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Our 'Poster City for Metastasizing Sprawl' Impresses Guests

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For a little assurance that Atlanta is gaining legs as a welcoming place for denizens on two wheels, look no further than a recent visit by a group of cycling symposium guests who seem to have left wowed. Bicycle advocates from around the region gathered here last week for the Alliance for Biking and Walking Southern Cities Advocacy Symposium, and they took to the streets of ATL on what was, regrettably, a chilly and overcast Tuesday morning. John Bennett, writing for the news weekly Connect Savannah, was one of them. He's twice lived in Atlanta, which he stingingly but accurately recalled as a "poster city for metastasizing sprawl, congested freeways, aggressive driving and poor air quality" — the antithesis of a Chamber of Commerce slogan, basically. Another participating, who'd commuted by bike in 1970s Atlanta, likened his experience to surviving war. But it wasn't long before they discovered what's becoming "a vibrant cycling city" that's "succeeding in inspiring ways," Bennett writes. And if local cycling advocates have their way, what the symposium saw will be merely the beginning.

The pedaling parade began on "iconic" Peachtree Street and found its way, of course, to the Atlanta Beltline. Bennett observed that the completed Beltline "will be like an I-285 for people, not cars" and that "instead of a dividing line that segregates people into those who live inside and outside the perimeter … the BeltLine is true to its tagline: 'Where Atlanta Comes Together.'" Initiatives like the 5th Street bike lane and the 10th Street protected bike lane also get kudos. One inspired PATH Foundation leader told the group that, in terms of intown pedestrian and bicycle projects, "Our time has come."

It bears mentioning that the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and other boosters hope much more is to come. They're urging Atlantans to head to the polls on March 17 and vote in favor of an infrastructure bond worth a quarter-billion dollars, intended for hundreds of street projects. And they want 15 percent of the bond to "build bikeways and Complete Streets." You know they're serious, because they've created a hashtag: #bond4bikes.

· Finding cycling inspiration in an unlikely place: Atlanta [Connect Savannah]
· Official: Let's Take Training Wheels Off Cycle-Friendly Funding [Curbed Atlanta]
· CALL TO ACTION: #BOND4BIKES [Atlanta Bicycle Coalition]