Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't Let the Wardrobe Fool You

Things are ramping up at work, and I've had to dress up a bit more than usual. This apparently confuses people as to my mode of transportation. Yes, I ride my bicycle in dress slacks. To work, to meetings, anywhere. All it takes is a little clip to keep them from brushing against the chain. Can I get a clip with rhinestones on it?
Tonight after work, I met up with some folks for a drink. Although we spent almost the entire time talking about bicycles, they were still startled to see me unlocking my bike as we left. Perhaps it was the flowing skirt and 3-inch heels? I guess this is the advantage of wearing bicycle-specific gear - less explaining to do.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Visiting Bicyclists

I have to admit that I was pretty lame this weekend. I was running errands, doing chores around the house, and hardly got on the bike at all. But the bicycles came to me. And the bicyclists. Most exciting, I played temporary host for Willie Weir, bicycle adventurer and writer. He had a flight to catch out of Atlanta in the morning. In exchange for some interesting stories, we held a small dinner for Willie and our cycling friends. My porch housed a Rivendell Atlantis and a Brompton folding bike, while a few more bicycles and kiddie trailer lounged in the back yard. It was a lot of fun, but kept me from blogging for a day or two.

Meanwhile, the "Bicycle Ride to the Capitol" took place last week, as thousands of cyclists descended on the state legislature to advocate for bicycle-friendly lawmaking. And Atlanta's cyclists continued to roll down the streets, sporting an impressive array of baskets, fenders, racks, and even a folding bike.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Fair Came toTown!

Sure, we may have big amusement parks and tourist attractions and all, but nothing is quite as fun as a small traveling fair! Real carnys, rattletrap rides that make you feel like you're going to die, short lines.
The Atlanta Fair is here for about a month each year, and close to downtown. That puts it in bicycle riding distance, so some friends and I rode on over. Security let us lock up right next to their office. We had a blast riding the rides and eating some fried stuff. I was sure I was going to plunge to my death on the "Ring O Fire"! We had fun for a few hours and then road home.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The [Other] Joys of Stopping with Your Bicycle

The spring cyclists are out, and I have to be a little bit critical. I stop at red lights. I have been seeing soooo many people who don't. I know that this is a very contentious topic. But I think, if we expect cars to obey traffic laws and respect our right to the road, then we should comply with traffic laws too. I passed four cyclists on my way to work this morning - and three of them were the same guy. I passed him, and then he ran the light, and then I passed him again and so on. It's no skin off my back, unless you run a light or stop sign when I have the right-of-way. Then I'll yell at you.

Nonetheless, I'm still happy to be seeing more cyclists on my route. This is the guy I only saw once...

The Joys of Stopping with Your Bicycle

When I called the Beau last evening, he was sitting on a hilltop with "Kyle" watching the sun set over the Atlanta skyline. They had met up on their bicycle commute home. It was a simple matter to ride up to Freedom Path and find a good hillside, bicycles sprawled out on the ground, the city blazing in orange and red.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


There are some parts of town where the bicycle culture is really thriving - around university campuses, in the Little Five Points, East Atlanta, and Decatur communities. In the rest of the city, cyclists are much less common. And the ones you do see appear to be athletes, or people who have limited means and alternatives.

I think we need to respect and embrace everyone who rides a bicycle, regardless of the circumstances. But I also believe that people riding bicycles by choice as a part of their daily activities are the indicator of real bicycle culture. So I have been very happy to spot some fashionable and confident urban cyclists in new areas of town.

For example, in the Turner Field area. First I spotted a guy at night, with great lights and a snazzy silver city bike, zipping by in a business suit. A few days later, the gentleman above, cruising along in the bike lane and listening to some music. And a couple days after that, a fabulous guy in khackis, coat, and a pageboy cap. Obviously, I need to be more prepared to snap photos anywhere, anytime! And hopefully a few women and children will start appearing...

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's Good to Feel Needed

The bicycle buzz continues. USDOT Secretary LaHood announced his commitment to bicycling and alternative modes of transportation at the National Bike Summit, followed by a statement that federal transportation priorities were changing for the better. This year also saw the launch of national movements Cities for Cycling and People for Bikes.

Several themes pervade the discussion: differences in cycling from country to country, safety issues, how to redesign bicycle facilities into existing cities. And women. Why do fewer women currently ride bicycles than men? What does this say about bicycle infrastructure, equipment, and culture? And how can we change it?

