Sights From a Car Free Day in Atlanta

Who said you need a car to have a great day in Atlanta?

While Atlanta is extremely car-centric by big city standards I recently had the pleasure of exploring Atlanta for a full day without a car. The end result: 36,000 steps, 16 miles walked, 10 scooter miles, and multiple MARTA trips.

The day started by taking in the views down a very quiet Peachtree Street where you can still see the remnant striping of the Shared Peachtree Pilot Project (that needs to be made permanent). From there, I made my way over to Ponce City Market to get a couple hours of work done.

Despite the Beltline being the biggest draw in Atlanta these days, there’s a lack of safe and direct facilities to get there without driving. The route I chose snakes along Highland Ave, Jackson St Bridge, and John Lewis Freedom Pkwy. The route should be getting enhancements along Jackson Street at any time with the addition of a parklet that I had the privilege of helping produce plans for a few years back. Overall though, it was enjoyable rather low stress route and I came across several children making their way to school via bike busses and walk busses.

Car Free Challenges:

  • Not a straight shot. Need more direct, safe multimodal corridors between Downtown and the Beltline
  • Very difficult crossing and slip lanes at the intersection of John Lewis Freedom Pkwy and Boulevard

After a couple of hours working and watching Ponce wake up and come to life, I headed Northbound on foot along the Beltline to beautiful Piedmont Park where I captured some done photos.

Car Free Challenges:

  • 10th and Monroe may have the highest ped and bike crossing counts but other than having a ped scramble is like any other busy intersection. Changes are coming though.

From there, I met a co-worker for lunch nearby at one of my favorite local spots, The Nook. Spent a few minutes too long with the drone, so took a short scooter ride down 10th and up Piedmont.

Car-Free Challenges

  • “Protection” on 10th Street is mostly damaged
  • Piedmont Street has no bike lane

After lunch, was a trip back through the park and down the Beltline. This stretch contains some of my favorite developments around such as 760 Ralph McGill, and The Krog District, The mix of adaptive reuse, small scale new construction, midrise towers and more create an amazing environment. All of which use the Beltline as their front door and not vehicular streets.

Heading West from the Beltline to Downtown brought me past one of my favorite intersections in the city – Auburn Ave @ Randolph and Old Wheat. This corner has a mix of uses featuring a small condo building, corner retail, a pocket park and an uniquely shaped house.

From there my journey took me past the birthplace of MLK, and up a new bike lane on Jackson Street where I rejoined the trail along Highland Ave.

After a few minutes to relax, I headed down the massive Peachtree Center MARTA escalator to catch the train up to Midtown. There I had a great chat at Dancing Goats with Darin Givens of Thread ATL about the future of urbanism in Atlanta.

The walk back down Peachtree was a great opportunity to take in the great mix of old and new architecture along the famous street. It also took me past the massive Downtown Connector which will hopefully be buried soon in what would be the first of hopefully many Reconnecting Communities projects in Atlanta.

Next up was a MARTA trip up to Lenox Mall where there may have been more cops in the mall than people. One has to think we may be getting close to the legendary mall re-thinking the large parking lots and traditional setup and transforming it into some sort of urban shopping and mixed-use hub. A quick walk down Peachtree felt very out of place on foot despite being surrounded by 40+ story towers. After a quick loop I boarded MARTA at the site of another future highway cap to head back to Midtown.

Car Free Challenges:

  • Peachtree Road is massive and isn’t very inviting when considering the uses along the road. Ped refuge islands, protected corners and proper bike lanes are needed

A walk down 14th Street toward Piedmont was in store after departing MARTA. From there I grabbed dinner at Ponce and continued down the Beltline to get some night shots of the same places as earlier. The biggest challenge was getting to a MARTA station after passing Krog. I decided to scooter through the Inman Park neighborhood to the station. This is where the Streetcar extension will really help as there’s no good access from the Beltline currently.

To end the day, a quick walk from the Centennial Olympic Park MARTA station through Downtown was all I had energy left for.

Bonus shots: A few rainy shots from the night before and shots of the Westside Beltline where I finally explored with some co-workers before heading out the next day. The Westside Beltline is full of history and sites prime for adaptive reuse.

Pro tip: It is also extremely easy, and cheap to get to the airport from MARTA.

While not ideal to some, it is possible and fun to experience Atlanta on foot. You get to see, take in, and experience so much more. As the city continues to grow and densify, the goal needs to be to make it even safer and enjoyable to thrive outside of the car.

Opinions and insights are my own and are not representative of my employer or any organization. Any ideas displayed on this site are purely that – just ideas to help improve the future of the built environment and begin discussions. I own the right to all photography. I’d love if photos are shared, just give credit please.

One thought on “Sights From a Car Free Day in Atlanta

  1. Cool exploration! I live in Charlotte, but visited Atlanta by Greyhound this summer and did the same thing over a weekend. I stayed near Peachtree and it was a mixed bag feeling safe in some spots and feeling vulnerable in others. I think Atlanta has the bones to really be a walkable city. It’ll just take time as we reconsider what downtowns should be like.


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