If you have spent 5 minutes in Atlanta, you know you can't get anywhere without a car. This city is ruled by the automobile, and bikes and pedestrians hardly have a chance. Oh, public transit, you ask. What's that - Uber?
But a few years ago, the electric scooter was dropped here, and life hasn't been the same since. Then came the e-bikes. At one point, there were so many electric vehicles on the Atlanta BeltLine that you could hardly walk. Again, car city.
The appeal with the scooter is that you pick it up where you find it, ride to your destination and just leave it.
In a city with half-baked public transit, the scooter is a godsend. It's a way for people to get around even if they don't have a car. And whether the scooter/e-bike is used tactically to get from one place to another, or simply for joyriding, you can't go anywhere inside the city limits without one flying past you. Maybe you're cursing them for nearly clipping you, or wondering how you too can have that much fun.
But no matter which camp you're in (love em/hate em), they seem to be here to stay. And there's probably nowhere the scooters are more available than the Atlanta BeltLine. You might even think this flat sidewalk, converted from old railroad beds, was tailor-made for scooting.
They can be dangerous, though, and many a person has ended up with some broken or sprained bone, or even in the ICU. So use a bit of caution. Slow down when you encounter groups of pedestrians, look over your shoulder before passing someone, and yield to all the other things that move on the BeltLine.
That said, here is the lowdown on scooters and e-bikes on the Atlanta BeltLine, and how to ride them.
What scooters are in Atlanta?
There are 3 main scooter companies on the BeltLine, although others come and go at random. They are: Bird, Lime and Spin.
How to rent scooters in Atlanta
Choose your brand, download the app, enter your credit card and driver's license, and you are ready to go.
How much are scooters in Atlanta?
Different scooter companies charge different rates, although they are mostly similar. Generally, it's $1 to start riding, and then 39 to 49 cents a minute. Know, too, that you may be charged an initial balance, which you don't get back. It can be $5 or $10.
How do you find a scooter in Atlanta?
You can use the apps to locate a scooter near you. The app will also show you the battery charge of each scooter, which is important to know so you don't run out of juice partway down the BeltLine. But the maps aren't always reliable.
A simpler way is just to pick one up where you find it. If you're walking down the BeltLine, and you come across a scooter, just grab it. It's yours. As long as the battery works.
There are also several spots where you can usually find clusters of scooters:
Ponce City Market (on the BeltLine)
Irwin Street, where the BeltLine crosses it
Inman Park between the Freedom Pkwy bridge and the North Highland bridge on the left
How to start a scooter
Scan the code and hit Ride. You have to push off a few feet, then press the lever
on top of the handlebars to activate the motor. The brakes are on the sides of the handlebars, where you'd expect them to be.
The e-bikes can be a bit more tricky. Spin has a pin you pull out of the tire and insert behind the seat to make it go. Good luck with this.
Ride like the wind
This is the fun part, where you get to release your inner child. Where you can fly. It's a straight shot between Piedmont Park and Dekalb Ave. so go for it. Pass the joggers and walkers. Ride through the trees. And see all there is to see on the BeltLine, such as:
Ponce City Market, a former Sears factory and store, now an enticing food hall
Kroger patio, where you can get (cheap) beer and wine from a takeout window
Skyline views from the North Avenue bridge
33 oak leaf sculptures, representing the number of oak species in Georgia
A mural dedicated to the Tainos, the indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands
Fourth Ward Skatepark, which legendary skater Tony Hawk helped build
At least two Tiny Doors. Hint: One is under the bridge across from the skatepark.
...and scores of people - ATLiens and tourists - doing their thing
Stop at New Realm Brewing Co. for lunch and a brew on their patio overlooking the BeltLine. Or cross over Irwin Street and head left to Krog Street Market, another food hall with some of Atlanta's best restaurants. Or stay straight until you hit SPX Alley on the right, and indulge in Detroit-style pizza at Nina & Rafi. Next, throw back some of the city's best margaritas at Guac y Margys. Or forget figuring this out yourself. For a curated culinary experience, let us take to you to these places on our Food and Art Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine.
How fast do scooters go?
Scooters go fast enough to get you down the BeltLine quickly, but not as fast as a car. I find they typically max out at 12 - 14 mph. They used to go fast all the time, but a few years ago, in an effort to stem scooter accidents, the Atlanta City Council put a cap on the speed allowed on the BeltLine's Eastside Trail during peak (insanely crowded) times.
The scooter speed limit is now 8 mph on the BeltLine on weeknights and weekends. So if you go off the BeltLine, the speed will automatically pick up. I will tell you, though, that the speed cap doesn't always work, so you might get a scooter that flies. Lucky you.
When it does work though, you can't even pass a jogger. Just sayin.
When you're done, just dump it.
This is the theory anyway, and what made scooters so appealing at first. But then they were littering the BeltLine, with joggers tripping over them, and were a general nuisance. Again, the city stepped in and said: Hey, you slobs, pick up after yourself. So the scooter companies now tell you not to leave your scooter on the BeltLine. And some, like Bird, warn they will charge you $5 if you do.
So where do you leave it then? You can just go a few feet more off the BeltLine, generally in a paved area. If that doesn't work, keep riding until you find a cluster of other scooters. If that doesn't work, pay the $5. We never said this would be cheap.
So...click End Ride, take a pic and you're done.
And hey, if you get frustrated, just promise not to dump your scooter in the pond like this person did.
And if all else fails, you can always drive. No app needed.
If you love discovering the best restaurants in Atlanta, or are looking for fun things to do, join our Food Tour on the Atlanta BeltLine. It's a walking tour with delicious food, no scooters included, but you can always scoot down the BeltLine afterward. Now you know how.
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An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder and CEO of BiteLines Atlanta Food Tours, which offers walking Food and Art Tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. To sample some of Atlanta's best restaurants and street art, come join us on a Food and Art Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine. Follow on TikTok and Instagram @bitelinesatl.