The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals is conducting a survey to find out. Women and girls: be heard! Take the survey and forward it on to everyone you know. It's not just for women who cycle; they want to hear from people who don't ride, or who no longer do.

Then, sign up for the free webinar: Writing Women Back into Bicycling. Wednesday, March 31, 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. EDT. There may be a local viewing party - I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I [Heart] My Raleigh!

My poor, neglected Raleigh has sat in the house all winter. I had one of the old, probably original, tires blow out last autumn. Er, sorry, "tyre," the British spelling. I replaced both of the tires at the same time. However, each time I remove the Raleigh's rear wheel I need to readjust the shifter cable, which controls the old 3-speed internal hub. It's pretty easy, but I just never quite found the occasion.

Saturday's beautiful, sunny weather was my excuse. First a short ride around the neighborhood - I had to feed my friend's chickens a few blocks away. And in the evening, to a party about a mile away. Oh Raleigh, what a dream you are to ride!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Experiencing Atlanta

Oh, Atlanta, you silly silly city. Sometimes I hate you but I have to love your quirks.

I didn't do a single train commute this week, so I saw a little more of the city than usual. Bicyclists are out in record numbers. In the few minutes that I'm not cooped up in my office, sleeping, or baking something, I encounter dozens of people on bicycle. It's very satisfying. Just a smidgen are shown here...
On Wednesday, I had dinner at the recently-franchised Flying Biscuit café. I was there to have dinner before meeting a guy about a bicycle frame - yes I have a new project bike. More on that some other day! There was an adorable vintage Schwinn Le Tour mixte parked out front. With an umbrella stuck in the saddlebag. The Beau stalked went out to talk to the owner when she came along to retrieve it. She turned out to be the wife of the guy who was selling me the bike frame - but he wasn't coming until later.
On Thursday, I made a trip to the natural foods store, Sevananda. I only needed a few things, but they were having a sale on 5-pound bags of organic flour. So...
On the way home, I rode slowwwwwwly, using my low gears.
Finally, I had the weirdest transportation moment of the week as a guy pulled up next to me on a three-wheeled motorcycle. I nodded hello, he looked at me like I was crazy, then a horse-and-carriage came around the corner. These circulate around downtown, offering quaint carriage rides for sightseeing and romantic dates. The carriage stopped to ask the motorcyclists about the vehicle. It was really a fascinating multi-modal moment. We have a lot of these in Atlanta, really. There are places where you can see freight trains, pedestrians, trucks and cars, MARTA trains, bicycles, and the occasional horse-drawn carriage pass by, all at the same time. It makes you realize how poorly equipped our siloed, highway-oriented transportation agencies are for dealing with cities!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Flag

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I wore a green shirt and hat for the occasion. I have this green tweedy hat that I love, which I'm pretty sure looks dorky as hell, but whatever... It's also part wool and has enough brim to keep the rain out of my eyes. That was a good thing, since it was drizzling the whole way home. It was wet enough that I brought out the Hideous Orange Poncho. About halfway home, I realized that the orange and green did a pretty good imitation of the Irish flag. Erin go bragh!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Belated International Women's Day

Yes, the rest of the world celebrated women on March 8th. Tech Square (and I) came to the party late. After a depressing dearth of female bicyclists, four women came along - one right after the other - to represent Atlanta. These weren't the only people I saw yesterday. In fact, the streets were full of bicycles and I encountered real bicycle traffic on the way home from work.
One woman waited for the light to turn.
One was arriving on a pretty teal Kona.
One was riding right off the curb to go.
The fourth rode down to the corner.
[Disclaimer - I'm not endorsing riding on the sidewalk here... She went half a block to get to the nearest curb cut from her parking place - something to consider when placing bicycle racks.]

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bicycles of Craigslist

I've mentioned before that I have a rather ugly old aluminum mountain bike. I can't really talk badly about it, since I rode it happily for years and took it to work, on the train or bus, to the store, on vacation, and everywhere else. It is a simple, sturdy bicycle.

