First is shade. You never really think about shade if you are driving around in an air-conditioned car. It's just a lighting condition. But out on the blacktop on two wheels, a shady spot can be, oh, 10 degrees cooler than an exposed area a few feet away. Make it deep shade and the difference is even greater.
For a cyclist, this knowledge gives you some summer survival strategies. You would think that Atlanta would have tons of shade everywhere, since the entire region is naturally heavily forested and trees sprout up like weeds. Really. Let me show you my garden. I have to keep pulling oak trees out of it!
So, it should be really shady, but it's not. The state Department of Transportation has outright banned trees along most of its roads, saying that they are a hazard for cars that lose control and run off the road. Any trees that are placed along state roads have to be behind the sidewalk (so the pedestrians will provide a buffer?). In general, trees have not been required along city streets, nor even a planting strip where you could put them, nor any city or regional plan to plant them. They are considered an unaffordable luxury for most public works departments, and some local utility companies have successfully had street trees banned in certain jurisdictions. In addition, existing trees tend to get cut down for development and other projects.
Typical streetscape - exposed, some recent plantings, a few mature trees
We have an active non-profit organization, Trees Atlanta, that works to promote tree cultivation and to plant trees in strategic places. However, their lack of familiarity with transportation issues, especially for bicyclists and pedestrians, has resulted in some poorly-executed projects - there are endless examples of their trees obstructing sidewalks, protruding into bike lanes, blocking traffic signs, and even removing portions of the sidewalk.
Nonetheless, there are still ways to find some shade for yourself. On a hot afternoon, you might plan your entire route around the shadiness of the available streets, or at least avoid long exposed stretches.
The deep shade of Oakdale Road, near Emory, is a treat on a hot dayYou can also take advantage of small patches of shade, especially when stopped at a traffic light. I only start to overheat when I stop moving and no longer have air flowing over me. In this photo, I have carefully placed myself in the shade of a thick lamp post. My arms and legs are sticking out, but most of my head and torso are shaded. There is also a sign casting a small shadow on the handlebars.