Since I live on the Atlanta BeltLine, people sometimes ask me if I am going to get a bike. My answer is always no because I prefer to walk. If I get a bike, I fear I will just coast up and down the BeltLine and not get the exercise I need. (I have walked more than 1,000 miles on the BeltLine).
Recently, though, I have changed my mind. It is not feasible to cover long distances on the BeltLine by foot. While I search for a bike to buy, I thought I could take advantage of the many electric vehicles for rent around Atlanta. There are several scooters and e-bikes, including Bird, Veo, Helbiz, Relay/Hopr and probably others.
I have ridden Bird in the past, a standup scooter, and it is precarious. I cringe when I see people doubling up on them because in my previous life, I worked at a hospital, and heard the stories of people ending up in the ICU, their spleen ruptured, their beautiful face destroyed. I approach the scooters with caution.
I want to rent an actual bike, which both Helbiz and Relay/Hopr offer. I set out on foot, and as I near the BeltLine, I find a Relay/Hopr on its side in the dirt. I tried previously to set up the app, but didn't have my credit card (who brings their credit card for a walk on the BeltLine?). This time I bring my payment method and try to set it up. Again, failure.
So I look for another one. Where do you find e-bikes and scooters on the Atlanta BeltLine? There is usually a cluster of them in the Skatepark, so I head there. I find a Veo, which is a sit-down scooter. After a couple of attempts to set up the app and payment, I scan one of them. It is out for maintenance. I try another one. It has 9 percent battery left. I have now spent 15 minutes struggling with technology. I just want to get some fresh air and exercise.
I find a third one a short ways away, which works, and I am off.
The Veo is super easy to use, no balance required like with standup scooters, and I think it's safer. However, it has to be the absolute laziest way to get down the BeltLine, short of someone carrying you on their back. It's like riding a motorcycle on the sidewalk. And man, does it go fast.
I still exercise caution, slowing as I approach crowds of people, and barely dodging a woman backing into me as she takes a picture of street art. Hey, I've been that person myself.
I ride north to Piedmont Park, stopping to take pictures of the latest mural by HENSE, installed by Art on the Atlanta BeltLine. It's a gorgeous mash of bright geometrics, and I love the painted ceiling. I have been following his progress for a while - it looks like it's nearly finished. HENSE's real name is Alex Brewer, and his work appears all over the world. We are fortunate to have him in Atlanta. You can find this particular work under the Virginia Avenue bridge.
I keep going, passing this familiar and touching memorial to Alexia Hyneman, who was killed at the nearby intersection of Monroe and 10th while riding her bike home from Grady High School. It's a sober reminder that it's never safe to cross the street in Atlanta. I took this photo a couple months ago.
I also discover this mural by Yoyo Ferro. Is it art or advertising? Not sure, but I love his style. He draws without picking up his pencil, allowing creativity to flow. His street art is influenced by this style. I took a writing class once that encouraged the same thing. It's a great way to get your thoughts out. You never know what can become a story. Yoyo is originally from Brazil, but lives in Atlanta now. You can find his work on buildings all over the city. They remind me of Romero Britto.
I keep going, seeking the interim Northeast trail, which starts adjacent to Park Tavern. It has been a few years since I've been here. This section has not yet been paved, and is about a mile of dirt and gravel, before it hits the paved trail. You can still find remnants of the railroad, wooden ties and iron, and a glorious view of Piedmont Park framed by the Midtown skyline.
The trail is scenic here, cutting through a forest, but is isolated. Being alone, I don't feel safe and turn back. I will try another time, bringing my boyfriend on a weekend when it's busier.
I ditch my scooter at this point, $12 poorer, and walk around Piedmont Park, which I haven't seen since months before the pandemic started. This park holds so many memories for me. I have looped around it many times with friends. I have attended the jazz festival several times, setting up picnics with friends and feasting on French cheeses and rosés. I have gone swimming in the pool, walked a 5K, and practiced yoga in the mud. The pandemic makes me miss all of it.
It is now time to head back, and I am torn between just walking home (it's about 1.5 miles, and I've walked it many times before), or renting another scooter. I start on foot, and discover this musician, Paul, under HENSE's bridge.
Above, Paul playing under the Virginia Avenue bridge
A few minutes later, I realize I have no choice but to walk the rest of the way. After taking many photos and videos, my phone battery dies.
Like I said, if I don't have a bike, I am forced to exercise. But it's not a bad way to exercise at all.
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 plan to ramp up again in 2021.