But now that I have discovered the joys of the roadster bicycle, I just can't enjoy riding the mountain bike anymore. Ergonomically, it feels all wrong - the seat feels like it's too far forward, the frame seems short, and the steering and suspension feel totally different on that rigid aluminum. Plus it looks so...sporty. I hate riding it.
Yet, it can be so handy. It can fit in or on a car, unlike my 2 step-throughs. It can be used on more rugged terrain. Plus, I have been leaving it at a friend's house across town for unexpected excursions.

Finally, I realized that I need a new bicycle! Something different than my usual city bikes. Something I can make short trips around town on, then load onto a trunk-mounted rack to take on vacation to the mountains, beach, etc. or even something I can take vacations on (e.g. bicycle touring). Such a bicycle should be multi-terrain: a mountain bike. It should still be steel and look decent riding around town: an older mountain bike. It should be extra sturdy and able to carry gear: long chainstays and either a diamond-frame (a.k.a. "men's frame") or a mixte. It should be able to fit on a standard trunk-mounted rack: not a mixte. It should be super easy to repair, even on the road: standard parts and sizes. Of course, it should be good quality.

This led me to the inevitable Craigslist search. After sifting through the mess of poor quality mass-produced beaters, sloppy descriptions and bad photos, weird full-suspension mountain bikes, and back-of-the-garage vintage junkers, I've found a couple of contenders. And in the process, I have been drooling over the steady stream of pretty city step-through bicycles. Right now, there is an early-80s Takara in bright red, a sleek Panasonic, an assortment of old Schwinns, and several older Raleighs including a lovely Raleigh Sprite mixte. I can only hope that someone will take them home and love them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

For the Northerners

Spring has arrived in Georgia... Fields of daffodils are blooming everywhere. They are accented by tulip magnolia and redbud trees, and the occasional spray of forsythia. On the streets and sidewalks, people are blooming in flowered dresses and pastel colors.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Perspective of a Veteran Bicycle Rider

Streetfilms talks with an early adopter of bicycling in New York City. Key points - it's easy, fast, fun, healthy, why not ride your bicycle? And after a while, if more people start bicycling and the city builds you a bunch of bike lanes, that's cool too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dry Cleaning by Bicycle

Now, I'm not the kind of person who irons her clothes regularly or worries about a few wrinkles. But I thought it would be a shame if I stuffed my freshly-dry cleaned items into a bag or basket. Fortunately, they draped beautifully across my rear rack and basket setup. One elastic cord held them in place without crushing the fabric, and they rode happily home with me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Atlanta, a bike share innovator?

I heard "through the grapevine" that Bike Emory would be having an event today to announce their bike-share partnership with Georgia Tech. I was intrigued. Emory has had a bicycle share program for maybe a year now. It's very basic - you go to a desk, show your Emory ID and sign a form, and they give you a key. Georgia Tech does not have a program, and as far as I knew, didn't plan to start one.

Well, it turns out that Emory was in the market for some new bike-share technology. It's notoriously difficult. You have to have ways to track your customers, track your bikes, prevent theft and vandalism, and make sure that customers can find and use the bicycles pretty reliably. Many universities have tried and failed. City-wide systems are catching on but having problems with the equipment. The cost is prohibitive for many potential programs.

Well, these were merely challenges to be overcome for the engineers of Georgia Tech. At Emory's request, they invented entirely new technology. A simple black box mounts on the bicycle. It contains a GPS unit, cell phone, and a device which can latch and release a cable lock. You simply send a text message to the bicycle you want to use, and the lock magically unlocks itself. The box can even call for help if its battery runs low or if it experiences tampering
The equipment was mounted on two practical city bikes from Breezer. They had dynamo lights, fenders, internal gears, a chain guard or case, and a proper step-through frame. The only thing that concerns me is the location of the black box - would the rider's heel strike it?
The event was well attended by current and would-be bicyclists. After giving everyone time to look at the bikes, the project developers made a short presentation. The main purpose of the event was to announce that the project had won a Ford College Community Challenge grant. This award provides critical funding to expand the new technology into a functional automated bicycle share program. The program should be running on Emory's main campus by this summer. If all goes well, it will be expanded to their satellite campuses, to Georgia Tech (yay!), and eventually to surrounding neighborhoods.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Summer Fever

72 degrees!

Today was a beautiful, summery day. Such a shame to be inside at the office. But then, a lovely ride home.

