When October 1st rolls around, most people dust off their flannel shirts and flock to the nearest source of pumpkin spice coffee drinks. But to cyclists in Atlanta, October 1st marks the beginning of Biketober – a friendly (sometimes fierce) annual competition sponsored by Georgia Commute Options where coworkers and friends team up, track, and tally their bike rides for the entire month. This year Kronberg Wall decided to join the challenge, and after braving heat and hills, rain and wind, and one cold snap, I thought I’d share why we couldn’t be happier about leaving our cars behind.
Urbanists in Atlanta and around the country are tearing their hair out after discovering the Northside Drive pedestrian bridge at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium came with a $33 million price tag – a figure the City has since disputed. Coinciding with budget shortfalls in the Renew Atlanta bond program, this prioritization illustrates the disparity between public funding for flashy projects and basic city infrastructure like sidewalks and multimodal streets. The shiny new bridge, a twisting collection of concrete and metal meant to funnel walkers over a six-lane car sewer, appears to some as a beacon of progress. For us, it is a glaring reminder that the Atlanta is often not built to foster equity.
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?
If you haven’t yet heard (you must live under a rock), CSX has officially vacated Hulsey Yard, a former intermodal freight terminal and our across-the-street neighbor. They have moved the operations of Hulsey to another yard in Fairburn, leaving the 70-acre site that divides four neighborhoods largely empty. Serendipitously, those same neighborhoods have recently kicked off a master planning process to develop a “cohesive, community-supported vision” for the future of this giant property.
We’ve attended the pop-up, we’ve submitted our comments online, but we also want to spread the word about what we think should be done with this site. We are proud residents of Reynoldstown, and our office sits right on the edge of Hulsey. What we want, more than anything, is MORE. More connectivity, more neighbors, more density. There are a few things we want less of, too. Namely, less parking. We’ve outlined some guiding principles below:
It’s 2019. Does your city still have minimum parking requirements? So starts a recent Strong Towns post, and while Atlanta does still have minimum parking requirements, we’ve also recently implemented some changes that will hopefully begin to free us from our parking plagued past.
We’ve talked extensively in previous posts about the problems of parking requirements. Minimum parking requirements are known to induce driving, decrease affordability and decrease walkability. The average cost to build a surface parking space is between $5,000 and $15,000, and structured parking is estimated between $25,000 and $50,000 per space. Those costs are not eaten by the developer, they are passed on to the end user. Buying a condo? You’re paying for parking requirements. Renting an apartment? You’re paying for parking requirements. Looking for an office or retail space? You’re paying for parking requirements. Don’t drive? Doesn’t matter, you’re paying for parking requirements if they exist. Beyond cost, it’s important to understand what parking requirements physically look like when implemented. They look…suburban.
It’s no secret that we are bicycle enthusiasts at KWA; half of our employees are bike commuters, and we also happen to share an office with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. It might be the proximity to ABC, or it might be frustration with the lack of bicycle infrastructure that we see in the city (especially as compared to new car infrastructure or pedestrian bridges), but we have turned from serious bicycle enthusiasts to serious bicycle advocates. Sure, we could say we’ve always been advocates, but this time we decided to kick it up a notch…by pitching a tactical pilot project for Dekalb Ave to the Renew Atlanta team and to the City of Atlanta. We are delighted to say that it was well received as a concept, but now is time for the rubber to hit the road. Literally.
We’ve had a lot of time to think through housing challenges and opportunities facing Atlanta. La France Walk is a unique chance to explore this issue firsthand. From the beginning, the core question for La France Walk has been, “How do you create a place, and what type of housing would that place include?” – or from a technical standpoint, “What is the most appropriate type of housing to build on a site adjacent to a heavy rail transit station and surrounded by a two-family zoned neighborhood with a single-family feel?”
For this installment in our Placemaking video series, we teamed up with some of Atlanta’s foremost cycling advocates and experts to discuss how investing in cycling infrastructure helps to create great places. Thanks to Breck Prewitt of Ground Game Media for the great work!
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a young, hopeful person who has decided to run for city council. This candidate has focused on issues of inclusion and equity as cornerstone principles. While I fully support these principles in the abstract, I want to know immediately what specific policies would be rolled out to promote these goals. I treasure these opportunities to change minds and dismantle perceptions and expectations. It also gives me a chance to work through theories bouncing around in my head in real time as well.
Affordable housing is now and will continue to be an exceedingly important and challenging need for cities across the nation, and Atlanta is no exception. More and more people are looking to live closer to where they work, live, learn, and play. We have a very limited amount of land that qualifies as walkable urban, and not even all of that has access to MARTA rail. This scarce resource is rapidly becoming more expensive as a large and growing number of people compete for the limited amount of available housing. The Beltline is sparking further demand, speculation, hope, and price appreciation as single-family homes and commercial properties become more desirable within this hoped-for walkability.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Boyd Baker from the Good Gracious Show to talk about making better, more connected neighborhoods. My goal is to break down how transportation choices, zoning, parking, and other “under-the-hood” things have an outsized impact on how we live our lives, and the happiness we derive from them. Click here to listen to the conversation.