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Signs of Street Life in Sprawlanta?

2:34 PM EDT on May 10, 2010

I lived in Athens, Georgia, for seven years, and though Atlanta is only about an hour away (by car, of course), with a little effort I could probably count the number of times I made the trip. This video, the first in the American Makeover web series, goes a long way toward explaining why "Sprawlanta" -- all 8,378 square miles of it -- is no place for anyone interested in a walkable environment.

Not that Atlanta doesn't have traditional pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. But these pockets of relative sanity are normally bound by interstates or the hostile, high-speed traffic sewers that crisscross the metro area. As the film explains, the average Atlanta commute is an astounding 66-mile round trip, while the pedestrian fatality rate exceeds one death per week.

Into the breach come builders like Charles Brewer, the Internet entrepreneur behind Glenwood Park, a new urbanist development of walkable streets, green spaces and sidewalk cafes constructed on a former brownfield site close to downtown and the state capitol. While it's still hemmed in by freeways and wouldn't live up to an "old urbanism" standard for walkability, enviros like Kaid Benfield of the NRDC are hailing Glenwood Park as a shining example of smart growth in an otherwise dismal sprawlopolis.

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