A Glimpse of a Car-Less Urban Future: Atlanta Streets Alive

Atlanta is world-renowned for its awful traffic. Today we received a surprising receive: 9 miles of streets from Buckhead to Decatur roped off for use by pedestrians, skaters, bikers, and scooters (that’s what you call people on scooters, right?) Enter Atlanta Streets Alive.

I couldn’t refuse this call to adventure. Today I got to see parts of my city that I have never experienced. Sure, I’ve been on these streets in my car, but it’s another matter entirely to see a street and see a city (and everything that comes with it) from the back of a bicycle, cruising easily in the open air.

People of all sorts and ages and vehicle types came out, including a dude on an electric unicycle. Businesses and vendors set up shop along the route, selling skates, blasting music, or (in the case of the REI folks I met) hosting a mountain biking demo course. See my live report:

An event like this might just be a fun once-a-year type of thing. But I’m not satisfied. What if our streets were like this every idea, or at least once a week? Is that even possible? Would it be valuable?

Yes to possibility. As others smarter than me have noted, ridesharing and autonomous vehicles will likely start a move to significantly reduce car ownership and use in cities. And once the real cost of car ownership becomes high enough relative to the ridesharing alternative, the scales will really begin to tip.

People will still want to get around, of course, so we might see a second renaissance for pedestrians, bikers, and the lot. Already the move to create urban trails like Atlanta’s Beltline and the success of scooter rentals signal to me that people are craving more open-air, lighter-impact modes of transportation.

I love cars, but I think a more car-alternative-friendly future will be a win for most of us, in both expected (better air, environment, etc) and unexpected ways. From better communities (you can actually talk to your fellow commuters when you’re walking or biking) to more creative businesses (the streets can actually be great homes for commerce), the biking/walking street is just more interesting than the car-packed one.

I, for one, welcome our new bicyclist overlords. The future can’t come fast enough.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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