"Peachtree Street is closing." These four little words would normally strike fear in the hearts of any intowner; a death knell for any Atlantan attempting to get from points A to B with their sanity intact. But this time, rather than grumbling from behind our steering wheels, shaking our fists and cursing the ensuing traffic snarl, we're — gasp! — actually looking forward to it. Heresy? Not when it's an Atlanta Streets Alive event we're talking about.
In a noble effort to encourage Atlantans to ditch the gas-guzzlers for an afternoon and enjoy a bit of "human-powered amusement," Atlanta Streets Alive is closing off a swath of ATL's main artery to auto traffic and opening it up to, well, everyone else, whether your preferred mode of transit is cycling, running, walking, skateboarding, skipping or riding this thing. From Downtown (Mitchell Street) to just north of 17th, Peachtree will be lined not with road-raging drivers, but games, parades, music performances, public art, and dozens more activities designed to bring Atlantans together on our city's streets.
Over the past year, Atlanta Streets Alive has opened up major Atlanta corridors from Virginia-Highland to the Old Fourth Ward and most recently the Historic West End —no easy feat in a city not exactly known for being the most pedestrian-friendly urban landscape. But the times, they're a-changing. And initiatives like Atlanta Streets Alive are at the forefront. (Given that an estimated 16,000 locals showed up en masse for Atlanta Streets Alive's debut in the West End, we have a hunch that something's catching on.) By clearing the streets of cars and lining one of Atlanta's busiest, traffic-addled corridors with games, performances, a bicycle parade and other forms of "human-powered amusement," ASA hopes to give pedestrians a chance to enjoy the thoroughfares that are normally clogged with auto traffic. Their noble efforts haven't gone unnoticed: last year, Mayor Kasim Reed made it rain with a $50,000 grant to expand the events.
To experience your own afternoon of human-powered amusement, just make your way to any stretch of Peachtree between Mitchell and 17th this Sunday. There, you can peruse the dozens of activities, maybe join a bike parade, complete a scavenger hunt, drink a beer or two, take glee in the very rare act of walking in the midst of Peachtree without fearing for your life, and thank the innovative folks (and the Bogota version that inspired this event) for opening up the streets of Atlanta for everyone, even just for one afternoon. We might not have the most bike lanes of any city, or the best solutions to traffic snarls, but by God, we do have one heck of an afternoon planned for Peachtree Street this weekend.