I have a talent for stating the obvious, so I might as well tell you right now that when I visit a well-designed community, it just feels right.
Designers Savor the Joys of Bicycle Riding
Clayton Preston, Robert Reed and Greg Ramsey, the principals of Village Habitat Design in Atlanta
Clayton Preston, Robert Reed and Greg Ramsey, the principals of Village Habitat Design in Atlanta, don’t just talk about becoming less dependent on cars. For years the three men, who all live in town, have been commuting to and from work on bicycles.
|From left, Greg Ramsey, Robert Reed and Clayton Preston, principals of Village Habitat Design in Atlanta, with their favored mode of transportation.|
The daily rides require commitment because Atlanta is not a bicycle-friendly city, says Preston. The suburbs are bordered by arterial streets that are too dangerous for bikers. "But in the prewar, in-town neighborhoods, you can stay on the quiet tributary streets," he says. "There are dozens of places to cross from neighborhood to neighborhood to commercial district to city center."
Village Habitat Design specializes in the planning of communities that conserve green space, optimize resources and are designed for walking. The firm has produced some of the only pedestrian communities in Georgia, including the Lake Claire Neighborhood Plan, which received an award for design excellence in a statewide competition. The Lake Claire plan included the first neighborhood-sponsored bicycle/pedestrian link to the PATH Foundation trail connecting downtown Atlanta with Stone Mountain.
Preston, the oldest of the group at 44, accidentally stumbled onto bicycling in 1985 as a solution for chronic back pain: "I would ride the 6 miles to work, and it made the pain simply go away." He still bikes to the office nearly every day.
Ramsey helped found the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign, an organization that promotes the use of bicycles as an alternative means of transportation. "Atlanta is beginning to make the physical changes that allow biking to be a truly viable alternative," Ramsey says.
"For Greg, it’s more of an ethical issue; bicycles don’t pollute the air," Preston says. "Robert just enjoys it."
The designers don’t avoid automobiles altogether; they keep a company car at the office. "It’s a Lexus, which we can afford only because we share it," says Preston. "It comes in handy when we need to make an impression."