Recently, Mayor Kasim Reed proposed doubling the miles of bike lanes to Atlanta’s infrastructure in 2014, pushing to keep his goal of making Atlanta a top 10 city for commuter cycling by 2016. We were inspired to write this post from a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://www.ajc.com/news/ap/georgia/atlanta-moves-forward-with-bike-sharing-program/ndFYF/) quoting Atlanta officials wanting to increase the actual cycling community from 1.1% to 2.2%.
Right now, Atlanta’s cycling community is small, but vocal in educating others in the benefits of commuting. With advocacy groups like The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Georgia Bikes! in addition to many volunteers pushing the government for more bike lanes and laws, the seed has not only been planted, but nourished and watered to grow without a glass ceiling in sight. With a new Bike Share program looking to break ground this summer, many commuters hope to meet many new friends along our current routes!
From time to time we have pedestrians swing by The Spindle with an interest in getting into commuting but all have once similar question: Aren’t you scared to ride on the main streets? The answer for us is no, if you can gain confidence riding on main roads like Dekalb ave., Ponce de Leon, or Peachtree St., you can ride anywhere. But that’s what it really comes down to is confidence. If you can stay to the right, avoid potholes quickly, and obey traffic laws, most drivers will notice and treat a cyclist as traffic, not traffic cones. Sometimes it is better to take main roads. They're wider, you're more visible plus it allows drivers to get used to the fact that there is a growing presence of cyclists.
It’s not only educating cyclists on the how-to’s, but also drivers. Unfortunately, we live in a society that believes cars are the only mode of transportation that should be on the streets or the age old “Share the road” attitude where they give cyclists 3 inches from the tip of their side mirror. If they are stuck behind a cyclist, drivers must learn it is inherently dangerous to inch by us. If there is the standard 3ft space available, then by all means take it, but when the driver inches by they are putting the cyclist in severe risk. Drivers need to keep in mind the trechorous road of the city are exponentially worse to a bicycles thin rims and we must avoid potholes just as drivers do. Even more so because they may not only have to pay the cost of a tube, but likely a whole tire or rim and at times those repairs can be costly.
Now, I know some drivers are reading this saying “Well, what about the cyclist who buzz through stop signs, or traffic lights?!?! They’re causin’ a hulabaloo on their bikes, are they trying to set us back?? What is this the 1850’s?” Ok, so maybe they don’t talk like that, but I do from time to time! But they’re right, I see a lot of cyclists flying through lights all the time for absolutely no reason. Once I was driving to Grant Park and 2 cyclist ran a red light while I had a green light, I was going about 35-40 and was literally inches from killing one of them. I definitely took the time to bark up the guy, in the end all he said was “jeez, I’m sorry” in a very sarcastic tone, what riders don’t tend to realize is that if they get injured or even killed by a driver when they don’t obey traffic laws it causes serious trauma for the driver that could stay with them for the rest of their life. If we want respect on the roads we need to earn it as well.
We've had our fair share of run ins with angry pedestrians and drivers. The best thing to do is to keep calm and refrain from cussing up a storm. Some people understand reasoning and rationale, but others will take all their aggression for cyclist out on you. People like this are difficult to please and as much as you want to punch them through the face, you must walk away. Not to be a coward, but for people to realize that not all cyclist are maniacal. Sometimes we make mistakes but the result of our mistakes can possibly be our lives.
Police training on bike laws has definitely increased and needs to continue growing. As cyclist, stories and experiences with police have become more commonplace. And since recently being pulled over for lack of lights or traffic violations, we still appreciate the recognition. With cyclist becoming more cognizant of traffic laws, officers should acknowledge and protect at risk cyclist from aggressive drivers. If an officer sees someone driving recklessly close to a cyclist, then that driver should be ticketed severely. This will spread the word quickly once drivers realize that endangering a rider will get you a hefty fine and hopefully get bike fatalities to nil (oh to dream!). I believe PSA’s by advocacy groups would help tremendously, along with public forums in all counties to educate drivers and riders alike.
But what can we do to help to increase commuters here in Atlanta? Most importantly open conversation is key, if you are a daily commuter, talk to your coworkers, friends, and family that live near their jobs and try and persuade them to ride their bikes. You can point out the health benefits as well as the cost savings commuting by bicycle entails. Take them on a ride on the beltline, start slow, then take steps onto neighborhood roads, and then once their comfortable, main roads. Maybe influence your company to offer incentives for those who cycle to work?
Communication with new riders is extremely important, even experienced riders are always finding better routes and educating themselves on the rules of the road. When rules are learned by new riders they then pass it on to others who they influence to commute, and so on and so on. This way, they become more active in the community and vocalize our need for better, safer cycling infrastructure for their city.
In addition, social rides like The Mobile Social, Civil Rides, and Critical Mass are great ways to get a new rider comfortable with their surrounding while meeting new people. Plus, bikes are cheap! They can run from $50-$5000 based on whatever your needs may be, we definitely recommend you building one up so you can learn the ins and outs of bicycles and can make quick and easy fixes while out on the road. Learning how to change a tire or make adjustments to your bike in the middle of a ride can save you time and money.
We look forward to seeing you all out on the road soon!
What are your questions/opinions? Do you live in another city and have any suggestions? Leave your comments below, we’d love to start a conversation!!