Atlanta Streets Alive is hoping to shift gears and become a once-a-month cycling and pedestrian gathering along traditionally car-centric Peachtree Street thanks to legislation now under consideration by the City Council.
Atlanta Streets Alive, an initiative of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC), began in 2010. The event blocks vehicle traffic along stretches of major thoroughfares like Peachtree Street and DeKalb Avenue and opens them up for bicyclists, wheelchair users, pedestrians, skaters and scooters. Nearly 2 million people took part in Atlanta Streets Alive between 2010 and 2019. But when the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the popular event was put on hiatus.
Last year, the ABC, responding to what they were hearing from the community, urged the City Council to make the event a weekly gathering. The legislation went nowhere. The nonprofit organization is hoping the council this year is amenable to once a month.
“Our original proposal was somewhat of a moonshot for a weekly Atlanta Streets Alive,” said ABC Executive Director Rebecca Serna.
“But there was some pushback from some prominent stakeholders along Peachtree Street to the weekly timeline and so we scaled back,” she said. “Monthly still would be amazing, because I think would it still get a lot of the benefits of the frequency, the regularity, to be something that people can expect.”
City Council members Amir Farokhi, Jason Dozier, Liliana Bakhtiari and Matt Westmoreland introduced the legislation last month seeking to close off Peachtree Street between Mitchell Street and 14th Street every Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. beginning Jan. 15.
“Atlanta Streets Alive obviously has been met with open arms for the past 10 to 11 years in the city,” said Farokhi. He credited the ABC for the program’s success.
The current legislation, he said, would “get the city to carry the baton on what should be a regular occurrence in a world-class city.”
“If you look at many of America’s great cities and world’s great cities, you see they have a regular car-free day of the week or day of the month,” Farokhi said. “It’s pretty common because people love it. Residents love it. Businesses love it. Tourists love it.
“It brings the city together and brings it alive in ways that make you fall in love with city,” he said.
The legislation is currently being held in the transportation committee while the council works with administrators to find funding to put on the event every month if it is approved. Farokhi said it is estimated to cost $1.5 million to hold Atlanta Streets Alive monthly.
Serna said the ABC started Atlanta Streets Alive as part of advocating for safer streets.
“Our streets are really dominated by cars and people driving and we, in advocating for safer streets for people, felt we needed a dramatic mindset shift,” she said. “Closing streets down to cars temporarily and turning them over to people entirely seem to provide that shift for people who participated in it.”
Peachtree Street was chosen for the proposed monthly program because it links South Downton, Downtown and Midtown, some of Atlanta’s densest neighborhoods, she said. The three-mile stretch of Peachtree Street that would be closed off is also accessible to six MARTA stations.