So Atlanta: not world-renowned as a bicycling destination. My experience there was brief but suggested that this reputation is deserved. I hardly experienced the breadth of what the city had to offer, as I was indoors during nearly all daylight hours, but I don’t think I’m far off. To wit:
- Bicycles spotted: 0
- Bike lanes spotted: 0
- Sharrows spotted: 1
- Pedestrians spotted (myself included): <10
I will return for further updates in June.
Atlanta appears to represent hometown pride in part by relentless promotion of Coca Cola products, which were offered gratis throughout the meeting. I only recently gave up my diet Coke habit, a long-overdue New Year’s resolution, and it was until then my only source of caffeine. I did not falter and I had packed a half-dozen green tea bags, but the whole experience was not unlike what I imagine a former smoker feels in Las Vegas, or at an AA meeting. Perhaps this colored my perception unfairly.
The meeting I attended had a nice warm-up introduction for people about to spend 12 uninterrupted hours per day together. Before we began, everyone in the room was asked to introduce themselves and provide an anecdote about something interesting that had happened in the last six months (the group meets twice a year, but this was my first time). I said that this year we had started taking our kids to schools on our bikes. As an introduction, this turned out to be pretty popular, at least in a room full of doctors. It wasn’t as impressive as the woman who had started open-water swimming in the Atlantic Ocean near NYC, and had kept it up right into January, and rightly so, but still, not bad.
At lunch and dinner I ended up sitting next to the only other vegetarian in our own little catering ghetto. We passed the time by guessing what our eventual entrée would be, a game that quickly grew dull as the answer was always pasta with vegetables.
She mentioned that she took her kids around town, specifically small-town Indiana, on a trailer attached to their bikes. Represent, team oddball! Although they walked to school, they traveled regularly by bicycle for errands, sometimes piling groceries around the kids until only their faces were visible. But, she said, she would never put her kids in a trailer in city traffic. At last, I have independent confirmation of my theory that trailers are for small towns and suburbs.
Her son is now riding on his own bicycle, even though he is slightly younger than mine, but of course they have no traffic concerns. And we talked about when it might make sense to put kids on their own bikes in city traffic, which I think depends largely on the extent of protective lanes given to bicycles. I have no issues with our son riding in Golden Gate Park, even though he can’t brake yet. I won’t have issues with him biking in a separated lane once he can use his brakes consistently. An urban oncologist noted that although he loved riding, he only commuted by bicycle on weekends, because the traffic where he lived was too frightening on weekdays even for an adult. Once outside of a small town, I have to agree: no infrastructure, no bicycle commuting.
And speaking of braking: although my son can’t use the ones on his bicycle yet, he can at least conjugate them, informing me with delight before I left that while the past tense of break, when you break something, is broke, but the past tense of brake, when you stop your bike, is braked, which he found enormously amusing. The bicycle commute just keeps giving.