Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Updates - Infrastructure and Events

Just a few news items from around Atlanta...

I haven't checked it out myself, but major sections of the BeltLine are apparently bikeable. This blog post from Atlanta Unsheltered proclaims that the entire section from Glenwood Park to Piedmont Park is open and rideable. I don't know if it's actually paved or more of a gravel road situation, but I plan to visit it in the near future.

For some strange reason, the BeltLine does not appear in the City of Atlanta's transportation plan. But about 16 miles of new bicycle facilities are planned for city streets. Check out the list from Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, and feel free to contact your city council rep to say thanks, or ask when construction will begin! You can also read this week's article about cycling infrastructure from Creative Loafing.

Last of all, mark your calendars for the Heels on Wheels ride on July 10th, and an event for elected officials to meet local bicyclists and learn about cycling needs in the Atlanta region on the 15th.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Boys and Girls

I went to dinner at a friends' house on Sunday night. It was a quiet evening of delicious home cooking and good friends. Among other things, we all share an abiding love of good food and nice bicycles. Now, in some crowds, you might find that the guys are really into bikes and their female consorts just put up with it. But in our group, the women were clustered around Colleen's new Brompton (hopefully to be seen in action soon) while the men prepared dinner. Good times!

Overall, I continue to see more women bicycling. With better fitting bikes and a wider variety of frames and accessories, in lots of different settings.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Riding the Rails

Atlanta started as a railroad town, and the rails were laid out according to the existing topography, typically along ridgelines. Roads developed along the rail lines. These roads were straight, fairly flat, and generally became major routes through the city. They are a cyclist's secret advantage, because they provide direct routes with few hills, but relatively low in traffic due to the industrial (or formerly industrial) areas they traverse - Lee Street, Marietta Street, and Decatur St/DeKalb Ave are the main examples intown. I spent much of Saturday along these roads.

I started the day with a special brunch event with the Beau and a bunch of foodies at Abbatoir, at Howell Mill Road and 14th Street. It was an easy trip out Marietta Street and a few blocks up Howell Mill. Traffic was nonexistent. The occasion was ideal for wearing my pretty new sundress.

From there, I headed back down Marietta Street and straight through downtown, heading out the DeKalb Ave. corridor to the Arizona Pub. About 45 minutes in 90 degrees. It would have been a lot nicer with some more shade! I took DeKalb Ave to Oakdale Road and then LaFrance Street.

After watching the USA lose to Ghana in the World Cup, I headed up to McClendon Ave. to Little Five Points, stopped at the co-op grocery store, and headed home. At this point, I was really hot, tired, loaded down, and felt like I was going about half as fast as I had in the morning... Got some great comments about the bike though - someone called it a "Mayberry bicycle". I like that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Veggie Day

I participate in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program, which means that I pay for a farm share at the beginning of the year and then get a box of whatever's in season, each week. Well, every other week because I share my share with a neighbor. The pick-up location used to be right around the corner from me. But it's about 2 or 3 miles from where I live now. That means veggies need to be transported! Last year I used a car. This year, I thought I could do better.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Going Mainstream

I've had a few interesting bicycle sightings on TV and internet lately. You may have seen the Kotex ad, featuring an adorable woman with an even more adorable mixte, telling people she left her bike lock at home, and would they run in to the store an buy her a box of tampons? There is also a credit report service commercial, with what appears to be a sweet vintage Raleigh.

A recentMcDonald's commercial featured a perky woman bicycling to work and stopping for breakfast on the way. (Sorry, couldn't find any images). It makes a lot of sense for a fast food restaurant to promote active forms of transportation, since physical activity can help mitigate the effects of a high-calorie diet. If their customers stay fit and healthy through bicycling, the unhealthy foods served by McDonald's may not be vilified quite so much as they are now. McDonald's has also taken up sponsorship of the Chicago bike station in Millennium Park. Maybe, in addition to their playgrounds, we will start to see mini-bike-stations and bicycle parking pop up at some of their locations?

Lastly, I came across this ad for a new bike-share program in Miami Beach, called DecoBike. The imagery is very mainstream - it shows riding a bicycle as a totally normal and fashionable part of daily life. The emphasis is on convenience and staying in shape. And, well, let's just say sex sells! I hope their program is a success.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Misadventures in Buckhead

It started innocently enough with a plan to meet the Beau at a nice men's clothier in Buckhead, and keep him company while he shopped. I planned to take the train there and ride from the station, since I remembered that it was pretty close. I got directions, but since I had already left my office (and I don't own one of those nifty smartphones) I didn't have a map to look at. No problem, right?

