Getting Around Atlanta

Something that has been a bit of a surprise about the section of downtown Atlanta I’m staying in is the lack of traffic. The infrastructure is mostly three and four lane roads, many of them one-way, but I haven’t seen a time of day when they’ve seemed particularly crowded. I don’t know if this is a consequence of Covid, or if it’s just been this way for a while.

Two obvious upsides to this. First, the downtown area feels very pedestrian. Sure, it’s all constructed around roads, but the lack of traffic means you can cross streets almost whenever and wherever you want on foot, so it feels a lot like it’s “for” pedestrians. Second, even without much in the way of bicycle infrastructure, the area feels very bicycle friendly. Basically, you just ride your bike in the right-most vehicle lane, and traffic is so light for how many lanes have been built that cars just go around you because they have empty lanes to use.

That said, road maintenance does seem in line with usage. Back when I bought my travel bike I was a bit bummed that, since I’m a big guy, I needed to get a more robust design that is intended for some offroad use. I guess I’ve always thought of myself as a sleek, cool road cyclist. But Atlanta has proven the advantage of what I ended up with by having pretty poorly maintained roads around here. Especially the rightmost lanes near the curb where a bicycle naturally wants to go. I’ve hit some pretty big potholes, and even rode down a section where trees on the side of the road had grown their roots out in a way that was pushing up the asphalt and buckling the road surface. The roads have all been usable, but with a certain amount of caution demanded.

For my purposes, this has made downtown Atlanta feel a lot better for walking and cycling around than big chunks of NYC. The lack of traffic has been more useful for making me feel safe and comfortable than special infrastructure that tries to split over-crowded roads between cars and bikes and people.

I do wonder if other parts of Atlanta are like this, or if it’s just a side effect of how residential and commercial spaces are distributed downtown.






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