The empty roads created by lockdowns around the world has led to a massive uptick in street racing, and Atlanta is no exception. But now the Atlanta Mayor’s Office and Bloomberg Philanthropies are exploring a new approach to the issue: providing a venue.
According to a report from CBS 46 Atlanta, the plan, which remains loosely defined but essentially amounts to closing streets for races and donuts, was first recommended to Mayor Kiesha Lance Bottoms by her eighteen-year-old son. Mayor Bottoms then approached consultants from Bloomberg Associates working for the city to explore the feasibility of such a solution, where public roads would be blocked off to segregate drag racing and side-shows from regular traffic.
The issue with street racing is particularly acute in Atlanta, where racing has long been a part of the local car culture, where Fox-body Mustangs face off against Nissan GT-Rs and heavily modified Chevy C10s like in this video here. It looks like a lot of burned rubber and a lot of fun, but on public roads, this behavior can’t be tolerated, especially when crowds themselves are dangerous and the emergency healthcare system can’t be filled with non-Pandemic-related cases from crashes.
While there is a possibility that the plan the Mayor’s office and Bloomberg are exploring could come together, it is also facing some. opposition from others in city government, including councilmember Dustin Hillis. Hillis wasn’t to drastically raise fines and even introduce jail time for those caught street-racing, including spectators. Draconian as that might sound, it’s an approach other cities have employed. Hillis told local news publication Saporta Report that his plan doesn’t necessarily preclude the Mayor’s idea, but that he worries that sanctioning any events could lead to situations that spiral out of control.
Saporta Report also spoke to Atlanta’s police department. A spokesman for the department said they want to hold street racers accountable for their behavior, but that pursuit of racers caught racing in high-speed chases is also not the answer, which seems to be the general wisdom around here these days as well.
If Atlanta does indeed move to introduce a designated site for racing on roads, questions of enforcement, funding, and safety precautions will have to be answered. The Mayor’s Office stressed that the plan was in very early stages, so we will have to wait for more clarity there.
While I do think it would be exciting to find a way for more people to race their cars under safe conditions, I do wonder whether this may be more complicated than simply subsidizing events at existing dragstrips. These sites are undoubtedly suffering from the effects of the lockdown on their business, so perhaps giving them a hand would give these drivers an outlet and keep everyone safe, happy, and going fast.