Thirty minutes later, I was lost in office park purgatory. The train ride was quick and convenient but I took a wrong turn somewhere. The directions were a little confusing - left? right? does it matter? And in a normal city setting, I could have recovered quickly by heading towards landmarks. But in the land of office megabuildings, apartment complexes, and culs de sac, there was just one long, hot, never-ending four-lane road. At least traffic was light after business hours, and a handful of people were out jogging.
Eventually I called for directions, backtracked by about 15 minutes, and wound up on a bike lane headed toward recognizable landmarks! It was still hot - c'mon people, would it kill you to plant a few trees??? - but convenient and direct.

Minus the detour, the store would have been about 5 minutes from the station. Not only was I late, but I had to sit down for a while and cool off (literally and figuratively - I hate getting lost)! Of course, there were no bike racks at the store, nor even a decent bench to sit on. Grrr.
It was a hot and frustrating experience, but I tried to think of it as a chance to see new scenery and learn the area. I also have to say that Buckhead drivers are very civil. Everyone passed with plenty of room and waited to make turns safely. Overall, I have been having good relations with motorists lately, from the woman who yelled 'Thank you' when I motioned for her to pass (safely) to the guy who waved me in when I needed to merge out of a turn lane. Awesome! I did see one other cyclist in Buckhead, on Peachtree Street.

Hot and Wet

Happy Solstice/First Day of Summer! Atlanta is already well into its typical summer weather pattern - temps in the 90s every day and scattered thunderstorms every afternoon. I thought June was usually a little milder than this. Did it get hot early this year? At any rate, it will be like this through August or September.

This means that I have to be prepared for rain at any given moment. But, since it will be a short shower rather than all-day rain, I can leave the Giant Orange Poncho at home. Instead, I just carry a small rain jacket with me. It takes up a lot less room.

I'm pleased to note that plenty of other people are handling the weather in style.

This guy came prepared with a rain jacket. It even matches his chinos.

This gal is not only staying cool on a hot summer afternoon, she also appears to be scoffing at the gas prices, the gas-guzzling truck beside her, and the entire industry of oil drilling that they represent. If you really want to protest offshore drilling, leave the car at home and ride a bicycle!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sharrows from Heaven

Sharrows have been mysteriously appearing around Atlanta.
Sharrow on Charles Allen Drive
Don't be alarmed. The sharrow is a bicycle rider's friend. Also called a "shared lane marking", the sharrow reminds motorists to expect bicycle traffic, and informs bicyclists where the safest lane position will be under normal traffic circumstances. For instance, sharrows can remind cyclists not to ride in the "door zone" of parked cars.

These aren't fake sharrows either, like the ones that somebody painted on Peachtree Street in the middle of the night a few years ago. These are the real deal, presumably painted by the City of Atlanta. The city finally feels comfortable using sharrows, now that they have been approved by the MUTCD (the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices).

Basically, the MUTCD is a compendium of all the signs, pavement markings, traffic signals, and so forth, that have been approved for national usage, and their specifications. Most transportation departments will be reluctant to try any type of traffic control that hasn't been approved in this manual. Isn't transportation fun??

New sharrow on Georgia Ave next to Turner Field

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Party Time!

My friend Katie has set the bar pretty high for bicycling around Atlanta in style. But don't worry, there will be plenty of opportunities to show off your own style this weekend, starting on friday... So put on your party clothes, grab your bicycle, and scroll down for a couple of options.

Any time on friday, swing on over to Loose Nuts Cycles. It's a new bicycle shop in Grant Park, and they are having an opening party with free New Belgium beer! Allegedly, one of the owners is the "best wheel builder in Atlanta." Also, they list vintage bikes as one of their specialities. Looks cool. You can stop at Grant Central Pizza for dinner across the street.

On saturday, the Brickstore Pub is having an anniversary party - 13 featured casks to celebrate 13 years of business! It's a great pub and Decatur is a relatively good part of Atlanta for cycling - but be sure to call up the city staff and let them know that they need more bike facilities on their major roads.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer Survival: Take It Easy

Many people think of the bicycle as some sort of exercise equipment. But it was actually invented as a labor-saving (and time-saving) device. On a bicycle, you need a fraction of the time and energy that you would expend to walk or run the same distance. It's been called the most energy-efficient form of travel. So why do we often associate bicycling with exertion and sweat?

Well, if you are trying to go as fast as you can, then you will put a lot of effort into it. And it's tempting to go fast - we are programmed to save time and be competitive in our hectic lives. Personally, I am constantly running late (why is it so hard to get up in the morning??) so I try to hurry anywhere I can. Plus, a cyclist often feels pressured to keep up with car traffic as much as we can. It's easier to choose your own pace on a quiet street or on a bicycle lane, track, or path.

