In honor of the 2nd annual Bike to Work Challenge coming to a close, I would like to spotlight on some of the bike commuters that I have the pleasure of working with in the Interstate 85 North territory.
Mark Filer: Mark picked up cycling as a form of exercise in 2009 after being encouraged by several friends and wanting to have an alternative to running. In the summer of 2011 Mark became involved with the $3 a Day program and earned $56 by biking to work instead of driving alone! Mark has been an active bike commuter since, continuing to log his green commutes at LogYourCommute.org and has teamed up with some of his coworkers to participate in local and national bike challenges. Mark and some of his coworkers biking in to their workplace are pictured below.
Bill Morgan: Bill works at Gwinnett Public Library and is proud that he and his wife have been a, “one-car couple,” for three years. In addition to saving on car expenses and gas, Bill feels that he doing his part to save the planet. Looking back on the past three years Bill says, “It is amazing how many trips you decide are not necessary when your choice is to walk or ride the bike to where you need to go.”
Bakari Height: Bakari is a Georgia Tech graduate student and is an intern with The Clean Air Campaign. Because Bakari does not have a car, he bikes almost exclusively within the five-mile radius around his home in the Old Fourth Ward. Once he started biking, he realized that most of his trips were around the same duration as people who would drive, and faster than waiting on MARTA. It also helps when he needs to rush to class quickly! Below is a picture of Bakari getting ready to ride!
Each year the PACE Awards are presented by The Clean Air Campaign, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation and metro Atlanta’s transportation management associations (TMAs), who work together to deliver the Georgia Commute Options suite of programs and services.
The PACE Awards program recognizes the best commute options programs in Georgia. Those who attend the event learn more about transportation and air quality issues, and how they shape our region’s infrastructure. Attendees also help celebrate the success of employers, property managers, schools and individuals who are advancing their promise of sustainable transportation.
More than a dozen groups and individual leaders received awards last year including Agnes Scott College, who won Best Overall Program for a mid-sized employer and the City of Milton, which won as a Government Champion. Assurant Specialist Property took home the Telework Catalyst Award and Cobb County School District was praised at being the Most Outstanding School District.
If you are looking to see how you can take part in the region’s transportation and air quality initiatives, or would like to be considered as a competitor in next year’s PACE Awards, this is the perfect opportunity to see what other leaders in our region are doing.
Please join us in banding together for sustainable transportation on November 13, 2013 at the Georgia-Pacific Auditorium from 8am-10am. There is no cost to attend the event, but all guests must register online by Wednesday, November 6. A light breakfast and coffee will be served.
We look forward to seeing you and celebrating with you there.
“I am going to start biking to work,” I told my wife a little over a year ago. She gave me the familiar, “that’s nice dear, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” look that she has patented during our marriage. This well-practiced look has greeted my promises to watch less TV (I blame AMC), to teach our three dogs proper dog etiquette (guests to our house would argue with my idea of proper), and to compete in a half marathon (a half of a half marathon is all I have been able to complete to this point). Given my record, I was determined to follow through with this one.
Being an attorney, I applied my “keen” analytical skills to identify several small obstacles that I would have to overcome to fulfill this promise: (1) no bike; (2) I hadn’t biked on a regular basis since I was a teenager, (3) I had no clue how to get from my house to work on a bike and (4) I can’t show up to work a sweaty mess. Discouraging at first, each of these obstacles was pretty easily overcome with a little bit of research and help from others. Along the way I realized that there are great resources available for the would-be urban biker.
The first problem I tried to solve was how I was going to be presentable at work after riding a bike. Working a job that quite often requires a suit, I needed to find a way to bike six miles and then look as if I had just stepped out of a GQ ad (okay, maybe shooting for GQ is a bit high, but at the very least I would need to avoid appearing as a failed contestant from America Ninja Warrior). If I could not find a solution, the idea of biking to work was dead in the water. I had heard rumors that my office had a shower facility. A quick search revealed those rumors to be true. I did not inquire further to see if the reason for the showers was to encourage members of the firm to exercise or pull an all-nighter.
With the first problem solved, the next step was to get a bike. After talking over the various kinds of bikes with friends and searching online (www.atlantabike.org is a great resource), I settled on a hybrid/commuter bike, one well-suited to handle the sometimes off-road conditions of Atlanta’s roads and the metal plates covering “on-going” repairs with which we all are all too familiar. I looked online for new and used bikes, but the selection was overwhelming. Luckily, Atlanta has a number of great bike shops with employees friendly enough to answer my questions and help me find the right fit for my needs.
