This week kicked off the Atlanta Bike Challenge — a 20 day competition to get people to try commuting by bike. Whether to work, or an errand, or to the gym, the challenge wants to get as many people, especially non-cyclists, to put a little fun between their legs for 10 minutes daily.
I started road cycling for sport over a decade ago while training for a then-impossible two day cycling event — the National Multiple Sclerosis Bike Challenge. I quickly had to learn about cycling on the roads of Atlanta; the first thing I learned was to avoid them. Cycling on Atlanta’s roads is a death wish. Drivers are usually distracted on their phones — usually one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a phone — focused on a radio program or conversation, or simply ignorant of and/or mean-spirited about road cyclist. All I had between these two-ton tanks and me was a dozen or so pounds of aluminum and a brain bucket of a helmet. The laws of physics inform us that when — not if — a collision occurs there will only be one survivor, and it won’t be me.
So I took to the concrete paths of Atlanta’s PATH Foundation. Every weekend was a visit to the Silver Comet, Freedom Parkway, or Arabia Mountain. But even there there were safety concerns. The paths are great for pedestrians to meander and enjoy but they really weren’t meant to be shared by flesh & bone walkers paced at 2 or 3 MPH, and a speeding missile whizzing by at 20+ mph. Again, the laws of physics tell you collisions will happen, and in this case there aren’t any airbags to protect anyone.
So what options were left for me to stay healthy, enjoy a nice Southern Spring or Fall day, and avoid hours sitting in traffic polluting the air? Commuting by bike! In the past decade Atlanta has clearly invested in creating more bike lanes for commuting. While patchy in most locations — you will often switch between bike lanes and obstacle-strewn shoulders — they are improving. Today, I enjoy a full 3 miles of bike-only lanes in Buckhead along Peachtree Road. It is an absolute joy to cruise along, enjoying the weather and passing all the rush hour commuters sitting alone in their cars. While plenty have a face of anger that I, a lowly commuter cyclist, am passing them, in others I see a glimmer of hope. They want to be out there with me, too.
So, I challenge you to come join me. There is plenty of room to share and enjoy.