Tag Archives: urban

on streetcar vs. bicycle

The Atlanta Streetcar is ALMOST HERE. That is to say of course, it is here, it’s been here, the boarding platforms are complete and the tracks are all down, we know, because we bike and, well >> warning-streetcar-tracks

Our friend K I’m sure is not the first one whose bicycle has run afoul of the new streetcar tracks, but she can tell you from experience that it ain’t pretty she’s lucky the most un-pretty it got for her was a big blood blister leading to a very nasty bruise on her thigh.

So naturally there’s been some discussion, inevitable disgruntlements, complaints and dire predictions of lawsuits and doomsday to come thanks to “poor planning.”

I looked into a few other city’s streetcar vs. bike experiences to get some perspective and came up with a number of lawsuits primarily in Seattle where the plaintiffs seemed primarily to be arguing “poor design” or lack of design for bicyclists. In these cases there was no separate bicycle lane or, in a recent issue, the bicycle lane was blocked by pedestrians getting on the streetcar resulting in a decision by the cyclist to enter the roadway where she wiped out on the tracks. One Seattle author asked, what do cyclists seek to gain with these lawsuits? and her point is valid.

My concern is that while bikes are a crucial piece of the transit puzzle, so too is public transportation, and I’m not sure how much good can come of one form of alternative transportation getting mad at another in a city that’s struggling (but really trying) to get out automobile gridlock. There will always be transportation choices, there need to be, so for our transit to work all modes have to coexist.

Coexisting usually means following the rules and here’s the way to do it in Atlanta. DO NOT RIDE ON THE SAME SIDE AS THE STREETCAR! In Atlanta, since streetcar traffic goes east on Edgewood and west on Auburn, bicycle traffic does the opposite and to reinforce the plan, bicycle lanes, sharrows, and signage only exist on the recommended riding areas so that cyclists are not at all encouraged to ride alongside the rails. In fact I think the handy signs above were recently installed.

Granted, we cyclists, hovering in a lovely free zone between vehicular and pedestrian traffic, are hard to discourage. But this is serious, tracks are hazards, but they are known hazards and you don’t wanna tangle with em, K can tell you.

Emily-Auburn-bike
Yours truly, following the rules on Auburn Ave.

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Korean Tacos

and food trucks in Atlanta.

it was Friday afternoon and I was free, Mark, who was visiting from Jackson, and I had plans to scout out the Korean taco truck, which I have visited plenty of time at the Urban Picnic in the parking lot of the Sweet Auburn Curb Mkt by the Atlanta Street Food Coalition (lots of names there), but I have not had the chance to track them down this winter since they have become the FIRST food truck to get a permit to sell food mobilly on Atlanta’s city streets. Like food trucks in NYC (and my particular favorite the Treats Truck), they twitter they’re location each day/the night before but have a general schedule of locale. It seems that at least twice a week for instance they are in Buckhead, a mere 2 block walk from McC’s office. That is a 2 block walk she convinced her Atlantan co-workers they needed to take. Amazing huh? And now they know, the korean taco truck is worth it, or, more accurately Yumbii. So that’s where we went for lunch Friday, after yoga i picked up M and H in ctown, then to downtown to get Mark and straight up to 17th St where we found the Yumbii truck still parked in Atlantic Station. Having never been faced with such ample time to devote to just a korean taco experience (at the Urban Picnic you have to save room for so many other delicious food choices, least of which is not a King of Pops popsicle, but i’ll tell ya about that when it’s back in season), I loaded up with a beef taco AND the pork sliders (total: $6) and had trouble finishing it all. next time i’m going to stick to my 2 taco limit, esp when they’re filling them to the max like they were the other day at 2.

YUM-bii.


Buckhead and the CBD

a CBD (Central Business District) is, while usually a city’s downtown, not always. It is often defined in bigger cities by an upsurge of skyscrapers plotted on the horizon like some economical bar graph. Many cities, with the advent of the car and suburbs have developed a 2nd CBD which may work in sync with or simply leave behind the old downtown. In Atlanta for instance the business district walked itself up Peachtree St to Buckhead in the mid-20th century, and in the 21st century has walked farther north and spread itself in office park pockets along the perimeter to accomodate their employees and have cheaper rent. As a CBD moves, it has ahead of it the “zone of assimilation” and leaves behind it a “zone of discard.” As it evolves, we see the center tighten and the frame go through a variety of changes as it learns to support or is excluded by the core. Residential neighborhoods like what was once Buckhead evolve to accommodate the incoming business and eventually bow to destruction. The following is a class blog post on the subject.

Buckhead hasn’t always been the mass of office buildings, condos, and shopping centers it is today. It was once a home for the wealthy who planted their estates on the picturesque hills just up the road from Atlanta’s center, followed by middle class neighborhoods like Garden Hills that emerged as Atlanta grew outward in the early 20th century. Buckhead wasn’t even annexed by Atlanta until 1952, but it didn’t take long for this jumble of major intersections to lure business from downtown and become Atlanta’s 2nd CBD. The construction of Lenox Square mall in 1959 and Lenox Towers in 1966 led the way and Buckhead has been constantly evolving ever since. This constant construction and evolution has created pockets of zones of both assimilation and discard as the skyscrapers and widened roadways leave shops behind only to re-envelope bits of the frame later. Funnily, despite all the destruction and construction Buckhead has never completely obliterated it’s past, making for some dramatic juxtapositions in the landscape.

Even in the core of the CBD, bits of architectural history remain, this fancy home sits next door to the original towers of Buckhead (Lenox Towers). The front lawn has long since been paved and The Mansion (condos), along with other glass office buildings, now towers over it.

Just a few blocks from the core, one finds a confusing mix of architecture. Quaint cottages remain, standing alone amidst condos and modern shopping centers where they were once part of whole neighborhoods. Oddly, some neighborhood streets have remained intact, but zoning has made them solidly commercial.

It’s not just homes from the first half of the century, but even mid-20th century single-story shopping centers that sprang up to feed the growth are now dwarfed by parking decks and loomed over by the ever-present construction crane, evidence of Buckhead’s constant evolution.

Finally, my favorite juxtaposition is of the streets and neighborhoods that remain residential, walled off from the highway and still in the shadows of skyscrapers. Middle class and wealthy neighborhoods alike were not spared the jarring the imposition of these towers on their vista.


beginning of a very nice long cold walk

the beginning of a very nice long walk
december 5, 2009