After I secured my bike, the next step was to get comfortable riding a bike on the mean streets of ATL while determining the safest route to work. I turned to www.ridethecity.com/atlanta for assistance with the planning. The website includes various levels of safety for a given route, as well as available bike paths, streets with bike lanes, and streets with sharrows (Google Maps has improved with its bike routes since my initial mapping, so it also provides some decent directions). After mapping an initial plan, I took a weekend morning to test out the suggested route. Once I made a couple of runs and a few tweaks to the route, I was ready to go.
The first few times of riding to work were a mixture of excitement and nerves. It was a weird experience waiting for the red light to turn green while on a bike with numerous cars sitting behind me, but I soon got used to it. It has been over a year now since I began biking to work, and with the opening of the Eastside BeltLine, as well as the bike lanes on 10th Street, the ride has only gotten better. I really look forward to seeing other bike lanes open throughout the other parts of the city, as well as other bike-friendly improvements. I also look forward to seeing my wife’s look this time when I tell her I am going to get her to start biking to work too.
Matt Warenzak is an Associate in the Intellectual Property Practice of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, specializing in patent prosecution and litigation while also handling copyright, trademark, trade secrets, and licensing issues. In his spare time, he is a board member for Out-of-Hand Theater.
I've always liked bike riding. From childhood to college and grad school I've biked occasionally for recreation, transportation, exercise, and fun. This year I've been able to take on a new adventure: biking to work two days of my four day work week. I'm riding a bike rented from an innovative program Bike Emory--a unique partnership between Emory University and our local shop Bicycle South that encourages/equips students, faculty, and staff to learn bicycle care, make community connections, and ride safely.
I believe in bike commuting as a way to lessen my impact on the environment, improve traffic, and see the world in a more people-centric, community kind of way. Riding to work allows me to lessen the amount of greenhouse gases I'm contributing to the atmosphere, take one single-commuter car off the road, and to see different side streets, neighborhoods, people, and communities that I otherwise wouldn't see.
We have amazing Sustainability Initiatives at Emory, which really help our community to engage in greener ways of living and enjoy the world around us. In my work as the United Methodist Campus Minister at Emory I have had so many good conversations with students about how we are called to take care of the environment as a matter of justice, stewardship, and a way to care for people. In my faith tradition we have three simple 'rules': "Do Good, Do No Harm, and Stay in the Love of God and Neighbor." These seemingly simple rules are more complex once we take them beyond simple platitudes and ask how to live out these ideals--especially when we consider how we live, act, and use/consume resources.
Socrates got it right when he said that "an unexamined life is not worth living." This is one of the greatest challenges for Americans: to think beyond our own needs and to consider the needs, situations, and hopes of others in our communities and in other communities in our nation and around the world. A step towards understanding the hopes and needs of others is to get to know people who are in different ages, stages, and economic places in your community. In the context of relationship we can learn much about the hopes, dreams, and ideals of others and, in turn, discover much about ourselves.
Riding a bike makes one physically and philosophically closer to world around us: there is no glass/metal cage to separate us, no radio to distract us, no anonymity of a car to shield us. Riding my bike to work gives me time to take in and ponder the people and scenes I'm seeing and hearing--not to mention the hills that I'm feeling in my legs. I'm thankful to be able to bike to work to better understand and appreciate the world around me. Being a bike commuter is a way to live out my ecological and theological beliefs to take care of the planet and to care for people. The Bike to Work Challenge gives me just another reason to do so.
Rev. Joseph McBrayer works as Director of Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. where he helps build community on campus to provide a place for students to think through their beliefs and put them into practice. He and his spouse live in the North Decatur area and have been a part of the Atlanta/Emory Community for the past eight years. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on twitter @jmcbray.
Any experienced bicyclist knows that when you ride on streets, it is you against the motorists, and they have the advantage in size and numbers. The best way to attack a difficult bike commute is with a defensive biking plan.