But ultimately, your level of exertion is your choice. Pick a maximum level and let that determine your speed. It's not as easy as it sounds! There's a strong urge to sprint to make it through a green light, or to pedal harder up a hill rather than climbing slowly in a low gear. But I remind myself that it's worth it to take it easy. I might gain a few minutes by rushing, but I would lose them in cleanup time once I reached my destination. I would get even sweatier walking to the train, and I'm not going to give up all the conveniences of the bicycle just to drive in an air-conditioned car.

I'm not alone in advocating a moderate pace. Dottie from Let's Go Ride a Bike discovered the benefits of slowing down, too. And there's even a Slow Bicycle Movement that touts all the benefits of slowing down. I also see plenty of Atlanta bicyclists taking it easy in the heat.
Oh and one final note on summer sun and heat... No matter what you are doing - riding a bicycle, mowing the lawn, or sitting in the park - be sure to drink enough water, wear sunscreen, and know the signs and treatment of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Survival: The Frosty Beverage

Another ally of the summer bicyclist is an icy-cold drink. Normally, I dislike iced drinks - they affect the flavor and the ice cubes always swarm up to your lips when you take a sip. However, ice is a must for hot days.

I have a great handlebar mounted cupholder, but I have transferred it to my Raleigh which I ride less often. I'm looking for something now that can sit in Blue Belle's front basket. In the meantime, I can slip a covered bottle into the closest corner of my tote bag and pull it out to sip on at stop lights.Some types of cups will splash in transport - watch out for uncovered vent holes or leaky lids. You want to drink your beverage, not wear it. Fill a travel mug up with water and shake it vigorously to test the splash factor.

I like to cold-brew coffee overnight and drink it on the way to work in the morning, crammed with as many ice cubes will fit. Believe it or not, they will be melted 4 miles later, as I reach my office building. Of course, there are many other good choices as well: water, lemonade, iced tea, juice, soda... And it's always a pleasure to stop somewhere, if you have the time, and enjoy a glass of beer, iced tea, or a refreshing gin and tonic with some friends. But that's for after work!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Survival: Sweat Control!

Sweat is certainly one of the biggest concerns for the urban cyclist, especially here in the South. Trying not to overheat helps. But today, I want to focus specifically on products and tricks for preventing, reducing, and removing sweat.

It starts when you get out of the shower. I have this stuff. It's supposed to contain crystals of that deodorant rock thing? Basically, it's a spray that with salts that are supposed to prevent bacterial growth in any sweat that does occur. Sounds gross, yes, but it's an effective part of the strategy. It won't prevent sweat, though, so once the spray dries apply your favorite anti-persperant. I tend to sweat pretty easily, so the anti-persperant will minimize my sweating but not completely prevent it. If it's really hot and humid out, I may layer a little powder over the anti-persperant (and perhaps on my back and chest too). I like powders that smell like perfume or lavendar, not like babies...
Before I head out the door, I pick out an outfit that will keep me cool. Seersucker is great, as are gathered or blousy outfits that allow air to circulate. If I need to travel in super hot conditions, I'll make sure to have a tank top as my first or only layer, and may carry a dress top to put over it at my destination. If I sweat, I'll be able to wipe the sweat away before it come in contact with my clothing. Depending on conditions, a hat may help by shading your face.

Finally, I also carry a felt cloth with me for freshening up when I arrive. I get it damp and spritz a little of the crystal spray and my favorite perfume on it, and put it in a zip-top plastic bag. I can wipe off any traces of sweat from my face and body, and then rinse it every few uses. So far, so good!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Survival: Shade

Summer is in full swing here in Hotlanta, and I wanted to share a few of my own tips for staying cool and un-bedraggled in the summer heat.

First is shade. You never really think about shade if you are driving around in an air-conditioned car. It's just a lighting condition. But out on the blacktop on two wheels, a shady spot can be, oh, 10 degrees cooler than an exposed area a few feet away. Make it deep shade and the difference is even greater.

For a cyclist, this knowledge gives you some summer survival strategies. You would think that Atlanta would have tons of shade everywhere, since the entire region is naturally heavily forested and trees sprout up like weeds. Really. Let me show you my garden. I have to keep pulling oak trees out of it!

So, it should be really shady, but it's not. The state Department of Transportation has outright banned trees along most of its roads, saying that they are a hazard for cars that lose control and run off the road. Any trees that are placed along state roads have to be behind the sidewalk (so the pedestrians will provide a buffer?). In general, trees have not been required along city streets, nor even a planting strip where you could put them, nor any city or regional plan to plant them. They are considered an unaffordable luxury for most public works departments, and some local utility companies have successfully had street trees banned in certain jurisdictions. In addition, existing trees tend to get cut down for development and other projects.
 Typical streetscape - exposed, some recent plantings, a few mature trees 

We have an active non-profit organization, Trees Atlanta, that works to promote tree cultivation and to plant trees in strategic places. However, their lack of familiarity with transportation issues, especially for bicyclists and pedestrians, has resulted in some poorly-executed projects - there are endless examples of their trees obstructing sidewalks, protruding into bike lanes, blocking traffic signs, and even removing portions of the sidewalk.

