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Street Parties, Walkability Threaten To Make ATL 'Cool'

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The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition has calculated that an astonishing 82,300 people turned out for the most recent incarnation of "Atlanta Streets Alive" on Sunday, a massive loop of activity that coursed through four intown neighborhoods. Let's put their number in perspective: That's almost enough people to simultaneously fill the Georgia Dome and Phillips Arena (roughly 89,000) to capacity. And that's four times as many patrons as Streets Alive counted (20,000) during a similar event in October last year. Mind you, there was no significant musical performance, arts festival or sudsy brouhaha that attracted these people; instead it was the absence of something, a four-hour reprieve from the vehicles that choke Atlanta's roadways and wall people away from each other. So what exactly does it say about a city when so many will turn out — to see nothing, essentially, but each other? Are we starved for human contact? Are there more of us? Or do we just really like to pedal around and party on a nice day?

It can't be long before events like this start to attract national attention. Not only has Streets Alive patronage exploded since humble beginnings on Edgewood Avenue a couple of years ago, but with the inclusion of Boulevard in Sunday's loop, the events have become more inclusive for Atlantans of varied economic backgrounds. (Spotted on Boulevard: A T-shirt clad Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Councilman, smiling ear-to-ear on his bicycle). The bicycle coalition seems confident their numbers are accurate; official tallies are "based on the participant count method outlined in (the) international ciclovia guide." As leaders have told Curbed Atlanta before, a team of counters in strategic places along the routes take surveys to come up with the attendance tallies.

The event came on the heels of a well-publicized study that showed 60 percent of all real estate activity in metro Atlanta has happened in existing or emerging walkable urban places since 2008. As the Saporta Report notes, the study identified 27 existing walkable areas in metro Atlanta, including usual suspects Midtown, Buckhead, Lindbergh, Inman Park, Atlanta University Center, Sweet Auburn, and Georgia Tech, and also outliers like Sandy Springs and downtown Marietta. Saporta, a Streets Alive proponent, attended Sunday's event, spotted a local official and noted his interesting reaction to the masses: "If we're not careful," said Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, "Atlanta will become a really cool city."

· Latest Streets Alive roundup [Atlanta Bicycling Coalition]
· As more walkable places emerge, Atlanta is 'becoming a really cool city' [Saporta Report]
·">Recent Streets Alive coverage [Curbed Atlanta]