Not only does Thanksgiving involve eating lots of food, it also calls for a remarkable lack of physical activity. The simple act of transporting food to the meal (a pan of gingerbread in my case) complicates travel by any means other than a car or taxi. Then people want to sit around and talk or watch TV. I had to insist on an evening walk last night.
Both of my bicycles currently have limited carrying capacity. I'm looking into a large front basket for the Takara, and just having a rack on the back. Currently I have a small basket - about 8"X14" - mounted to the rear rack.
According to the local paper, "The Georgia State Patrol is predicting 3,570 traffic crashes with 1,398 injuries and 16 deaths from 6 p.m. Wednesday to midnight Sunday." Most of those will be motorists, some may be pedestrians, cyclists, or simply bystanders.
Many people think of bicycling as being a particularly dangerous activity, and that they are safer in a car. But traveling in a motor vehicle is extremely dangerous. I'll talk about that more at some point. For now, however you travel, do it safely. If you are driving, do not exceed the speed limit, be alert and focused on driving, and don't even think about going anywhere if you might be intoxicated.
Between lack of funding sources and entrenched political resistance, most Georgia cyclists think it will take an act of Congress - literally - to make metro Atlanta bicycle-friendly. While the city of Atlanta itself has a fairly decent transportation plan (the Connect Atlanta Plan, enacted in the past year) it still contains many compromises, plus the city has absolutely no money to implement it.
But bicycling as transportation is starting to get some national attention. A number of trends, including high gas prices, a progressive administration, and the Cycle Chic phenomenon, are working in our favor. And now the Brookings Institution is having program on "Cities, Bicycles, and the Future of Getting Around." David Byrne, Janette Sadik-Khan, and Rep Earl Blumenauer will be presenting - the current trifecta of bicycle infrastructure advocacy superstars.
Congressman Blumenauer (credit www.selectism.com)
I think Brookings does great work, although they don't always leverage the national media as effectively as they could. Hopefully this event, by combining policy with 'pop', will get on the radar. According to the website, "The event will launch Cities for Cycling, a NACTO project to break down barriers to bicycle-friendly street design in municipalities around the United States." Wish I could spirit up to DC for a couple hours to attend! Maybe there will be a webcast afterwards?
I was intrigued by a recent op-ed that envisioned Atlanta as an unusually large college town. Let's make that a "college city". It's true that we have a lot of universities in the region, concentrated in the core of the city. GSU, Georgia Tech, the AUC (which includes Clark-Atlanta, Spelman, Morehouse, and Morris Brown), and Emory University a few miles out, plus some technical colleges.
A Georgia Tech student heads back to campus:
The article states, "College towns are some of the most pleasant in the nation — human-scaled, walkable and bikeable — and filled with eclectic shopping, restaurants, sports and arts venues attractive to students and adults. Instead of trying to lure big corporations and chain shopping centers back downtown, let’s concentrate on developing downtown as a series of safe, walkable and bikeable campuses threaded with shopping, housing and parks."
Doesn't that sound nice?
The universities are starting to get bicycle programs and more parking on campus. Here are Emory, Georgia Tech, and GSU. I haven't been in the AUC area in a while.
Friday night was more fun than I expected. This was the "Heels on Wheels" ride put on by Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.
It was a small, manageable group, about 9 people. I was definitely wearing the highest heels! My precious copper maryjanes with slightly tapered 3" heels and grippy rubber soles. It was dark out by the time we met up, so most of my photos turned out completely inscrutable.
We rode for about an hour, which was plenty for me. I spend at least 40 minutes a day in the saddle anyway, just commuting, not to mention errands, meetings, etc. But there were some women who only get to cycle for leisure or social time, so it was particularly enjoyable for them. It was a little weird for me since I ride alone a lot. There are apparently a bunch of group ride habits that have evolved, such as yelling out your turns rather than signalling them, or telling people that there is a car behind you. Isn't there always a car behind you? Being Friday night, there was a lot of traffic, mostly cars and trucks. We got stuck in a traffic jam at one point. Oddly enough, being in a group felt more isolated than riding alone - it seemed to make it more obvious how few bicyclists there were on the road. After a while we stopped for some drinks and a bite to eat at TAP, which has a very good beer list.
A couple of my friends were there, and some of the folks I met for the first time turned out to be wicked cool. Here's the whole group - thanks to Rebecca. Some of the participants were very shiny. PS - can someone please teach me how to pose gracefully!?
I'm really looking forward to Friday, not just because it will be Friday, but because of "Heels on Wheels". Atlanta will showcase its growing cycling culture with a group ride to demonstrate the ease of riding in ordinary clothes, including skirts, dress shoes, high heels, and whatever other fashionable items one wants to wear. I'm not a fan of group rides but I will certainly show up to support the cause, take some pictures, and have a beer!
If you're a stylish woman with a bicycle, you should come along.
Many of my closest friends cycle on a routine basis. In fact, our outings are often made by bicycle. And my beau not only travels by bicycle most of the time, he also has a job related to bicycle infrastructure.
Sometimes I have to wonder - is that what brought us together? Would my social life be completely different if I lived in a cycling culture such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam? Is there something unique about Atlantans who have all chosen the bicycle as a preferred mode of transportation?
Georgia State University is having a bicycle rack design contest! It's open to all GSU students. You can create a model or drawing of your design. Go to the GSU Bikes website to enter.
Of course, this has stimulated debate amongst my friends. Some are adamant that the staple rack (the single upside-down U) is the most functional bike rack and thus the only design that should ever be used. Others, including myself, think that there could be designs just as functional, which also stimulate interest and awareness as an art object.
