I signed up several weeks ago to volunteer as a ride leader for the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s 4th annual tour of the BeltLine. For those of you not “In The Know” about the BeltLine, it is a $2.8 Billion redevelopment project that will shape the way Atlanta grows throughout the next several decades. Providing a network of public parks, green space, and transit along a 22-mile historic railroad corridor, the BeltLine circles downtown Atlanta and connects over 45 intown communities. The BeltLine is the most comprehensive economic development plan ever undertaken by the City and is among the largest and far-reaching urban renewal projects in the history of the country.
Today, I showed up to StudioPlex at 9 a.m. and made the acquaintance of some terrific folks with Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) and some fellow tour-day volunteers. Jett Marks, the ABC volunteer coordinator was even sporting a fancy bike trailer-come-traveling sandwich board sign attached to his bike for the tour. Given that it is Easter Weekend, images from the Stations of The Cross would scroll through my mind as we rode…and the BeltLine is definitely a cross worth baring! Read Jett Marks’ blog about today’s ride [here].
In the little over 3-hour twenty-eight mile ride the true magic of the Beltline was revealed to me. It was more than seeing parts of the city that I had never seen before (by bike, foot or car)- but how it would fundamentally change how Atlanta residents would participate in their environment. With several major sections completed, or nearing completion, I was treated to a vision of connected communities that have been long isolated by barriers of geography, socio-economics and race. I saw a great leveling of the accessibility that members of one community would have with another- weather by hopping on their bike or one day hopping a streetcar. Accessibility creates opportunities for interaction, interaction creates opportunities for communication, communication allows for an honest discussion of real issues by real people.
Just on our tour leader training ride I counted people from 5-6 different communities that were brought together by the beltine and had a positive experience- I even picked up a few participants for The Kirkwood Sunday Ride which I lead. This was just on a small scale with 8-10 people, and admittedly the results are small. But imagine the incalculable impact of this level of interaction when multiplied by the potential number of BeltLine users. It is staggering to comprehend! Back to the real world now.
I had completed the ride last year and (sorry guys) it was slow and somewhat poorly organized. It is already apparent by the level of planning and forethought into this year’s event that it is going to be spectacular! There will be several tour lengths (Sweet, Half and Full) with three ability groups in both the half and full lengths. All groups will have a leader, escort and sweep to keep the pace moving along. I would ask you to STRONGLY consider adding this to your itinerary on Saturday, May 7th. If you go- I highly suggest the moderate group which I will be leading- we will be the “fun” group to be sure! (Click Image Below To Register)