Monday, December 28, 2009

The Battle of Atlanta

There seems to be news from all sides. One day, we hear about digging giant highway tunnels under some of the city's most beautiful parks and neighborhoods. The next day, there is an eloquent opinion piece about carfree living, by one of the BeltLine project managers.

Multimodal street design in Amsterdam - sidewalk, cycle track, motor vehicle lane, and streetcar track

I don't understand the dogged devotion to new and wider highways. Highway VMT, or vehicle miles traveled, has been steadily decreasing for years. We can't even afford to maintain the roads we have. Their economic development potential was tapped out in the 1980s. They are a massive drain on our society in terms of wasted time, injuries and property damage, and air pollution (including CO2), to name a few. And - libertarian arguments aside - they are more heavily subsidized than any other form of transportation, including public transit. If we could reduce our transportation expenditures, imagine what we could reinvest in education, public safety, city services, and other forms of development or infrastructure. I have sources for all this; just ask.

If you are reading this, you are at least thinking about your transportation options. And there are a lot of options. In 2001, the most recent data available, 19% of non-work trips were less than a mile, and over 40% were under 3 miles. Some of that may involve limited access highways, but many of those trips could easily be taken by bicycle. Almost 60% of work commutes were under 10 miles, a standard bicycle commute distance.

Everyone, no matter where they live and where they go each day, should think about each trip they take. I'm still guilty of driving when it is totally unnecessary, sometimes. The MARTA train usually passes me out of spite on these trips. What impact will your trip have on your community - will it add to traffic and air pollution? What will you miss out on if you drive - a beautiful flower garden, your daily exercise, a chance to meet an interesting (and for you single folks, potentially cute) neighbor?

It's hard to enjoy the beauty of a city sunset at 55 MPH

Commuting can become a social event. Credit Copenhagen Cycle Chic

You can also make note of the things that prevent you from bicycling for a certain trip. Are you uncomfortable about riding with car traffic? You can make the trip by bicycle with some friends, go at a quiet time of day, or take a Confident City Cycling class from the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Not sure how to carry everything (or everyone) with you? Learn from this and other websites - there are tons of cargo options out there, ways to carry children, and more.

Families can travel easily by cargo bicycle (or tricycle). Credit Copenhagen Cycle Chic


  1. Here in Los Angeles, we face an enormous gap in our financial fortunes and the requirement that all of the streets we built in the 20th century stay well-paved. We can't afford to keep what we've built.

    Hopefully we'll have more folks coming to their senses, and realizing that the automobile entitlements they're used to are killing our economy.

  2. People unfortunately perceive bicycles as inferior to motor vehicles, the sole option of the poor or those with multiple DUIs. That was the perception in the small New York towns in which I grew up and worked before moving here.

    Also, people lack realistic concepts of time and distance. Some have been flabbergasted that I would ride my bike an entire TWO MILES (gasp!) to get some place. That's not much. If they would give it a try, the extraordinary nature of distances tend to wane, and two miles leads to four, six, sixteen, and beyond.

    And look at the fun! How can you pass that up? It is a wonderful experience to see someone else's eyes as you pass, or pull alongside, and say hello and smile.

    Especially, as you say, Michelle, if they are cute.

  3. Hi, how did I not find your blog until now? I like.

    Wondering if you've seen an increase in cycling in Atlanta.

  4. Thanks Christa! I haven't been doing it that long. I love your blog.

    Yes, I have seen an increase. However, we're starting from such small numbers that the growth is still slow...

    Happy new year y'all!