Atlanta Streets Alive pushes aside car culture for fun April 23


Atlanta’s local open streets initiative, Streets Alive, hits town this weekend as walkers, bikers and skaters take the place of cars south of downtown.

Streets Alive will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday on Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and Georgia Avenue. The roads will be closed to cars and instead will be occupied by what organizer Chantelle Rytter calls “human-powered amusement.”

“Removing automobiles from our streets for four hours creates this incredibly beautiful public space,” said Rytter, who organizes a bike parade that kicks off the event. “Your neighborhood looks completely different when you can stroll down the double yellow line. We see our streets in a way we don’t normally see them.”

Temporarily closing streets to automobile traffic is a worldwide phenomenon that began in Bogota, Colombia, in the 1970s. Known as Ciclovia, it takes place every Sunday in the South American capital city and has been replicated across the globe over the past three decades.

Atlanta’s version, Streets Alive, kicked off in 2010 with an estimated 5,000 participants on Edgewood Avenue. It quickly grew in popularity and now biking can sometimes be difficult even without automobiles because the crowd gets so thick. The event allows skating, jogging, skateboarding and just about any other form of transportation as long as it’s not motorized.

The purpose of the event is multifaceted. Prompting alternative transportation, especially in light of the I-85 bridge collapse, is one aspect. But others include health awareness and bringing the community together.

“It has opened a lot of people’s eyes to the fact that maybe the MARTA station down the street is within walking distance, maybe it won’t be as challenging to get there as they thought,” said Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “But it’s about a lot more than transportation. A lot of it is civic pride, and a big part is about health, about providing opportunities to get out and active.”

Serna lived in Bogota for a year while studying public participation and city planning and experienced Ciclovia firsthand. She said the experience is a beloved weekly event in Colombia and part of the city’s civic culture.

“It was really a life-changing experience,” said Serna, who has led the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition since 2007. “Every Sunday, there was this great initiative where people enjoyed the streets outside of their cars.”

Bogota is a much different city than Atlanta, with automobile ownership rates only at around 20 percent when Serna lived there. Still, she eventually considered a version of Ciclovia as a local possibility.

“When I got back to Atlanta, of course the city was facing a lot of transportation challenges,” Serna said. “I was in a meeting and someone brought up open streets. I said, ‘We should try that here. Maybe it will open people’s eyes to new ways of getting around the city.’”

Serna held an initial planning meeting with other organizers, and six months later, the first Streets Alive was held. There was some consternation at first about the idea of closing down streets in car-crazed Atlanta, but participants soon embraced the concept.

According to organizers, the Sunday event will span 4 miles connecting nine Atlanta neighborhoods. The two other Streets Alive events in 2017 will be held June 11 (Marietta Street and Howell Mill Road) and Sept. 24 (Peachtree Street).

One of the most colorful parts of Streets Alive is the Great Bicycle Parade, which kicks off the event right at 2 p.m. Bicycles outfitted with 10-foot-wide phoenix wings symbolizing the city of Atlanta lead the way, and participation is open to everyone.

A brand-new wrinkle this year is Atlanta Streets Alive Radio (ASARadio). As part of Streets Alive’s “Funkadelic Cyclicious” theme, ASARadio can be streamed on mobile devices throughout the event. The (family-friendly) funkadelic stream can be accessed at mixlr.com/asaradio.

“If you want to be in the bike parade, get the weird outfit from the back of your closet and dress funky,” Rytter said. “Charge your phone, and if you have a Bluetooth speaker, bring that. There is free bike decorating at 1:30 at the starting point, which is the intersection of Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and Lucille Avenue. We are giving out 48 pairs of John Lennon-style colored glasses for the parade. We will look like rock stars as a group together riding down the road.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Go Guide

Robert Spano to leave ASO music director post in 2021
Robert Spano to leave ASO music director post in 2021

Robert Spano announced Tuesday that he will conclude his tenure as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra after the 2020-2021 season. At that point, Spano will have led the orchestra for two decades — a long time for any director of a major orchestra. He will stay on as “conductor laureate,” and continue to lead the orchestra...
James Franco, ‘Wonder Woman’ among Oscar nomination snubs
James Franco, ‘Wonder Woman’ among Oscar nomination snubs

Nominations were announced for the 90th Academy Awards‬‬ Tuesday, and although a number of actors and filmmakers and films have multiple noms, some names expected to be called were snubbed. >> Read more trending news  According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Franco was considered by many to likely be nominated for his...
Young adult authors offer shenanigans and stories in live talk show series
Young adult authors offer shenanigans and stories in live talk show series
Kimberly Jones and Vania Stoyanova met over books. Several years ago, they launched a book club for adult readers of young adult books. Now they are reaching out to a bigger audience with a “Jimmy Kimmel-esqe” live talk show featuring  young adult (YA) authors called YATL. “We thought, what can we do that is different from You...
Jordan Peele makes history with ‘Get Out’ Oscar nomination
Jordan Peele makes history with ‘Get Out’ Oscar nomination

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, “Get Out,” has earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director. The nomination puts him among just four other black directors nominated for the award. >> Read more trending news  The Los Angeles Times reported that John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood”), Lee Daniels (2009&rsquo...
Ralph Lauren’s 2018 opening ceremony uniforms turn up the heat
Ralph Lauren’s 2018 opening ceremony uniforms turn up the heat

Ralph Lauren, the longtime outfitter of the U.S. Olympic team, took the wraps off the 2018 opening ceremony parade uniforms Monday revealing that American athletes will be entering the stadium in Pyeongchang, South Korea, bundled up in heavy-duty, down-filled red, white and blue parkas layered over patriotic intarsia knit sweaters and paired with slim-fitting...
More Stories