The last bike I’d ridden until about a year ago had a banana seat and streamers. Do you remember that feeling of freedom with the wind hitting your face as a child?
It was years between that and the day that I signed up for an Atlanta Bike Coalition class to learn how to ride an adult. I didn’t believe the idea that you don’t forget how to ride a bike. Within the hour, I felt like it was the first day of summer break. I bought my first adult bike a week later and, 2 years later, use it for my daily commute.
Because I leave earlier than I would when driving, I actually spend less time commuting my 9 miles by bike than I did when I drove in traffic. I started riding club rides and group rides — including centuries — a year before I started commuting to work. Now that is like summer camp. There are people that you randomly met during a ride that are now friends you look forward to riding with.
I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met that have opened themselves up to teaching me skills and becoming friends. That isn’t limited to others on bicycles. It was the first day of school when I biked by a walker I’d seen before but spoke to for the first time. It’s now a little odd when we don’t see each other, and we wonder if we’re safe. Commuting is like Halloween as I don my helmet, reflective backpack, and bright orange or yellow commuter costume. Oh, and it’s like Christmas when I use my five lights including three blinkies.
I may be smiling but I’m well aware that I need to be seen since I’m not on a single protected bike lane.
Sylvia has PhD in nutrition and is a certified specialist in sports dietetics. She finds commuting to be one more way to incorporate enjoyable physical activity into her day. She also enjoys traveling, cooking and trying all of Atlanta’s great restaurants, reading, and keeping up to date on the latest science around nutrition and physical activity.
After joining fellow employees at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a Bike to Work Day a couple of years ago, I decided to bike to work at least one day a week for a year. My commute was almost 10 miles one way. I had been cycling for years and thought about doing this before, but did not feel comfortable riding on the streets of Atlanta.
Several experienced cyclists led bike trains from various locations around Atlanta and dropped riders of all abilities off at different work locations. By riding with others, I felt safer and they showed me some great options of taking neighborhoods and crossing busy streets at traffic lights. I took a Safe City Cycling class and felt much more comfortable. That year, I rode at least once per week every week except two. I missed one week because of vacation and the other because of illness. I continue to try to bike at least once per week.
If I have to drive to work when there is normal morning and afternoon traffic it takes me at least 30 minutes to drive one way. It takes me about 45 minutes to bike. So round trip, I get 90 minutes’ worth of exercise for only 30 minutes more time out of my day. That’s a pretty good return for my investment. Plus, I am less stressed from sitting in traffic and have more energy throughout the day.
CDC also joins Emory cyclists for commuter breakfasts. Bike trains and riders from different locations stop by on the way to school or work and share a quick breakfast and chat with other cyclists.
Programs like the Atlanta Bike Challenge really help keep me challenged to bike more and promote cycling to others. CDC has a cycling listserv, and we use it for promoting challenges, safe cycling, connecting riders and cycling advocacy.
CDC also partners with Georgia Commute Options and holds transportation fairs at different locations to promote clean commuting. Last year they also installed bike stations in a couple of locations equipped with air pump and basic tools for quick fixes when needed.
I now lead an occasional bike train with fellow cyclist in the Emory area. Over the past few years, we have seen a lot more bike racks filling up with more and more bike commuters.
Becky has been an avid cyclist for almost 20 years, completing several triathlons and one Ironman competition. She has ridden several century bike rides and two back to back centuries for the AIDS Vaccine Ride. In the last two years, thanks to encouragement from work and the work of organizations like Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and events like Streets Alive, she has become a regular bike commuter and tries to ride her bike rather than taking her car whenever possible.
One of my favorite things about biking for transportation is being able to interact with the people and places around me while I’m on the move. You can’t really do that as easily when you travel by car. I like arriving at intersections and being able to exchange a “good morning” with fellow bikers without even raising my voice. I like calling out to people I know walking down the sidewalk as I bike past them on the street.
One interaction I routinely relish is biking through my neighborhood and having encouraging words called down to me from a certain neighbor sitting on his porch, watching the activities on the street below. This particular neighbor is a big supporter of active transportation. Anybody riding a bike or jogging past his house can tell by the shouts of “Way to travel! Keep it up!” that issue from his front porch as you pass by.
Sometimes, I even have delightful verbal interactions with people who are inside cars. On one occasion, a driver stopped at an intersection beside my wife and me, rolled down his window, and told us how great it was that we were biking around town and thanked us for wearing reflective clothing to help him see us better. On another occasion, a driver rolled down her window while passing me to shout out a complement for the “great hand signal!” I had used to signal a turn. That was a moment of pride. I love effective hand signals.
