by Rebecca Serna
At the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s Blinkie Awards earlier this month, Mayor Kasim Reed made a commitment of $50,000 to help bring Atlanta Streets Alive to Peachtree Street. As the executive director of Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, I cannot tell you how much this means, not only to members of our organization but to our city as a whole.
Atlanta Streets Alive is an open streets initiative that the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition organizes for our community. Atlanta Streets Alive creates a vibrant experience of city streets for people on foot and on bike. This year, Peachtree Street will be opened to people and temporarily closed to cars, to celebrate human powered amusement and transportation. We are so excited to traverse Atlanta’s oldest street in a new way and showcase the potential for development that is fun, healthy and sustainable.
On May 19th, almost three miles of Peachtree from Downtown to Midtown will be closed to motor vehicles and opened for you. During the event, expect thousands of people to hit the streets to enjoy the outdoors, celebrate neighborhoods, and come together on bicycle, foot, skateboard, rollerblade or whatever form of people-powered movement you’re into.
Because we don’t bring in outside vendors, only free activity partners, Atlanta Streets Alive supports local businesses along the route. We encourage participants to patronize these businesses, giving people a chance to explore the neighborhood and enhance the local economy. We will connect through movement and diversity as a community through Atlanta Streets Alive. I am personally exhilarated to know that our voices have been heard and our requests have been answered by Mayor Kasim Reed’s pledge of $50,000 for this very special event. We can’t wait to show you what we have planned for our city.
Bringing Atlanta Streets to Peachtree Street is a vital step in this effort, and experiencing Peachtree without the car traffic will change the way you see the city forever. You may even start to wonder why it can’t be more like the rest of the year. If you do, we encourage you to ask that question of the city – there is a growing appetite for change and even the possibility of a dedicated bikeway on Peachtree is in our sights.
You may be asking why it is important to celebrate human powered transit. There are so many answers to this question, but perhaps the most important one for Atlanta is sustainability. In a city where smog alerts are common in the summer, we as a community are responsible for what we put in our air. As we become a more bicycle-friendly city, we can create a more sustainable urban environment and better health for our friends and families. By increasing the percentage of people that ride a bicycle to work, we can cut down on toxic inputs like congestion, smog, high gas prices and depletion of the ozone layer. Active transportation is a healthier way of getting around that represents a shift in our social norms, but is a shift worth making.
In addition to the environmental benefits, bicycle riding is also beneficial to our health and wellness. A short bike trip or walk to work or transit can release the stress of the working day, helping us arrive at work, school or home happier and invigorated.
Most of us need to be more active – and so do our kids. By introducing healthy options for transportation to children at a young age, we can help them see car ownership as one option among many and replace the social stigma of not owning a car with the popularity of riding a bicycle. By exercising as we commute, together we can combat the national obesity epidemic, as well as health issues like heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure and Type-II diabetes.
Along with the health and environmental advantages of bike riding, there is the notion of going back to the simple things in life that bring joy to our days. There is the connection to your community and others who are making a change for the same reasons. There is the relationship that begins to flourish as you and your family commit to activities like riding bikes together instead of watching television. Together, we can feel a sense of belonging by participating in sustainable transportation throughout our city. Whether for transportation or for pleasure, our mission revolves around sustainability, and we can get there by riding together. I invite you to participate in better health, human powered activities, and community connection with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is determined to make a change. We are building momentum and we would like you to join us for the ride. Many cities across the nation are becoming bicycle-friendly and the City of Atlanta and Mayor Kasim Reed are committed to joining their ranks. We can do this, but not without your help! Grab a bike or a friend and we’ll see you at Atlanta Streets Alive on May 19th – on Peachtree Street.
Ms. Serna is executive director of the Downtown-based Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, which promotes and advocates for Atlanta becoming more bike-friendly.