When I am asked, “Do you bike to work?” My reply probably sounds messy, “Yes, but…” Sometimes I take MARTA or carpool to work rather than take my bike. Sometimes I take my bike on MARTA all the way to the office, but then I pedal all the way home. Sometimes I hop off MARTA a few stations early and bike the rest of the way to the office. Sometimes I carpool home and leave my bike chained at work to ride another day. Rather than berate myself for not bicycling every day or living up to someone else’s expectations of bike commuting, I actually enjoy myself when I do get on my bike because bicycling is not a chore or obligation I have assigned myself. My best advice for anyone tempted to commute by bicycle is to remain flexible and moderate with your plans.
When I first began cycling to work in May 2010, I combined a 13-station-long MARTA trip with a hilly 3-mile bike ride in DeKalb County, but my current commute requires I go no farther than Five Points. Of course, the shortest commute is not always the one we have to choose. From time to time when I pedal out of the office garage, I detour towards the Westside Trail or down Pryor to the SouthTowne Trail from where I can always load my bike on a MARTA bus if I run out of steam before I get home.
And, yes, I admit it: Sometimes I do wish my bicycle commute instead took me along Freedom Parkway with its cafes and trees or perhaps offered the eye candy of the Atlanta BeltLine. However, while others may spin their way home on freshly engineered (even landscaped!) curves, I have the privilege of regularly commuting on one of Atlanta’s most ancient routes – one that certainly predates the founding of the city. Directing runoff into either the Gulf-bound Chattahoochee River or the Atlantic-bound South River, the eastern continental divide rises just a little higher in elevation than most of the city, catches just a little more wind, and puts you just a little closer to the Sun. Because the divide crossed no streams or steep hills, it offered the best route for the historic road from Decatur to Newnan and for the railroads that created Atlanta. Because that infrastructure once attracted industry and businesses, my ungentrified route probably presents to some as little more than broken glass, poorly maintained pavement, weeds, and general dereliction. But I’ve discovered more than first met my eye. The ride may not offer adrenaline or narrow escapes, but delivers a connection with our city, its terrain, history, challenges, and yes, even one of its goatherds.
There are many reasons to bicycle to or from work, but the daily chain of small moments is what sustains me: Crossing the sign-posted border from one neighborhood or city to another on my own power, noticing street names or front yards that never before caught my attention, and hearing the wind, insects or trains rather than radio. Perhaps your connection will be to your quadriceps, your speed, the time you save by combining exercise with your commute, mentally revisiting your workday, or planning your evening. You might find too that you try bicycling to or from work for the first time for one reason, but stick with it for another.
Whether you’re behind the wheel or on your wheels, if any of you happen to pass a very uncool middle-aged guy with a kickstand on his bike heading down Murphy Avenue, please wave to me.
The second annual Bike to Work Challenge starts up next week, October 1st. We're ready to get started--are you? For more information about registration deadlines, prizes, and rules, check out ATLBiketoWork.org.
Imagine what Atlanta would look like if we all left our cars at home for one day--without the hustle and bustle of our typical city streets, commuters can take a more leisurely way to work by getting lost in their thoughts during their walk, reading a book on the bus or train, or getting extra exercise on their bike.
On or around September 22 of each year, people around the world band together and remind everyone that we don’t have to live in a car-dominated society. World Carfree Day is a showcase for how cities might look, feel, and sound without cars. It’s been predominately observed in European countries like Iceland, England, and France where the first car-free days were organized, and the movement went global in 2000. Since then many cities around the country have implemented a car-free day, including our very own Decatur. The City of Decatur is celebrating World Carfree Day today by encouraging its citizens to leave their car at home and try an alternative commute.
If you need help finding the right transit or bike route, Georgia Commute Options provides services to get you started. You can even earn financial incentives for using a commute alternative.
So one day over the next week, try your hand at riding transit – you’ve got several options depending on where you live including MARTA, GRTA, GCT, and CCT. Or check out the new bike lanes on 10th Street. You also have the option of getting through town on the Atlanta BeltLine. However you choose to ditch your car for the day, think about the impact you’re making on metro Atlanta’s traffic and air quality.
Registration is now open for metro ATL's second-annual Bike to Work Challenge, which takes place during October 2013. And the bar is going to be set very high: during last year’s month-long inaugural Bike to Work Challenge, competitors eliminated 130,000 miles from the road and 64.97 tons of pollution out of the air we breathe. Can we beat that total in 2013?
Grab your commute by the handlebars.
Whether you're an avid bike rider that has pedaled to work for years - like this guy - or a newbie that is ready to experience the joys of beating rush hour traffic, this event is all about trying a greener and healthier way to get around. Some people ride all the way into work. Others ride just to the bus stop or train station. In fact, more than 20,000 commute trips each week around the Atlanta region happen on a bicycle.
Compete for prizes and bragging rights.
Throughout the month of October, individual commuters and teams of two to five people will earn points by riding their bikes to work, participating in bike seminars and instructional classes, and submitting photos for an online contest. You can keep track of how many miles you've ridden and compete for cool prizes like Patagonia rain jackets and dry-fit jerseys, not to mention bragging rights on the leader board.
There’s more to this challenge than riding to and from work.
Find educational events open to bike commuters of all skill levels. Get linked up with local cycling groups and communities. Try out new technology. Learn more about Georgia Commute Options. And get some ideas on how to approach your employer about creating a more bike-friendly workplace.
Participants who try a pedal-powered commute for the first time will earn bonus points as an individual or for their team. Whether you challenge a friend, a co-worker or just yourself, grab your commute by the handlebars and register now at www.ATLBikeToWork.org.