There are many other great stories from the last several years of my life biking around Atlanta, and I am looking forward to more. Bicycling is such a joyful way to travel, and I am encouraged to see more and more people embracing it around Atlanta.
Jonathan lives in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta with his wife Katelyn. Jonathan bikes for transportation, for fun, and often times both at once. Jonathan is a transportation engineer and a nerd.
My commute is roughly 9 miles both ways. Now, I don't commute every day — work and family commitments prevent it — however, I do average about 3 - 4 times a week. I have also been known to cycle in the rain and, yes, a couple of times in the snow. Some of my more memorable rides have been 13 times participant of Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG), Bicycle Across Magnificent Alabama (BAMA), and Bike Florida. The hardest ones were in the recent Alabama Back Roads Series, which I completed to celebrate my 60th Birthday, where I had this insane idea of doing six 100-mile bike rides in six months. I did it, but I had to agree with my wife that it was an insane idea, because Alabama has some hills. This is not to say that Georgia has no hills, as I have attempted to do the "6 Gap Century 3 Gap Fifty" out of Dahlonega three times and have been only able to complete the 3 Gap portion — and it's a misnomer. It's not 50 miles; I have clocked it and it's 61 miles.
We in Columbus have a great opportunity to cycle with the successful completion of our "Rails to Trail" project, the 11-mile "Fall Line Trace," which is exactly one mile from my house and runs beside the University on its way to downtown Columbus. It’s extremely convenient for me and my commute. We are also fortunate for our River Walk, which is another Multiuse trail that runs from our downtown location and parallels the Chattahoochee River all the way to Ft. Benning for a distance of 10 plus miles. This is my usual weekend ride; it is a very pleasant, and relaxing mostly shady ride. You will come across runners, walkers, Skate Boarders, couples, whole families utilizing the trace, and the River Walk at all hours during the day. This is my favorite ride as I can be as aggressive or as relaxed as I want depending on mood and motivation.
I don't want to come across as a professional "Roadie;” I ride mostly for my heath and as a way to maintain my weight. You see, I had my knee replaced courtesy of Uncle Sam, and the only exercises that I can safely do is bike or swim. I swim like a rock straight to the bottom. Another reason why I clean commute is because no matter how aggravated I get with the family, by the time I get to work I am calm cool and collected. The same goes for my commute home, because no matter how stressed I get at work by the time I am home all the stress is gone.
Edwin is a retired Army Veteran. After serving 20+ years, he started working for then-Columbus State College, now University. He has been working at the University for over 21 years, and has been an avid bike commuter for just about as long.
I am a new faculty at Georgia Gwinnett College and a bicycling fan. However, my commute to GGC is simply too long to be able to cycle. Even combined with public transportation options, it becomes too difficult and unreliable. However, since I had an extra bike at home, I brought it to the campus and keep it in my office. I use that bike to commute quickly between my rural office and classroom buildings for teaching my classes and attending meetings.
This is the funny part of the story. Students are really not used to seeing a professor on a bike on campus. I also get funny looks from other faculty members. However, I'm very happy to be cycling; it saves me time and I get a quick exercise, too. One day I forgot to bring my bike lock, so I had to take my bike inside my classroom. When the students saw my bike, they made a big noise and started making funny comments. Some of them were asking me whether I even had a car. They had the impression I am too poor to purchase a car. But, I hope by seeing me they now have a better view of the use of bicycles.
Since then my students often tease me when they see my bike on campus somewhere. I don't mind and I'm happy that I'm a bike ambassador on the GGC campus.
My right knee hurts. Actually, it’s sort of killing me: I can’t even lift my leg without wincing from the pain beneath my knee-cap and in my quadricep near the knee. I hurt it running with the running club at my work (the CDC), and it’s just been getting worse the last week. I peek outside, and it is sunny and nice. I’m looking at my car parked on the street, but at the last minute I go to the laundry room in the back of my house to get my bike. “I’m running late,” I tell myself. “There’s no time to drive.”
I hop on my bike and start coasting downhill for the first part of my commute. So far, so good. I get to the high school and start riding past the parking lot — and catch a glimpse of the cars stacked up ahead of me. I have to start pedaling harder now and so I downshift and use my left leg almost exclusively, avoiding the pain in my right knee. Imagine a one-cylinder engine trying to move a motorcycle and you can picture my progress, but still I’m happy to be on my bike, and I’m making pretty good time. I cut through the small streets around the hospital and past a hospital parking lot, circumventing the snarling mass of angry red brake lights on the cars backed up almost a quarter mile behind the next major intersection. There’s a fairly serious uphill section where I have to downshift into gears that I don’t usually go to, but as long as I don’t have to stand up on the bike I’m good and feel no pain. I cut through some small streets near the Emory campus, and then I’m home free. I pull up to the bike rack right next to the CDC director’s parking space and limp into my office building, 10 minutes after I left home. Had I taken the car, what with traffic and finding a place to park and limping much farther to my desk, it would have taken me 20, maybe 25, minutes, so I’ve got a smile on my face. My grandmother used to say, when she got old and infirm, that every day above ground is a good day. To me, every day on the bike is a good day.
