Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bicycle-Friendly Hapeville?

Hapeville is a very small city squeezed in between the Atlanta airport, the Atlanta city limits, and the cities of College Park and East Point. Many people in the Atlanta region would be hard-pressed to find it on a map. It has been home to big industry - the local Ford plant - and big corporate headquarters surrounded by tall fences and expansive parking lots. To add further challenges, the eastern and western borders are nearly defined by I-75 and I-85 and a triple set of active train tracks runs through the center of town. Transportationally and economically challenged, one might say.

However, the city of Hapeville chooses to make lemonade out of their lemons. They have maintained most of their historic downtown and tree-lined streets, negotiated with the railroad for better crossings, and rezoned aging industrial properties for mixed-use redevelopment. If the commuter rail line from Macon to Atlanta ever gets built, one of the stations will probably be there. The city is aggressively pursuing funds to make the city walkable and livable.

I had a meeting there on Tuesday morning, and I decided to check out the cycling conditions. It's about 5 miles from my house to downtown Hapeville. Metropolitan Parkway goes directly from Atlanta to Hapeville, but it isn't the most wonderful route. Four lanes surrounded by industrial uses and declining strip retail. There are some crime issues, although nothing to be concerned about during the daytime. Southbound traffic, going away from Atlanta, is very light in the mornings. I doubt that three dozen cars passed me in the whole 5 miles or so. There is, however, a miserable hill just before you reach the city limits.

Once you enter the city of Hapeville, the scenery changes drastically. The road narrows to two wide lanes - actually wide enough to add bicycle lanes, if you wanted. Mature trees shade the street and the pavement is well maintained, although the sidewalk peters out at times. Yards are well kept. I really enjoyed riding through here.

To get back to my office after the meeting - almost 10 miles away - I took the MARTA option. Hapeville is a very easy bike trip from the East Point MARTA station. It may be 1.5 miles or so along Central Ave., which is very flat and hardly has any traffic (although it does carry some large truck traffic) and takes you right to the station.

Also, I need to brag about local bicycle blogger Sweet Georgia Brown, who got a shout-out in an article about "cycle chic". Way to go, girl!

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