Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Dark Side of Spring

Spring almost always evokes a joyful time - the hard winter is over, flowers are blooming, birds chirping, bees are mating, and soon the villagers will go out and plant sorghum or something. In Atlanta, however, the relationship with spring is more ambiguous. For one thing, the winters are pretty mild and the first flowers appear in February. And while the spring is beautiful, it also means that another long, hot, muggy summer is on the horizon. Then there is the pollen. I don't have a problem with it (knock on wood!) but many people do. For at least a month, people are obsessing over daily pollen counts and even staying home from work.

And then there are the new bicycle riders of spring. Every year, people who haven't ridden a bike since they were 10 come creaking out of their driveways. Now, I am really happy to see new riders in general. I think people should just get out there and start traversing the city by bicycle regardless of age, experience, or current physical activity level. But not regardless of traffic rules.

Yes, you were allowed to ride on the sidewalk as a kid. Now you are not. You are required to follow traffic laws like everyone else on the road. There are classes to help you learn the rules and get comfortable with following them.
Riding on the sidewalk against traffic increase your risk of a crash by 5 times

I don't want to sound negative, but seriously. I probably saw two dozen people on bicycles on my commute home yesterday, and every single last one was doing something illegal and dangerous. Riding on the sidewalk. Riding the wrong way on a very busy one-way street. Riding the wrong way in traffic. Running a red light. Believe me, I understand how poorly our transportation infrastructure accommodates bicycle traffic, but at least try...

Maybe the city will start sending out a Georgia Bike Sense guide to every resident each spring and add bicycle education to middle and high school curricula, hmmm?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Clean Energy is Everywhere

There has been a lot of commentary in the 'transportation choices' world about President Obama's speech on energy policy and independence from foreign oil. Basically, the president spoke for, oh, 30 minutes or so last week about energy security. After worrying about the economic and political implications of oil dependence, he went on to endorse oil exploration, more oil drilling, biofuels, natural gas vehicles, and electric cars. There was one brief mention of transit. And there was not a single mention of the millions of Americans who have already cut their oil consumption by a third, or perhaps much more, by walking and bicycling instead of driving.

The best article I have seen, which really sums up the discussion, was on Grist. This will give you a feel for the spectrum of debate, which ranges from "hey, you forgot something" to "oh no, we're all doomed".

We have plenty of oil-independent folks in Atlanta, and there seem to be more every day.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Cycling Constituency

How many bicyclists does it take to get the attention of state legislators? 2,500 seemed to be the winning number this year. Thousands of people showed up at the capitol building for the annual "Georgia Rides to the Capitol" event. There were folks from all over the Atlanta region, kids from Safe Routes to School programs, competitive cycling clubs, and everyday commuters. And a whole lot of spandex. Some people had ridden 30 miles or more by the time they reached the gold dome, others (like me) just popped over from work. The diversity of ages and racial backgrounds was inspiring. Representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, and a number of other elected officials and advocates addressed the crowd.