The first part of the plan should be to ensure that you can be seen. Before you head out, you always need to consider the riding conditions, especially what time the sun will set. Recently, I saw a person riding in poor conditions with no bike lights who was dressed head to toe in black. I’ve encountered this before and it always amazes me just how much danger these cyclists are putting themselves in. Being seen is rule number one on any safe commuting list.
Light colored clothing is always a smart bet, but florescent colors are even better. You can also find clothing and accessories that have reflective piping, tags, or patches that will help after dark. If push comes to shove, you can purchase a reflective vest. I own leg warmers which appear black by day, but light up silver when hit by headlights in the dark. Additionally, I recommend yellow or florescent green gloves because they are easier to see when signaling for a turn.
The most important consideration when choosing lights is visibility. A biker must be able to see and be seen. Before I start my morning commute in the dark, I check all the lights on my bike. My rule is three lights in front and three in the rear. It’s also important to check your lights’ batteries meticulously. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have seen a cyclist riding in the dark with improper lighting. Proper maintenance ensures your visibility on the road, which, in turn, ensures your safety.
For headlights, I recommend avoiding the cheap stuff and selecting rechargeable lights with at least 250 lumens. I have two 400-lumen lights on my handle bars and a 250-lumen light on my helmet when I ride in the dark. One of my handlebar lights emits a steady beam while the other emits a strobe to help catch the eyes of motorists. My lighting configuration allows drivers to see me and provides me with a clear view of the road.
For cars coming from behind, I’ve got a rechargeable tail light on my helmet, tail lights on my hydro pack, and a tail light on the rear of my bike, which is visible from half a mile. Running three lights hedges against a complete tail light failure and allows motorists plenty of visibility.
Many cyclists remove their reflectors because they don’t like the way they look. I have to admit I was once guilty of this, but other options exist. I use black reflective tape on my black rims. By day the bits of tape are almost invisible, but at night they become a circle of light when struck by headlights. I have even seen valve caps containing LEDs at the tip that generate the same circle of light effect in the dark.
Regardless of how you do it, making yourself and your bike as visible as possible is the most important safety consideration in cycling.
Residents who participated in Atlanta Streets Alive this past weekend were given a unique, sustainable community experience that refueled the need for more walkable and bikable areas in our region. The six key values of Atlanta Streets Alive are diversity - everyone is invited; wonder - create a sense of wonder; connection - connect neighbors + local businesses = economic development; human - human-powered amusement; interactive - participate in better health; movement - build momentum for a healthy change. The route on Sunday took residents in a square through Highland Avenue to Monroe-Boulevard to Virginia Avenue. In addition to being able to enjoy the sunny weather, patrons watched the bike parade, ate some local food, and took in the sounds of the city.
Events such as this prove that there is public interest in walkable events and neighborhoods, but what about the research behind it? Christopher Leinberger and The George Washington University School of Business has recently published The WalkUp Wake-Up Call: Atlanta, which takes an in-depth view of Atlanta’s various WalkUp communities. One of Leinberger’s key concepts includes that there needs to be accessible transportation options to support economic development in these communities. Below is a graph that shows established, potential, and emerging WalkUp areas and the transportation options surrounding them. WalkUps do not just have recreational purpose - they can be a key factor into employer location. For information on transit or other transportation options for how to get to work check out GaCommuteOptions.com.
Today I logged my 1,000th trip commuting by bike since I started working at The Clean Air Campaign in April, 2011. In all I traveled 3,906 miles, roughly the same as a round-trip from Atlanta to Las Vegas…but it was much more satisfying.
According to LogYourCommute.org, my commute by bike has produced the following savings:
Vehicle Miles Reduced is: 3,906
Total Pollution Reduced (in tons) is: 1.9
NOx Reduced (in grams) is: 2,664
VOC Reduced (in grams) is: 3,473
PM Reduced (in grams) is: 50
CO2 Emission Reduced (in tons) is: 2.40
Fuel & Maintenance Cost Savings is: $1,953
So I reduced a bunch of traffic congestion, air pollution and personal expenses. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is not so much what I reduced as it is with what I gained, and those gains I described earlier this year. Sure, I want to do my part to reduce traffic, save the environment and save money. That list of results says nothing about happiness.
Someday we might figure out how to measure the increase in joy that one receives when biking to work, especially to health and sanity. Until then I plan on continuing to roll on my bike.
If you ever thought about trying it yourself there is no better time than now, as we begin the second annual Bike to Work Challenge.