The Music Midtown Lineup. Image via the festival’s website.
Music Midtown will be taking over Piedmont Park this weekend. Concert-goes are excited to see some of today’s most popular artists, but many neighborhood residents and commuters are less than enthusiastic.
The Music Midtown festival started in 1997 and ran through 2005, according to program materials. After a hiatus, it returned to Atlanta in 2011. Boasting past headliners including Lou Reed, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters, the festival draws thousands and has been a major economic driver for the city.
However, despite the monetary and cultural incentives for the festival, this year many residents are pushing back. Bicycle commuters, in particular, are upset that many of their familiar thoroughfares are being shut down to prepare the park for the multiple concerts and thousands of guests.
On Sept. 7, Ozgur Basak Alkan, a member of the popular Facebook community Bike Commuters of Atlanta, complained that Music Midtown officials had shut down the cycle track on 10th Street, and diverted cycle traffic coming from the Beltline. “If you’re exiting Piedmont Park at Charles Allen, you’ll need to cross the street and merge onto traffic to go towards Monroe,” she wrote.
Alkan was one of many cyclists frustrated by the disruption Music Midtown will cause. Numerous individuals voiced their complaints and experiences on the message board, some even reporting instances of verbal abuse and altercations with festival staff. Several members of the group took action by calling city hall and Atlanta’s parks department to complain.
Councilwoman Jennifer Ide, representing District 6, which includes Piedmont Park, did not take these concerns lightly. She responded directly to the cyclist group, saying that she also often commutes by bike, and understands the concerns of those affected.
“Both my husband and I are cyclists and have been frustrated in the past by the significant impact that the set up and breakdown the festival has on the park,” she told Atlanta Loop. “I reached out on Facebook to Bike Commuters of Atlanta to get some additional perspective, and heard from many people who felt like the reconfiguration of the Beltline crossing, the closing of the 10th Street cycle track and the rerouting of people through the park really created a dangerous and untenable situation.”
Ide asked the office of parks and recreation and the Atlanta Police Department to have a pop-up town hall at 10th and Monroe to hear from cyclists and pedestrians about these issues.
“One thing that became clear was that the volume of bike traffic in Atlanta has greatly increased over the past several years,” she said, adding, “the city needs to take cyclists into account in a new way in making these event plans.”
Bicycle commuters aren’t the only ones concerned with the disruption Music Midtown causes, though. Commenters on several neighborhood Facebook groups seemed fed up with festival, and the disruption prompted one individual, Charlie Asik, to start a Change.org petition, asking city leadership to reconsider the way Music Midtown is administrated.
“Music Midtown in its current form causes too much area disruption while providing too little benefit to the community,” the petition reads. “We demand a more respectful and thoughtful approach to permitting this and similar large events in Piedmont Park.”
The petition, which has nearly 300 online signatures, goes on to list several suggestions for making the festival more community-friendly, including limiting closures for individuals not attending the festival and bolstering the code of conduct for staff and festival-goers.
Ide says she’s taking all residents’ concerns seriously. “The city is certainly going to take these concerns into account in future event planning, and I hope next year we see an event plan that acknowledges that a significant number of people use the 10th Street corridor as a commuter route,” she said. “In the short-term, I have asked APD and Parks and Rec to reconsider the Beltline barricades and have additional presence at that intersection to assist in safe crossings.”