Friday, July 16, 2010

Bicycles, Beer, and Politicians

As previously reported, yesterday was the date of the "Open House with Elected Officials" event, sponsored by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Some of us were a bit grumpy about trekking all the way up to Buckhead for the event. Using MARTA, it was very easy to reach by bicycle, even at rush hour. Not so much for the folks who drove there - one woman spent over an hour and a half to drive about 6 miles.

The Beau and I took our bikes on the train to Buckhead station. From the station, we only had to ride a 1/4 mile or so along Peachtree in a decent bicycle lane. Car traffic was nearly at a standstill, and we delighted in passing the long line of stopped cars. The only issue was from cars trying to enter the road from cross-streets and driveways, who tended to pull into the bike lane while waiting for a break in traffic. I was glad the Raleigh had a loud bell! The cyclist ahead of me was not so lucky; he simply had to stop and wait several times.
We arrived at the restaurant, which was in a new mixed-use development. They had made some good attempts at pedestrian-friendly urban design, but the bicycle parking was hard to find. I saw a number of curbside bicycle racks along Peachtree Street, but none near this particular building.

The event was attended by cyclists of all sort, from beginning to fervent. Most of the officials who attended were from the north and east of Atlanta, so maybe the location made sense - except that they all drove, and spent a long time in traffic anyway. Oh, well.

Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell talked about the infrastructure they have built, including some riverside paths and the region's first bike box, and Fred Boykin of the Decatur city commission discussed their bicycle plan and gave an inspiring commentary on the impact it could have on the health of city residents. Dianne Fries of Sandy Springs and Dan Thompson from Dunwoody also spoke briefly. Fulton County Commission Chairman Rob Pitts arrived at the beginning of the event, but had to leave before the main program started. There were also some staffers representing Atlanta city council members. I had personally emailed my city council representative, Cleta Winslow, but did not receive a response nor did she attend the event.

Hopefully this is just one more small step in creating a bicycle-friendly Atlanta region. I would love to be able to travel out to Roswell or Sandy Springs by bicycle. I would probably go there a lot more often! I always hate the idea of having to go home, fire up the car, sit in traffic, and then lugging the car around with me from parking lot to parking lot with each stop I make. I would much rather cruise out to nearby towns by train and bicycle whenever I want. I'm sure there are fantastic restaurants and stores I need to try.

Buckhead itself is becoming quite accessible. After the event was over, I rode home with The Beau and Rebecca Serna, our fearless leader of bicycle advocacy and creator of this event. We had a spectacular sunset ride down Peachtree Street and through the heart of Atlanta. This four to six lane thoroughfare becomes quite calm after rush hour is over. You pass so many Atlanta landmarks, from historic churches to the Amtrak station and the Fox Theater. The 9 mile trip took me just under an hour, and the Raleigh performed admirably on the rolling hills. Regrettably, I forgot to get a picture of myself with the time!

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