When everything shut down last March, it didn't take long for us all to go stir crazy. People began crowding the Atlanta BeltLine at times of the day when they were normally trapped in their offices.
Maybe they were taking a break between conference calls. Maybe they took their calls while strolling down the BeltLine (who would know)? Maybe, sadly, they lost their jobs and had nothing else to do. Maybe they just played hooky from work (again, who would know?).
Whatever the reason, the BeltLine quickly became a place where you could not hang out very safely. In addition to the massive crowds, try avoiding COVID germs when someone jogs past you, mere centimeters away, heaving breath and saliva in your direction. Without a mask.
The BeltLine put up signs telling us all to stay home. Which didn't really work.
It's heartbreaking to look back to March and see only 11,000 COVID cases in Georgia. To date, that's now the number of deaths, with 767,000 people falling ill. Geez. Maybe we should have stayed home.
The BeltLine also tried limiting hours on the BeltLine to certain age groups. Which also didn't really work because there was no practical way to enforce it. Americans as a whole don't do well with the honor system.
Early on, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms even threatened to shut down the BeltLine if people didn't act like adults and follow the rules. (My words, not hers). People in the community started a petition last April to shut it down, claiming the BeltLine was not essential. Well, to some of us it is.
But despite the threats, there was reluctance from the city to take away BeltLine access.
And as much as the BeltLine continues to be a place for fresh air and exercise, and a break from the view of our living room, they are still trying to keep it safe.
Recently, they put up these signs telling us to wear masks.
It's true that more people are wearing masks now on the trail than last spring. But nowhere near a majority.
They're cute signs to address a serious problem. Let's hope people pay attention.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.
Note: We have paused our tours during the pandemic, but will ramp up again as soon as it’s safe.