated into today’s cities: a streetscape that gave each mode of transportation equal claim to the public right of way.

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The Not-So-Great Scooter Debate

There is an imbalance in the way we prioritize streets. This imbalance stands squarely between us and a better future for our city.

Can you believe it? Some opaque industry polluted the public spaces of our city with dangerous vehicles and we are all complicit in allowing them to get away with it! These devices are endangering our children, congesting our streets, and ruining our quality of life. Oh…, wait, you thought we were talking about scooters, those safe, environmentally friendly alternatives to the true culprit – your hideous and lethal automobile? You need to get some perspective, my friend, and share it with your state and city legislators.

Cities around Georgia, and now the State of Georgia, are implementing laws to regulate the use of e-scooters and e-bicycles, citing ‘safety’ as the number one concern. Communities are outraged at the proliferation of scooters that are “littering sidewalks” and “speeding” past pedestrians. Many municipalities have banned scooters, and the City of Atlanta has gone so far as to implement a speed limit on the Beltline, one of our only car-free pieces of infrastructure. We need to take a step back, and ask ourselves, are scooters really the problem? Or, are they one somewhat pesky solution to a much larger issue?

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Atlanta Streets Alive: Help Us Advocate for Complete Streets!

KWA and ABC’s vision for a complete Dekalb Ave

Come see us on Sunday at Streets Alive! We’ll be stationed on Dekalb Ave, right in front of Lloyd’s Lounge, showing off a demonstration of what a Complete Dekalb Ave could look like and talkin’ urbanism. Before you head over, take a look at our post from February about improvements to Dekalb Ave, and don’t miss the PDF presentation on tactical improvements to Dekalb Ave.

Finally, if you (like us) feel strongly that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements to Dekalb Ave should be a top priority for city investment in 2020, head to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s website and join their support campaign. Go the extra mile and send a letter of support to your councilperson – ABC has a template on their campaign page.

 

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