This article was originally published in Atlanta VeloCity Magazine, Issue #11, Aug/Sept 2015.
As the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail continues to attract new developments and traffic, we have heard from many people that use the Atlanta BeltLine on a daily basis and how it affects their lives. For our blog series, “Life on the Atlanta BeltLine,” (which you can find at: beltline.org/videos) we spoke to several people that shared how they use the Atlanta BeltLine. As we developed the series, a common theme emerged among all of the stories we heard. From commuters to casual strollers, from cyclists to pedestrians, it seems that the people using the Atlanta BeltLine feel that their health is being positively affected.
Mary was one of the commuters we spoke to that uses the Eastside Trail to ride her bike to work at the Piedmont Park Conservancy every day. “I prefer to use my bike, rain, shine, whatever,” Mary told us. “It’s almost better than drinking a cup of coffee.” Biking to work on the Eastside Trail gives Mary time to get energized and think about her day, without the frustration of sitting in traffic on the roads. Not only does Mary feel that the Atlanta BeltLine will improve the health of commuters like her that use the trail to bike and walk, but it will help foster a sense of community spirit in the surrounding neighborhoods by giving people a place for recreation and interaction.
Likewise, the Westside Trail that is currently under construction will similarly contribute to the health of Atlanta, connecting many acres of greenspace, as well as feeding in to MARTA. The Westside Trail also connects four schools. We talked to the voice behind Our West End Newsletter, Brent Brewer, about how making those connections will change the way people move around southwest Atlanta.
“It could be an actual benefit to kids and the community” if it’s used as a transportation corridor,” Brent told us. Because single-family homes are the predominant feature of southwest Atlanta, Brent organized a walking school bus on the Westside Trail to herd children to and from school. He explained how a walking school bus works. “Parents in the front, a parent in the back, children in the middle.” This is a safe and healthy transportation alternative for the families in neighborhoods connected by the Westside Trail.
As we collected stories, we also heard from a cancer survivor that used the Eastside Trail as part of her recovery process. San Francisco native Jenny moved to Atlanta and chose her new neighborhood near the Eastside Trail for its walkability. After being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing radiation and chemo treatment, Jenny jump started her recovery by taking short walks on the Eastside Trail with her children. Gradually, she was able to work up to an exercise routine that she calls the “biggest part” of her recovery.
Another woman we spoke to, Julie, credits losing more than 100 pounds in part because of her participation in the Atlanta BeltLine Run, Walk, GO! Race Series. She sees walking the Eastside Trail instead of driving as a way to not only burn some extra calories, but to see public art and her neighbors while she’s at it. “It just feels like I’m part of the community,” she says.
The Atlanta BeltLine is affecting more than just the transportation and development of in-town Atlanta – it’s also changing the way people live and behave. The project has the potential to help us be healthier, more mobile, and even more neighborly. The Eastside Trail, especially, is a terrific commuting option for getting around the east side of the city, and the impact is more far reaching than just the 2-mile sprint from Midtown to Reynoldstown. It’s the Atlanta Beltline for the public health!