Of course, there are plenty of rack designs that do not function well. This rack from East Atlanta can be challenging to lock up to...
Hopefully a good panel judges will be able to sort out the useful from the merely ornamental. I certainly haven't heard any complaints about the racks David Byrne has designed for NYC.
It's been one of those weekends where I didn't bike at all. There was too much driving, and when I wasn't in a car I was laying around the house or taking transit. After a weekend like this, I feel sluggish and lazy, and I am really looking forward to my Monday morning commute!
I realize this feeling may not make sense to people who have long car commutes on the highway.
The Atlanta political environment has changed a lot over the past decades. At one time, the vision for the city was residential suburban enclaves, from which people would travel by motorcar over wide highways to shopping centers and office buildings, each with their own secured parking facilities. Of course, this vision did not include people of color or economically disadvantaged groups, who were left with crumbling infrastructure, "urban renewal," and industrial zoning in the historical parts of the city.
Fortunately, there were many people who had a different vision for Atlanta. They formed community groups and advocacy organizations and fought for improvements. They worked wonders for the city, and we owe them a great debt. They changed the political climate. However, not all of them changed themselves along with it. Some, like PEDS and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, have evolved through self-awareness or changes in leadership. Others have some issues.
The PATH Foundation has helped construct numerous city parks and multi-use paths with ready funding and inexpensive designs, which is great. Unfortunately, inexpensive, standardized designs don't always work in every application. So at risk of angering some people, today's rant is about the "West End Trail."
It is a shared pedestrian and bicycle facility, about 10 feet wide. Maybe 12. That means about 5 feet in each direction for all users, which is fine unless you have, say two pedestrians going in opposite directions, and a bicyclists. Then the cyclist has to slow considerable to navigate in between them. Children, dogs on leashes, multiple cyclists, etc. complicate the situation further. The path is next to a road that used to be 4 lanes, and was reduced to two lanes plus a two-way center turn lane. Here it is, baking in the heat of a Georgia July.
It runs between an industrial area and a neighborhood. A lot of the neighborhood streets were dead-ended at some point to create this road as a freight bypass. Traffic volume is extremely light. I had hoped it would reconnect the roads that were closed off, but it does not. Here is the curb that prevents you from getting onto the path from the abutting street. That's my beau posing on the path.
As you cruise along, you cross a number of driveways. There's only a 2 foot buffer between the path and the roadway, so the path slopes where it crosses the driveways. At speed, it reminds me of an amusement park ride - the "Cyclone" or something? Here is the beau avoiding a road construction sign and about to cross a driveway.
Finally, at either end, you wind up in a park. Parks are great. But when I am heading to and from the grocery store, I just want to keep going. That's not an option here! On the northwestern end, you can hop out on the road a block before without much problem. If you proceed into the park, though, there are no curb cuts at the next intersection. On the southeastern end, you are totally out of luck. No curb cuts for the last 1/4 mile or more. If you miss the last driveway, you either have to dismount and lift your bike over the curb into traffic, or weave around between some park benches and playing children until you reach a wheelchair ramp on the other side of the park, several blocks from where you were trying to go. Here is the beau about to enter the park. The road is still to the right.
I just stay off the path and take the road. It's easier and I don't get as angry.
One of Georgia's most famous residents is former President Jimmy Carter. He and his wife both have bicycles from Rivendell and, I am told, ride them regularly. There's a fantastic photo of President Carter on his Rivendell. (I'm not sure who I should credit for this image. It can be found on the cyclofiend.com RBW page, but they credit it to Copenhagen Cycle Chic.)
The number of people bicycling in Atlanta is still small enough that we start to recognize each other. We all show up and the same events, join the same groups, and travel many of the same routes. There are relatively few streets in Atlanta that are optimal for bicycling.
I am stubborn and somewhat anti-social, so I don't like to acknowledge other cyclists, unless they really are friends of mine. I don't like the implication that I should socialize with other people simply because they ride a bicycle. We're just two strangers who happen to be using the same mode of transportation.... I also don't like group rides, for the same reason. More on that later.
We have some fun bicycle-oriented events here. Earlier in 2009 we had a bicycle fashion show.
That's me with the coffee cup holder. My friend Angel is on the far left of the photo, and my eternally-stylish friend Katie second from the right.
One of the problems with having a lot of cars in your city is that you need lots of places to store them. All that parking adds to sprawl and can create access management problems (as in access to the parking lots - frequent driveways and frequent turning vehicles which conflict with cyclists and pedestrians). Plus it's just not what you might call an 'aesthetically pleasing environment'. Parking lots are ugly. And here in the US South, they are deadly hot in the summer. Add to that, they waste valuable land which reduces property tax revenue and drives up retail costs.
By quality, I mean towns and cities that are good for your mental and physical health, that allow equitable access to good jobs and education, and that provide everyone with the housing, stores, social settings, and so forth that they need for a fulfilling life. I don't think the stereotype of Atlanta fits this description, and there is some truth to that. There's also a big difference in where you choose to live. We have suburbs and exurbs that go on for miles, and a legacy transportation system that is almost exclusively built for automobiles. These things make it a real challenge to make a safe and convenient trip by foot or bicycle. But in the city of Atlanta, the bicycle is supremely convenient. It can handle the distances of our lower-density layout, can be parked anywhere, and can also be taken on the subway system (MARTA) if needed. I drive a couple times a week, but the trusty bicycle carries me most of the time.
I'll put up some photos of my friends and I riding in the city soon. For now, in honor of Germany's reunification celebration, I leave you with a few shots of cyclists in Berlin, cycling across the brick line which marks the former location of the Berlin wall.