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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!