I’ve been riding my bicycle to work for 11 years. It’s my favorite way to get to work and I’m visibly grumpy if I can’t ride that day, because of the weather or because I have a meeting at some far away campus. There were some years when, as a consequence of my bicycle commute, I only put one tank of gas into my car the whole year (on the weekends we drive around my wife’s car). I have gone through a number of bicycle tires and chains, however.
Dr. Brian Gurbaxani works as a computational biologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgia Tech, where he supervises graduate students and undergraduates working on technology projects that advance the public health interests of the CDC. In a former life, he lived and worked as an engineer in Los Angeles, CA, and decided he was done with car commuting at that time.
Generally a great short story would consist of a beginning, an ending and some trial to overcome. I can’t promise that I can showcase all positive benefits of cycling, as that makes for a boring story — however, I can tell you about my ride. I have been bike commuting since the Bush administration. My ride has changed greatly since my start.
I live in College Park, and I work in Alpharetta. This is a 48-mile commute one way, and my initial reasoning for starting bike riding was gas prices. In the beginning, when I only had one car in the family, I simply commuted six miles from the house to the train station. This required me to rise at 4 a.m. and be on the road by 4:20 a.m. This required three sets of clothes: going to work, at work and going home.
The six-mile ride in the mornings was plagued with amusing memorable stories but well worth the benefit because I got a workout early. I loaded my bike on the train at the College Park Station and commuted to work via train and bus. I showered at work and proceeded to leave by bike in the evenings where I rode 10 miles to a bus station. I started on a mountain bike (aka semi-truck) and now I am on a road bike (aka sports car).
Since moving to the road bike and getting an additional car, I have opted to no longer do the morning ride, and I ride further in the evenings. I leave from Windward Parkway and ride to the Dunwoody MARTA station which is around 21 miles. I enjoy this ride because while riding home I get the workout I need. I get the peace and quiet I need. It’s time to think, and it’s an adrenaline rush when riding with traffic. From time to time, I even ride all the way home — all 48 miles.
My greatest accomplishment was 100 miles in one day, known as “the century.” Many of my most memorable stories are centered on trials that I encountered while riding. While some were no laughing matters at the time, I consider them to be fun stories now. For instance: riding though, a small portion of the bike path flooded over. I did not know it was flooded until I reached a spot where water was over my ankles. I had to finish my ride with wet shoes and socks. I laugh about it now and I love telling the story.
Rodney works for Equifax in Alpharetta. He bikes starting in College Park, travels through Dunwoody, and ends at his office in Alpharetta.
I moved from Little Rock, Arkansas in February. If you have ever been to the small but beautiful capital of Arkansas, you'll know well the amazing River Trail that runs a considerable length of the Arkansas River and provides car-free access for cyclists and pedestrians. After moving to Atlanta, I had to come to terms with my anxiousness of riding on the busy streets — not an easy task! I was delighted to find the PATH system which allows me to ride almost road-free from my home to my office in Decatur. I am thrilled and thankful for that system and continue to hope that it will be expanded and improved to help all of us make our bike commutes safe, enjoyable, and expedient!
Julie is an Arkansas native (they’re like unicorns – find them if you can!) who has spent many years living in Europe and China. She craves the car-free life she once had and is rooting for Atlanta to show that the South can make public transportation accessible.
What can you do with $5 a Day?
- Upgrade your latte from a tall to a venti
- Finally try out a mobile app that costs money
- Take two trips on MARTA
- Buy any of these items
- Two words: extra cheese
- Grab a couple gallons of gas (But you may find that you need less of it than usual. Read on.)
What little luxuries can an extra $5 add to your day? Switch up your commute and you’ll have the chance to find out. For a limited time starting November 1st, you can earn $5 a day just for commuting to work. All you’ve got to do is switch from driving alone to a clean commute like carpooling, vanpooling, teleworking, taking transit, walking or biking.
That’s it! Start using an alternative to driving alone, and we’ll give you $5 a day — up to $150.
Is your commute worth $5 to you? Visit GaCommuteOptions.com/GimmeFive to learn more and apply today!