*A experiential testimony from Melinda, the blogger who writes Life on Wessyngton Road.
Last Sunday [April 17] was the first Atlanta Streets Alive event of 2016. Atlanta Streets Alive is an open streets event sponsored by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. If you've never been to an open streets event, you've missed out on a potentially transformative experience.
It wasn't hard to find the starting point -- Georgia Avenue was barricaded and there were lots of people waiting for start. There were speeches first, but we couldn't really hear them; we were too far back.
Then we continued east, and caught up with the famous phoenixes that always lead the bicycle parade.
It wasn't the liveliest or most crowded Streets Alive event I've ever been to -- that's always on North Highland, where bars and restaurants set up tables on the sidewalks and spill into the street, and the there are so many people you can't ride a bike through the crowd -- but in some ways it was the best one. Grant Park I sort of know -- we used to go to the zoo when the kids were younger, I took flute lessons there for a few years, and now we go to restaurants there sometimes -- but the only time I've been to Summerhill was when I worked at the Summerhill fall festival for Living Walls a few years ago. The route took us through Summerhill and Mechanicsville, right past the soon-to-be abandoned Braves stadium before we got to West End. These are neighborhoods that weren't well-served by either the Braves or the City of Atlanta. (Let's see if the redevelopment that is being planned for the area will finally make things better for the people who've lived here all this time, as opposed to just making it better for the developers.) What was special about this route was the demonstration that these neighborhoods in fact could be connected by what should be one of the great east-west cross streets in the City of Atlanta. Grant Park is a thriving neighborhood, and once that massive dead zone of parking lots is replaced by something that is actually occupied more than 81 days a year, Summerhill and Mechanicsville should be better places to live. Connecting all these neighborhoods should help all of them.
Although there seemed to be fewer restaurants and other local establishments participating along some parts of the route, there was a nice neighborhood festival feel pretty much all along the way. The neighborhood associations were all there, with tables and tents and friendly people there to answer questions. I know that the Bicycle Coalition made a conscious decision not to do the same loop in West End this time, but to make the case for connectivity. It was, I think, a great decision. They have a petition on their website now, asking for support for biking infrastructure investment along Georgia Avenue and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard. The time is right to stitch the fabric of our city back together, and I don't know a better way to do it than to make a pretty modest investment in infrastructure that can help make this corridor one of the great streets in our city.