You may have heard about the Atlanta Beltline, a planned 22-mile multiuse trail loop in old train rail beds about two miles in all directions from the original location of the Zero Mile marker in Downtown Atlanta. You may have ridden the Beltline's popular Eastside Trail, a 2-mile segment opened in 2012 and now booming with brewpubs, restaurants, public art, greenspaces, and increasingly-unaffordable places to live. And you may have said, "Never again on a weekend!" (especially during COVID) as the crowds from the metro Atlanta area — and, frankly, around the world — turn a human-powered transportation network into another unwanted traffic jam. That's a good problem, I suppose, as it's a proof-of-concept that we love to walk and ride our bikes here in Atlanta! And the Beltline is increasingly expanding along that promised loop, connecting 45 separate neighborhoods, as a result — plus it's having a ripple effect through the 'burbs as more and more cities state their intention to "connect to the Beltline."
More good news? There's a nearby alternative (or addition) to the Eastside Trail right in front of your eyes that will give you freedom. Freedom to ride for a few glorious miles of stunning city views and bucolic scenery. Freedom to discover art and random expression. Freedom to experience both the heavy weight of history and the inspiration to change the world with the lightness of joy (if interested, see The Conundrum of Joy here: https://travelingatthespeedofbike.com/2021/04/15/the-conundrum-of-joy/). And freedom to wonder why more highways don't have glorious access-for-all like the Freedom Parkway PATH running right next to them (which could be a great way to start to right the wrongs highways caused to communities they devastated).
The Freedom Parkway PATH is part of the Atlanta PATH Foundation's paved trail (hence the capital letters in PATH) that runs for 19 miles from the Georgia World Congress Center to Stone Mountain (with a number of patchy spots that you really need someone to show you the first time to be able to follow). This tour, however, takes you just on the couple of miles that run along Freedom Parkway — now renamed the John Lewis Freedom Parkway after our beloved recently-passed Civil Rights icon who served as the U.S. Representative for the majority of the City of Atlanta for 17 consecutive terms.
You can start anywhere, but for the sake of this commentary, we start at Jackson Street, one of the two most Instagrammed spots in the City of Atlanta (although I prefer a spot on the next corner for a photo of the city skyline), and end at Freedom Park (where neighbors fought the expansion of Freedom Parkway years ago after it had already torn apart communities). During this completely-separated-from-motor-vehicles, shady, slightly-hilly ride, you pass the sites for Atlanta's two Nobel Peace Prize winners — the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park, and the Carter Presidential Center.
You'll also find free fruit (note that mulberries are falling right now in early May, with serviceberries ready in mid-to-late May, and native persimmons in November or so). You'll find a couple of random swings just begging you to tickle the child inside you alive again (if you haven't already done that by the mere act of riding your bike). You'll find a Little Free Library, clover-filled lawns for lolling on, historical signs that may hold info that's news to you, a completely empty rose garden for some moments of quiet contemplation, and an overlook to the Eastside Trail if you want to see the "big picture" transformation happening.
You can even go down a spur path to Belty (as I call it) and enjoy the graffiti and murals under the Freedom Parkway PATH bridge (see if you can find the Tiny Door! If not, check out my Tiny Doors to Tony Doors tour here on Ridespot). If it's not too crowded, you may even enjoy extending your ride and grabbing a bite to eat at one of the local businesses, or to use the bathroom/fill up your water bottle at Ponce City Market or that big new Kroger (to the right about a half mile or so after you come down the spur trail). See my other free, self-guided RideSpot tours for other routes near here for additional exploration.
Jackson Street Bridge (one of the two most Instagrammed spots in Atlanta, especially at sunset — the other is the Krog Street Tunnel, which I include in my Women on the Walls tour here on Ridespot). Fun fact: Due to City of Atlanta Councilor Amir Farohki's Participatory Budgeting Project (multiple successes from which I'll be showcasing soon here on Ridespot), the Jackson Street Bridge is about to be redesigned to included enhanced safety and welcoming features for people walking, riding bikes, using wheelchairs, and photographing!
The corner of Boulevard and Freedom (where I recommend walking your bike across the intersection that connects the PATH), features a stunning metal sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a view of Downtown Atlanta that I prefer over the Jackson Street overlook.
By the way, I named this bike Freedom. A friend gave it to me and I use it to teach more women and teen girls (who are underrepresented in our public spaces) to ride bikes. You can meet some of these new people on bikes here: https://travelingatthespeedofbike.com/2021/04/12/meet-kaysha/
For a deeper dive into some of the systemic racism issues that permeate Atlanta's history, consider taking the Atlanta's Journey for Civil Rights tour with Bicycle Tours of Atlanta (https://biketoursatl.com)
These serviceberries (native to the United States, and also known as juneberries although they are ripe in Atlanta in mid-May) taste like a blueberry and cranberry had a love child infused with champagne. They are not quite ready, but will be soon. Mulberries, however, are currently falling. After the mulberries and serviceberries come blueberries, blackberries, pears, plums, peaches, apples, figs, muscadines/scuppernongs, native persimmons, and pomegranates all around Atlanta. It’s ALL FREE , and you get to meet nice strangers when you harvest while traveling at the speed of bike. If interested, there's more in my book (TravelingAtTheSpeedOfBike.com/book) about free public fruit (and much more). There's also an audio segment from the book that I think you will enjoy about the first time I rode my bike on this path, when I took a neglected bike out of my attic after twenty years!
This is the entrance to Freedom Park, and the site of a recent vigil. Freedom Park sometimes has art installations. It has acres of rolling hills and shady trees that make for lovely picnic spots, if you want to take a break here.
Freedom Park is hilly, grassy and inviting. It kind of looks like Teletubbie Land to me.
On your way back, you can cross over to the Carter Center. Interestingly, there's lots of mention of human dignity but the spot to cross has no crosswalk or traffic calming. Ouch. A disconnect. Be careful .
For a spin around the rose garden at the Carter Center (literally), see my TikTok here: https://www.tiktok.com/@pattiebakerstorymaker/video/6955892129470090502?lang=en&is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1 There are also lots of other sneak peeks at places I found while Traveling at the Speed of Bike on my TikTok @pattiebakerstorymaker. Get free bike skills lessons, inspirational tips, and advocacy encouragement on TikTok @pedalpowerwithpattie.
Pop on down the spur trail to the Atlanta Beltline and enjoy the ever-changing art.
This is back up on the Freedom Parkway PATH on your way back to the Jackson Street Bridge.
Travel vicariously with me in my book. It's a quick, two-hour read, available all over the world (TravelingAtTheSpeedOfBike.com/book). All proceeds are used to help more women and girls ride bikes. I'm an indie author and I greatly appreciate your support.
Every day, I take a Leap of Faith — and I look forward to the day when Traveling at the Speed of Bike doesn't require one. I create these free, self-guided bike tours for you here on Ridespot to be welcoming because I know so often that riding our bikes throws us into unwelcome situations that can lead to us abandoning bike riding completely.
If you want to ride your bike, please don't give up. Check out my other tours, or other popular routes on Ridespot in cities all across the USA. Take a bike tour from a local company. Ask a friend (who rides in a way that meets your comfort level for the amount of risk you are willing to assume) to show you around.
Keep exploring. Lots of good exists, even though connections are still spotty, there's lots of greenwashing, and many places are still dangerous by design. We are at the crossroads of positive change, and you are needed.