Go West this summer and get ahead.

Keepers of the Street

Before you read my opinion, I think it is important that you note that I am not a cyclist –the subject matter being in advocacy of cyclists- and my opinion is consequently unbiased. My interest in this matter is merely one of a person who aims to voice the groans of those unheard.

In a society where the train of change is in continual acceleration and the stops are few and far, those people, things, and ideas that do not make it upon this great propeller are left deserted, discarded, and well eventually obliterated. What makes the bite of this reality more powerful is the audacious assumption that all these people, things, and ideas are no longer beneficial to us.

We all take turns steering this train, making few stops for others. More than likely, you have a smart phone in your pocket right now. It’s convenient for you. Speedy networks make connecting with the world unceremonious and communicating with it even more so. Your peers with outdated flip phones, unequipped with the latest software –ice cream sandwich or iOS 6.0.1- are left munching on the dust of past. If they cannot join a mobile group chat about next week’s project they must simply “adjust”.

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The same can be said for elderly people. With the unforgiving advancement of transportation and communication, elderly people are left to wallow in the muddy waters that the train tracks leave. Consequently, elderly people are a lesser part of our interaction with the world, which is truly unfortunate because they are the ones who created this world and bear instruction to it that we could never receive from any latest software.

While technological advancement is great and in most cases beneficial, we must not write off those people, things, or ideas that preceded our advancements as useless, dysfunctional and flat out purposeless. This brings me to the subject of this column and that is the general disregard for the safety of student cyclists and cyclist accommodations.

Just two weeks ago, a student cyclist was involved in a car-bike collision on the corner of Decatur Street and Peachtree Center Ave. While riding his bicycle home from class a vehicle collided with him. He walked away with minor injuries and his bike suffered a bent wheel. Most of you reading this were not aware of this incident. But an accident on I-85 S, fatal or not, involving a car, is spoken of all over campus and even squeezes a spot in AM radio broadcast.

How many car-bike collisions are you aware of? Can you name one besides the one I just informed you of? More than likely you cannot. Something is to be said about this since Georgia ranks 8th nationwide in bicycle fatalities. Why do these cries remain unsung? The short answer is we simply do not care.

The relationship between car and bicycle has always been a bitter one. While Atlanta has accommodated cyclist in a number of the city’s streets, it still remains a troubling task for cyclist to maneuver about. This is especially true for student cyclists who are involuntarily enlisted in daily battles with hurried school traffic. Unequipped with the efficient brake systems of a car and handy automatic controls, cyclists are left with the sole responsibility of their safety.

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When did we rule bicycles out as mode of transportation? When did we –drivers- become sole keepers of the streets? This question brings me back to my initial thought at the birth of this column. Bicycles, although preceding cars, have simply missed the train of technological advancement. Although returning as a result of “going-green” activist, cycling as a means of transportation is wholly out dated. Two wheels, a handle bar and some much needed endurance is simply too much to ask of ourselves and well, inconvenient. The ongoing construction of roads and the steady transition of rural areas to urban areas progresses this thought. The Georgia Department of transportation currently has several projects underway, including the resurfacing and widening of major roads; none of which include cyclists friendly roads. We are making it clear as a state and individual where our priority lies.

Not everyone in Atlanta is turning a blind eye to this issue. Georgia tech chose to use the power granted to them to create more bike lanes. What’s even more impressive was the act of two of their students who created a cycling app that allows cyclist to record their trips while riding and both revisit and share them with other cyclist. These actions are admirable and while we do not have the autonomy to create bike lanes –which rest in the hands of the city of Atlanta- we can do more to advocate and progress the safety and convenience of our fellow cyclist.

We do not consider what we do not find convenient. However, as students and residents of Georgia we must accept that we share the same “house” as cyclists and so respect and regard are due.

Also, Georgia State cyclists looking for a home of some sort should check out gsubikers.com Bike advocacy groups also include the Atlanta Bike Coalition.

Interview with student cyclist Bobby Theberg

I spotted cyclist Bobby Theberg across the populated Decatur St., walking along with his blue vintage Cannondale. I risked my own life, darting across the street to catch up with him and snag a quick interview. The interview went as follows:

Me: So Major, and year Bobby?

Bobby: Geography, sophomore

Me: So why do you bike?

Bobby: I like riding because I only live like four, five miles from campus. So it’s pretty easy, I can take the train and bring my bike on the train so it’s pretty easy. Plus I don’t like to pay for parking. I’ve been doing it for a while.

Me: In about three sentences tell me about your experience as a cyclist here on campus –good or bad.

Bobby: Once you get out of Georgia State’s campus is way easier. There’s more bike Lanes and less traffic. It’s more spread out and then you have bike lanes and like in Edgewood and little 5 points and places like that. On campus it’s actually more convenient to just walk with your bike like I’m doing now.

Me: Wow, so you have a bike and can’t even use it on campus! Do you know other cyclist?

Bobby: Yeah, I know a few.

Me: Cool. How often have you come close to be hit by a car while riding?

Bobby: I was hit [by a car] last semester on Piedmont actually

Me: Oh [explicit]! Are you serious?!

Bobby: (smiles) Uh huh, I was ok, it wasn’t really a bad accident

Me: This is good stuff!

Bobby: (laughs) Yea (laughs)

Me:  Was it reported?

Bobby: No it wasn’t

Me: because you walked away with next to no injuries?

Bobby: Exactly

Me: Were you at a light? How did this happen?

Bobby: Well I was in the lane and I was getting over to the left and we merged on top of each other. We both weren’t looking and he came over at the same time as I did so…

Me: Ok thanks for sharing that man. How ‘bout a pic for the paper?

Bobby: Sure! Don’t make me look bad (laughs) 

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