- Photo: Who

What is the most difficult city to navigate by car?

Whether it's byzantine roads, confusing names, or just miserable traffic, some cities make it so much more difficult than it needs to be

4d ago
9.2K

Atlanta Georgia has an infuriating number of intersections of Peachtree and Peachtree over the course of 20 blocks of midtown and downtown. In fact, on one block, there are no less than four intersections of different roads named Peachtree. Newcomers to the area have long been confused by the differences between West Peachtree Street and Peachtree Street which run parallel to each other north-south for several blocks. To make things even more confusing, there are numerous different east-west roads named Peachtree that bisect it throughout midtown and downtown.

Pictured: the intersection of West Peachtree St with West Peachtree St next to the intersection of West Peachtree St with Peachtree St near Peachtree Center Ave and West Peachtree Pl (not to be confused with Peachtree Pl)

Pictured: the intersection of West Peachtree St with West Peachtree St next to the intersection of West Peachtree St with Peachtree St near Peachtree Center Ave and West Peachtree Pl (not to be confused with Peachtree Pl)

In fact, there are 71 streets in Atlanta with a variation on the name Peachtree and almost all of them intersect with the two main Peachtrees. This confusing nomenclature is so infamous that the street has its own Wikipedia page.

Metro Atlanta area roads with Peachtree Street highlighted in yellow; Photo: Wikimedia

Metro Atlanta area roads with Peachtree Street highlighted in yellow; Photo: Wikimedia

All this would be less confusing if the layout of the roads made any sense at all, but it doesn't. Atlanta Georgia was started in 1832 when a surveyor drove a stake into the ground to mark the terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroads. You'd think with so much prior experience creating perfectly gridded boom towns out west, such a vital center of trade would have some attention paid to its urban planning, but you'd be wrong. Even after the city was burned to the ground in 1865, they didn't take the second chance they were given and proceeded to totally ignore the problems associated with turning a railroad junction into a habitable city. The problem grew so bad that the entire city was raised above the ground in many places to avoid the dangerous railroad tracks beneath, leading to many streets having an upper and lower section. Most of those lower roads are closed to traffic today and have been converted to house utilities, but there are still some you can drive.

Photo: Who

Photo: Who

And to compound the problem, Atlanta is one of the single worst cities anywhere for that very greatest of urban planning sins: downtown interstates. Interstates 75, 85, and 20 have massive snaking intersections cutting straight through once-unified communities (incidentally almost always majority-black at the time) that funnels travelers from all over the state and country right through the area that least can afford a continual onslaught of cars. Combined with one of the worst cases of urban sprawl in the country, it ranks as the 10th worst city for congestion in the United States.

Illustration: Curbed Atlanta

Illustration: Curbed Atlanta

I can't think of all that many benefits to the unique (lack of) urban planning strategy that birthed Atlanta's byzantine street grid. The roads here are generally reasonably wide and are generally well maintained and smooth compared to other major cities but that's only a small consolation. At least the carspotting here is generally fantastic.

Is there a city anywhere that can match Atlanta's unique combinations of incredibly confusing nomenclature, illogical street layout, and disheartening traffic? I'd love to hear about it. Comment below your least favorite quirks and features of your city's road infrastructure.

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Comments (28)

  • Coventry, U.K.

    Hands down the most confusing and stressful city bar London to drive in.

    One way system that once you’re in, you cannot escape easily, random dead ends to confuse you some more, pedestrian friendly areas that have no curb so you have to compete with random people trying to walk in front of your ton of car as well as bus lanes that basically just seem to be designed to put buses right were you don’t want them to be i.e. in the middle of every junction or twisting around roundabouts and cutting you up.

    Oh and the less said about a infamous roundabout on a dual carriageway named after a local Chinese restaurant, the wing wah… the better.

    I deliberately waste time and fuel going the long way to avoid that confusing mess of traffic lights, give ways, right of ways and random stop signs that make me feel like a learner again

    Rant over

    Coventry, despite being the historic home to the U.K.s car industry, seemingly hates the car owner with some passion

      4 days ago
    • Looking up images of this roundabout I'm reminded about how extra your naming of different categories of crosswalks is. Does it have its own special rules like the Arc De Triumph in Paris?

        3 days ago
  • Interstates 44, 55, 64, and 70 come together in/near downtown St Louis, with a couple of very awkward interchanges. Ramps on and off the interstate may not be on the same streets, so if you miss an exit and try to turn around you could end up wandering around trying to find a way back on to the interstate. There are almost no big artery streets to handle city traffic and limited mass transit, so everybody uses the interstates to go everywhere and that means they're busy 24x7.

    A few areas have 1-way streets that are not in a predictable pattern. There are also streets that suddenly go from 2-way to 1-way, and yes people occasionally miss that and drive straight ahead. And in some of those areas people routinely go the wrong way on purpose because they think it's OK if they're not going far and don't see anybody coming down the street.

    People here commonly say things like "270 west" with no further detail when I-270 is the outer belt and you can go west in two different places.

    There are streets with no direct connection that have the same name and are close enough together that mapping software sometimes sends people to the wrong one.

    Any car that parks in the St Louis area gets beaten to hell by everybody else. Cars accumulate door dings so fast that you stop noticing them.

    There are a few intersections in the area where both streets have the same name, but nothing as bad as Atlanta.

    I knew a guy who got very drunk, slept in his car, and woke up with tons of people walking past on their way to work. Good - nobody bothered him. Bad - a man sitting in a busy downtown parking lot with his penis out was such a common thing that nobody took any notice.

      3 days ago
    • "There are streets with no direct connection that have the same name and are close enough together that mapping software sometimes sends people to the wrong one"

      That is a familiar thing to me. Roads that end and suddenly start one block...

      Read more
        3 days ago
  • Mumbai cause it’s overpopulated and there are cars , bikes , scooters and rickshaws on the road . I’m lucky I live in a good suburb otherwise it would take a long time to go from one place to another

      3 days ago
  • Welcome to Chongqing where even sat nav can't tell you the direction.

      3 days ago
  • I see your Atlanta and raise you Naples, Italy. I rented a Vespa for three days and turned it in after one day. Public transportation was much safer.

      3 days ago
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