Atlanta officials consider city-sanctioned street racing and sideshows on public roads

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Cameron Neveu

With social distancing measures in place nationwide, emptier roads have tempted high-speed thrill seekers. Even before COVID-19, street racing and stunt sideshows had been on the uptick in the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area. While some lawmakers are looking to increase the repercussions of participating such illegal activity, one is hoping that embracing and facilitating a dedicated street venue would be a win-win for enthusiasts and safety advocates.

Atlanta’s CBS46 is reporting that Mayor Keisha Bottoms is floating the idea of closing down a designated road for just that purpose. During a recent City Council call, she stated that Atlanta would work “along with Bloomberg, who we’ve reached out to help us do some benchmarking and assessment of what’s happening in other cities has been to consider a designated space for street racing.”

Bloomberg Associates, which does consulting for city planning, will assist in collecting data on illegal activity while the city opens this experiment. In the meantime, however, more traditional attitudes and reactions to street racing are also taking shape.

Roadkill Nights Street Race
Although it only happens during the Woodward Dream Cruise, Roadkill Nights has shown just how popular a sanctioned street race can be. Cameron Neveu

Atlanta Council Member Dustin Hillis has put forth a bill that increases penalties related to participating in or spectating illegal racing events, with a maximum fine of $1000 with jail time up to six months. It’s more familiar crackdown, compared to the novel prospect of sanctioning a street race itself. The presence of illegal street racing and stunt displays can be evidence of a lack of local venues as folks find their own ways to test their mettle. For ATL locals, the Atlanta Dragway is more than an hour away from the city center, sitting nearly 70 miles outside of downtown. Of course, a race track or drag strip is not necessarily a one-for-one substitute for this kind of display. The street holds a unique atmosphere. If the city-sanctioned drag racing on Woodward Avenue for Roadkill Nights is any indication, no traditional track can fully replace racing on the street in the eyes of some diehards.

The challenges in Georgia’s capital city are not unique, in the sense that illegal automotive meetups in one form or another ebb and flow in cities and small towns. We embrace the idea of opening accessible venues wherever possible, which will allow people a dedicated place to explore their cars instead of endangering the general public. Such events could succeed in the long term, encouraging people to seek out similar events that are that are safer and within the bounds of the law.

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