Yes, you can bike in Atlanta
By Guest Columnist KEVIN H. POSEY, an advocate for sustainable transportation and urban development practices worldwide
Atlanta is notorious for being a car-dependent city. Whether it’s minor snowstorms that create scenes akin to a bad disaster movie or burning bridges made of steel and concrete – materials not known for their combustibility – Atlanta’s car addiction is now in the same league as that of legendary Los Angeles. But in a revolutionary change of direction, the bike is being elevated as a legitimate way to get around for those of us who wouldn’t be caught dead in Lycra.
Rather than dwell on the ins-and-outs of the T-SPLOST funding and Renew Atlanta bond proceeds that fuel the city’s Complete Streets projects, I am taking you, the reader, on a short, virtual ride (3.5 miles) from my Atlanta neighborhood, Lake Claire, to Ponce City Market, a new and thriving redevelopment of an old Sears distribution complex.
For much of the first part of our trip, we will be playing in traffic on McLendon Avenue. The city of Atlanta painted sharrows and a few intermittent bike lanes on hill climbs back around 2013. This part won’t be much fun if you’re not comfortable with texting drivers zipping past you. However, the city plans to create a far superior bikeway on nearby DeKalb Avenue, which runs parallel to McLendon Avenue.
Thankfully, it’s not far to reach PATH’s Stone Mountain trail, an entrance to which can be found off Ponce de Leon Avenue. Much of this route is rather bucolic, which is ironic since this land was originally set aside for one of the worst expressway projects in history, the Stone Mountain Freeway.
Once we reach the vicinity of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum, we pick up the fabled Atlanta BeltLine. This is the Eastside Trail, which also has its share of artwork. Note the empty right-of-way to the side of the trail. This is reserved for the streetcar, which will ultimately run alongside most of the BeltLine. In a conversation with BeltLine officials at last month’s Georgia Trail Summit in Columbus, I was told that this section will likely see the first stretch of streetcar service in the very near future. It will tie into the existing Atlanta streetcar line, but it will be much faster thanks to its reserved, car-free right-of-way and lack of grade-level crossings.
We are now rapidly approaching Ponce City Market. The art is getting a bit stranger.
Ponce City Market’s developers wisely created a prominent entrance from the BeltLine. Just inside the property is where we can valet park our bike for free. I was told by the valet that this is a fairly new service. You can also rent bikes here.
Inside Ponce City Market we’ll encounter my favorite spots:
- Hops Chicken, because I’m such a big health food aficionado (bigly).
- Binders Art Supplies , which has been in Atlanta since I was at Georgia Tech and had hair.
- Posman Books, because a retail complex without a bookstore might as well be a Walmart.
As you can see, it is, indeed, possible to run errands and have a good time by bike in Atlanta, or at least parts of the city. This is no shock to those Atlanta residents and workers who live in town, but it’s likely a shock to the car-tethered masses beyond the Perimeter. As Renew Atlanta projects crank up, expect similar trip opportunities to pop up elsewhere.
Note to readers: Kevin Posey recently moved back to Atlanta from the Washington, D.C. area, where he served on the Capital Trails Coalition, the Virginia Bicycling Federation board, and chaired the Alexandria Transportation Commission. Posey’s portrait was taken during the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, where he observed police breaking up a gathering of street protesters.
The author’s bicycle trip from Atlanta’s Lake Claire neighborhood to Ponce City Market continues in the photo album below.