Nonetheless, there are still ways to find some shade for yourself. On a hot afternoon, you might plan your entire route around the shadiness of the available streets, or at least avoid long exposed stretches.

The deep shade of Oakdale Road, near Emory, is a treat on a hot day 
You can also take advantage of small patches of shade, especially when stopped at a traffic light. I only start to overheat when I stop moving and no longer have air flowing over me. In this photo, I have carefully placed myself in the shade of a thick lamp post. My arms and legs are sticking out, but most of my head and torso are shaded. There is also a sign casting a small shadow on the handlebars.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Heels with our Wheels

On Saturday, we enjoyed a hot but precipitation-free Heels on Wheels ride.

A small, well-attired group of gals rode from Woodruff Park, up Peachtree Street, through midtown, and along Ponce de Leon Ave., and then promptly headed over the "King of Pops" homemade popsicle stand at the corner of North and Highland Avenue. Nothing beats the heat like a pineapple-cilantro popsicle bursting with flavor!

One of the goals was simply to be "seen" by the afternoon crowds out shopping and dining, to leave them with an impression that riding a bicycle could be stylish and relaxed. So, after popsicles, we meandered around Little Five Points and Inman Park, passing all of the shopping districts and restaurant patios we could find.

We ended the ride with a cool drink and some snacks at Sauced. The conversation was informal, but touched on many of the issues women face when riding - pedals that don't get slippery under your favorite pair of dress shoes, routes for avoiding hills, lighting. I learned some great tips, and I think everyone else did too.

PS: This is a Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games post!

Friday, June 4, 2010


The first launch out of my driveway in the morning is always such a pleasure. I roll the bicycle down my porch steps and walk it down to the end of the driveway. After making sure all my stuff is in place, I slide onto the saddle and start rolling. The slope of the driveway accelerates me gently into the street - and I smile. I can't help it, I always smile. It's such a wonderful feeling, like the little rush you get at the top of a ferris wheel. And after that, there may be hills and traffic, but I started the day with a smile.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June 5: Heels on Wheels ride and Women and Cycling meetup

 Hey gals!

This Saturday is a "Heels on Wheels" ride (Atlanta's version of cycle chic). We'll meet at the northern end of Woodruff Park (corner of Peachtree Street and Auburn Ave) prior to 6:30 pm, at which time we will ride stylishly around town for about an hour and wind up at Sauced for a beverage. The pace will be fairly leisurely and we'll make sure everyone can stay together.

Once we reach the restaurant, we'll have a conversation about women's issues related to cycling. If you just want to come for the conversation, expect to meet at Sauced around 7:30 pm, and please understand if the touring group is a tad early or late getting there! Talk may revolve around clothing questions, sweat (yuck!), bicycles and equipment, advocacy, safety, information and resources, and how to support other women in their bicycle-riding interests.

If there is heavy rain (and who can tell these days), the entire thing will be postponed until June 12th. Please check the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition event page for current updates. Whatever the weather status, a rain jacket or poncho might be a good idea. Bring your lock, too, so you can stop at the restaurant with us.

All women are welcome. Dressing up is strongly encouraged. Nothing makes people look twice - or think twice - like a group of well-dressed friends out for the evening entirely on pedal power. If you ever wanted to try riding in a skirt or your favorite pair of heels (or wedges as shown), this is the time to do it! And check out the Evoluer blog for some inspiration. And remember, riding in heels is way easier than walking in 'em!

See you there!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Family Time

Alright, I'm making my run at the "Summer Games" from Let's Go Ride A Bike. It's not that I need any motivation for social, stylish bicycle riding - it's the awesome prizes! I'm hoping Dottie and Trisha will accept a ride with by boyfriend's family in the "Ride with your family" category.

On Memorial Day, I had a lovely dinner with the Beau's family. What better way to follow up a summer supper than a trip to the ice cream shop? Ma Beau, Beau, and I hopped on our bicycles while the rest of the family walked. His mom has a brand new Breezer that isn't even broken in yet, due to the lack of widespread bicycle parking in Decatur.

In this case, the bicycle contingent served as scouts as well, as we got to the ice cream shop first and discovered it closed. So, we zipped back, alerted the walking group, and then zoomed around to find an alternative choice. Plenty of other folks were out on the same mission. We wound up running a traffic light that doesn't change for bicycles to reach the Dairy Queen, where we locked up to the one available railing and tried not to block the store entrance. Fortunately, the Breezer comes with a wheel lock, sufficient for short stops.