However, the weather seemed to make everyone else squirrely. I heard the first yelling motorist in months. She was yelling not just at me, but at the cars in front of her as well. How dare we travel on her road, make turns, and stop at traffic lights! Whatever. Maybe they've been yelling the whole time, and I just couldn't hear them because their windows were rolled up... But more likely, people are feeling cooped up in their cars. I know traffic has been bad for motorists lately, especially on the expressways. In addition to pent-up driver frustrations, there were also blissful pedestrians crossing the road without looking, people taking a drive around the block in junky cars that could barely move, and a few misbehaving bicyclists. Alas.

Fortunately, the weather was too nice to worry about all that. It's better to notice the sun on your face and the breeze on your skin.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Little Attitude

On Friday, I took a walk down Peachtree Street. Bicyclists were definitely strutting their stuff. The hands-down winner of the attitude and style prize was also apparently the quickest - all I got was a colorful blur as she sped by...
But the boys were sporting some attitude as well.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Say Hello

Sometimes you want to talk to a friend as you ride through the neighborhood.
Sometimes you want to say hi while you wait for the light to change.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

News and Commentary

The federal transportation bill - long since expired - has been living on extensions. The most recent extension was tied to a jobs bill, which was blocked by a one-person filibuster. This actually resulted in a one day lapse in funding during which thousands of planners, engineers, and construction projects were suspended from work. The bill finally passed and funds are moving again. For now. Meanwhile, Congressman Blumenauer has introduced a proposal for active transportation grants to support walking and bicycling in place of shorter driving trips.

However, transit providers everywhere are in danger of crippling service cuts, as sales and other taxes continue to falter in the struggling economy. In Altanta, MARTA has proposed drastic cuts amounting to about 40% of its service. This includes elimination of nearly half of its bus routes and loss of about 1,000 jobs. That is nearly half the number of jobs that were gained at the highly-touted Kia plant (which received $400 million in state subsidies). Will operations funding come through from the feds? Will Atlanta be immobilized by gridlock and stranded workers if the cuts go through? Will bicycles come to the rescue?

Locally, last week's Critical Mass got confrontational as a motorist was angered by cyclists failing to stop at a red light. And several fun group rides (which will obey traffic laws!) are coming up:
Saturday, March 13 at 6 pm: Heels on Wheels
Saturday, March 27 from 4-8 pm: Singles Speed (dating/singles event)
Saturday, March 27 at 10 am: Intown Touring Club Airport District Ride
Sunday, April 25 from 1-6 pm: 2010 BeltLine Bike Tour

Also, Sopo bicycle repair co-op is holding their annual alley cat race and party, "Broken Hearts and Bicycle Parts" this Saturday, March 6.

Finally, the daily version of why I love my commute... Backyard roosters crowing as I ride by in the morning. Pedestrians who say 'good morning' even though I go by too fast to hear the entire phrase. Morning sunlight on skyscrapers. The girl in the pink scarf who grinned as she cycled by in the other direction.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cargo Bicycle Options

While bakfietsen are still rare (and expensive) in the U.S., other types of cargo carriers are readily available. One example I've seen lately is the cargo-utility bike. Examples are the Xtracycle Radish, Kona Ute, Yuba Mundo, and Surly Big Dummy. These extended frames are like the pickup trucks of bicycling. They offer a long rear rack which can easily carry a week's worth or two of groceries, several children, furniturecanoes, or a little of everything...

Here's a closeup of the Kona in Columbus, GA, and the Surly in action at Tech Square.

Monday, March 1, 2010

New and Improved Atlanta Cyclist

I've started to notice a trend in my photos. Lots of young white men. A few men of color or older age. Hardly any women. There are clearly more men on bicycles in the Atlanta area, which follows trends observed in other U.S. cities and anywhere that does not have a high bicycle mode share. There are a number of theories about why, including that women prefer riding when there are bicycle facilities (lanes or paths) available, that women have more things and people to transport with them and don't know how to carry them on a bicycle, and that bicycling is still perceived as an extreme "sport" only undertaken by athletes.

However, there are women riding bicycles around Atlanta. And they are fantastic - bold, confident, wheeling down the street with the wind in their hair and traffic in the palm of their hand. I've missed a couple of great photos... But I will do my best, over the next few weeks, to portray the wide variety of people who ride in Atlanta: women, children, all racial or ethnic backgrounds. Feel free to send me your pictures as well!