Studies show teen girls and women are underrepresented in our public spaces known as streets. However, as cities add more welcoming bike infrastructure, those numbers change and more and more girls and women start riding bikes (or return to riding them). Women are also increasingly represented by the ever-growing street murals that many cities are embracing, so our presence starts to become more pronounced in these various ways, which then makes occupying public space more welcoming to other women. It's a cycle!
The City of Atlanta is one of those cities. It has added some truly terrific bike infrastructure (and I'll be showcasing much more of it in upcoming tours), PLUS there is some stellar representation of diverse women on the walls (both as subjects of street art and as the artists themselves).
I start you on Edgewood Avenue right by a Relay Bikeshare station (although, sorry, you can't count on Relay yet — they have undergone hard times and have not regained consumer confidence yet), overlooking a large mural of women/painted by women on the side of a building on the the City' of Atlanta's transformative transportation initiative known as the Atlanta Beltline, which you will get to ride on. I then take you through the always-interesting Krog Street Tunnel (where graffiti artists are welcome, commentary on current events is common, and art changes almost daily) and on a little loop through the charming neighborhoods of Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown. (If curious, do some research on these neighborhoods before you go in order to more fully appreciate their historic significance and the impact of erasure.)
On this tour, you will see references to two different street mural events — Forward Warrior and Outer Space — plus an ongoing project by a woman named Karen Anderson Singer called Tiny Doors ATL (see also a tour named From Tiny Doors to Tony Doors while Traveling at the Speed of Bike: https://ridespot.org/rides/208322). Others throughout the city include Living Walls, Elevate ATL, and Off the Wall. Some feature local artists, and some feature artists from around the world. Many of the artists whose work you see today have also done commissioned work for companies, and one of the women (Molly Rose Freeman, whose big, graphic mural is at the end of Wylie before you turn onto Tennelle) was hired to paint a mural in Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport! (She also collaborated with other women on that nine-story big mural at the beginning of this tour in an artist team led by muralist and painter Lauren Pallotta Stumberg, whose additional work you will see on this tour, and on a mural in Colony Square in Midtown Atlanta.)
This tour may be just a bit over 2 miles long, but if I were you, I'd allow two hours for it so you can take your time, take photos, and really enjoy what you are about to experience. Bring friends, if you want, so you share the fun. (Bicycles naturally socially-distance you from each other, but do be aware of spacing from anyone you pass and do wear a mask). You may even realize that you, yourself, are a beautiful work of art as you move around this city on your own power while Traveling at the Speed of Bike.
Below are photos of a small sample of what you're about to see. (Mostly I want you to know that I see YOU, and I'm designing my tours with you in mind.) Let me know how it goes!
If you are interested in a guided tour that takes in some of this art plus surprisingly-manageable miles of additional stops and terrific historic commentary, consider booking a tour with Bicycle Tours of Atlanta. I know the power and passion of this woman-led company first-hand because I led tours of people of all ages and abilities from around the world with Robyn and her team for a year and a half — check them out on Trip Advisor, where they are the #1 Outdoor Activity in Atlanta with more than 800 five-star reviews. I am still in awe of what they do. BikeToursATL.com provides your group with a well-maintained hybrid bike (ebikes available, too), a helmet, and an appropriate number of guides, plus there are pedicab options for large groups such as corporate outings where someone may not want to or be able to ride a bike. Safety has always been the first priority but new protocols for COVID-19 are in place, including route changes to avoid crowds.
Also consider joining the local bike advocacy group, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the offices of which you actually pass on this tour! They organize and run Atlanta Streets Alive events; do tons of advocacy work at City Hall for safe-access-for-all; and provide free bike classes (currently via Zoom) given by one of the very best bike educators I know — fellow League Cycling Instructor Stephen Spring. (Reminder: I offer classes, too — via text, PDF, and in person by request. Mine are specifically designed for teen girls and women. See TravelingAtTheSpeedOfdBike.com/classes).
If you want to extend this ride at the end, you can simply stay on the Atlanta Beltline instead of going back up the cool ramp. This will take you past the Atlanta Beltline Partnership's office (open to the public at odd times — you can get brochures about the Atlanta Beltline and use the bathroom) and craft beer places and food sellers, under several fun mural-and-graffitti-filled bridges, past a Tony-Hawk-endorsed skate park, to Ponce City Market (which is the largest reclaimed building in Atlanta's history and hosts food sellers, shops, and more — great place to use the bathroom and fill up your water bottle! When you enter, there is a bike valet to the right but I prefer to go past it and push the automatic door opener to the left for free self-bike-parking), and eventually (in just 2.5 miles from the cool ramp where we ended) to car-free Piedmont Park. IMPORTANT WARNING: I am not going to map or recommend the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail between Irwin and Monroe right now as I rode it yesterday and far too many people were not social distancing and were not wearing masks. I do not currently consider it safe to ride, but you may get lucky or feel comfortable assuming a different level of risk. If things change for the better, I will add it.
You'll pass this Tiny Doors ATL creation! It's a great place to take a little break and have a snack. Every neighborhood featured in the individual doors is another great bike ride! Fun fact: You may be shocked how close all these neighborhoods are and how easy and enjoyable it can be when you're Traveling at the Speed of Bike in Atlanta!
My daily Leap of Faith! This is on the Atlanta Beltline section that you will ride on this tour in Reynoldstown. Crazy to think it used to be all wildflowers and old train tracks (some of which have been nicely preserved, by the way) and I had featured a guerrilla art exhibit of street photography here a few years ago!
When you get back to the Krog Street Tunnel, be sure to look down before entering and you'll see another Tiny Doors ATL exhibit! Also, when you get back to the palm tree before the cool ramp at the end, look across from it, beyond the bull, and you'll see a HUGE door that's part of the Tiny Doors ATL series of exhibits! That's a popular photo! (FYI, the Krog Street Tunnel is one of the top two most Instagrammed places in Atlanta. The other is the Jackson Street Bridge — I'll take you there soon)
When you come up the cool ramp, if you go right and ride on Edgewood across Krog Street (be alert to car doors opening as the bike lane is right against parked cars), the next corner on the right has my favorite doughnut shop ever — Revolution Doughnuts! More than half the options are even vegan. And don't get me going on the coconut doughnut. Let's put it this way — I hate shredded coconut— and yet I DREAM about this doughnut! Sad news: the shop is open only on Fridays, Saturday, and Sunday from 10-2 during these trying times and the line is longggggggg (rumor has it you can preorder online and skip the wait). Good news: I left my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, in the Little Free Library across the street for you! It's a memoir — it's movement! I'm glad you've come along for the ride. Trust the journey . . .
Oh, and fun fact. That white building you passed on the corner of Krog and Edgewood in order to get to the doughnut shop and Little Free Library? That used to look like this! I used to feel that message was aimed directly at me every time I went by, and it gave me the strength and fortitude to continue on a journey that has literally changed my life. This is the visual I used for my recent "You Go, Girl" series of blog posts showcasing women across the USA who are making it more welcoming to ride bikes. I even interviewed and featured People for Bikes' new CEO, Jenn Dice! Check it out: https://travelingatthespeedofbike.com/2020/08/14/meet-jenn-dice/