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Is True Walkability Even Possible In Atlanta?

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Behind traffic, the chief gripe overhead about Atlanta — especially from snowbirds raised in older, denser, more strategically planned cities — is this notion of scant walkability. Sure, the ATL's whacky tapestry is dotted with village-like clusters that act as self-sustaining microcosms, the kind of places people park their cars on Friday and don't return until Monday, enjoying restaurants, nightlife, park strolls and trips to the neighborhood market in between. That is, the kind of communities that wet the mouths of New Urbanism zealots. One such thinker is Steve Nygren, developer of the bucolic 1,000-acre utopia that is Serenbe. In a thought-provoking Atlanta Business Chronicle editorial, Nygren champions the health benefits of walkable communities, while asking ? How many of Atlanta's neighborhoods pass the "popsicle test"?

Of the popsicle test, Nygren explains: "The theory states that if an 8-year-old can safely walk somewhere to buy a popsicle and get back home before it melts, chances are it's a neighborhood that works," he writes. "It may sound overly simple, but all the components are there — walkability, safety, sustainability, connected streets, mixed uses and physical activity." Furthermore, Nygren asks if city and county codes should be changed to focus on pedestrians in the way they've catered to automobiles. "What if, in addition to regulated parking spaces and turn lanes, connections to nature paths and pedestrian grids became the norm in city regulations?"

Interestingly, Nygren says Serenbe's omega-shaped master plan was designed to make trips shorter by foot than car. And as he sees it, the groundswell of patronage for the Beltline's Eastside Trail is proof positive that Atlantans are hankering to walk — and that developers should listen. We can't help but wonder: Should the city at large take a page from the Serenbe playbook, or is it just too late?

· Atlanta's need for walkability [Atlanta Business Chronicle]