Last month the Atlanta-based lifestyle magazine Creative Loafing asked, “Could Atlanta be new Amsterdam?” This wasn’t suggesting that the southern city is suddenly embracing the free spirit side of Amsterdam, including their infamous red light district or liberal laws on the use of cannabis, but instead suggested the parrellel drawn because of city’s bicycle friendliness.
“I saw the quote,” said Kyle Azevedo, CEO of Atlanta-based viaCycle, Inc., which works with the bike sharing program at George Tech University. “I’m not sure I would go quite as far as to make that comparison, though it's great to see real signs of cultural change with regard to transportation in Atlanta.”
These bikes are part of viaCycle's Georgia Tech bike sharing launch
In addition to a cultural change, there has been a push from the local government, which in 2009 saw the creation of Connect Atlanta, an initiative created by Mayor Shirley Franklin that called for plans to add 95 miles of rail and bus routes, but more importantly for cyclists 200 miles of bicycle lanes. These lanes would connect with the city’s existing Beltline as well as proposed Regional Transportation Plan projects to create a regional network of bike paths.
Supports in city hall are already working to make this become a reality. “I do think that Atlantans will embrace the idea of the city becoming more bike friendly,” Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta City Councilmember, District 11 tells BikeRadar. “Many Atlantans already leisurely cycle and I believe that the natural progression will be for us to see cycling as a more mainstream mode of transportation once the infrastructure is in place to ensure safety.”
While the city’s urban sprawl and notorious traffic are obstacles, recent efforts have taken cycling into account, including retrofitting of streets to include bike lanes when other work is done. This is notable as the downtown streets have seen the addition of a new streetcar, which will connect the King Center with Centennial Olympic Park.
And the fact that Atlanta was home to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games is just one reminder that the city has made quick improvements in the name of outdoor activities, including cycling. “The 1996 Olympics have shown us that anything is possible in Atlanta,” says Bottoms. “We are a city that excels when challenged by innovative ideas. As long as congestion, fuel prices, and the economy are a concern, then Atlantans will continue to explore and be open to alternative modes of transportation.”