There is something liberating about riding a bicycle. I won’t say it is just the absolute best thing ever, but there is nothing quite like it — it is very rewarding.
However, unless someone is riding on a trail like the Atlanta BeltLine, it can be pretty dangerous to commute via bicycle no matter where you are.
Georgia ranks the 26th most bike friendly state by the League of American bicyclists. The most bike-friendly communities in Georgia are (in order) Athens-Clarke County, Decatur, Jekyll Island, Milledgeville, Peachtree City, Roswell, Savannah and Tybee Island.
I live about a mile off campus and I almost always bike to my classes. People are usually surprised to hear this and talk about how afraid they would be of cars. “There are just too many cars for me to bike” is something I frequently hear. But I have heard and witnessed far more horror stories from rural bicycling than I have urban cycling.
I grew up in a rural town of North Georgia, one with rich and beautiful wooded backcountry roads. Bartow County is a fairly popular place for cycling in Georgia. With just enough hills and clean air, it really is a great place to ride. That is until an angry Rottweiler, pit-bull or pack of other various mutts begin to chase you while you are in the midst of a steep hill.
The serene ride quickly turns from an appreciation of nature to the running of the bulls. But it’s just you and a pack of bloodthirsty dogs in the middle of nowhere – not my idea of a fun weekend.
The only way to avoid such an encounter is to stick to more of the main roads. That means more people, and more people unfortunately mean more cars.
In rural communities like Bartow, the simple mention of a bike lane is heresy. It is difficult to enjoy a simple bike ride when cars scrape by you at 60 miles per hour and (if you’re lucky) all but run you into the ditch. I won’t even get into the “good ol’ boys” in their pickup trucks whipping cyclists in the back with towels.
Now, Atlanta is far from a perfect place to bicycle, but I feel way more comfortable dodging potholes then I do a violent dog’s teeth.
As a whole, Atlanta has been making improvements to become more pedestrian friendly and so has Georgia State. But bicycling seems to be the odd form of transportation stuck in between foot and car traffic. There are enough designated bike lanes to get around campus safely, and as long as you avoid the bigger roads such as Courtland Street and Piedmont Avenue–they are usually packed with cars and the sidewalks are even more packed with students.
One thing that has been on people’s minds lately is the new Atlanta Streetcar. I’m a bit biased. I think having a streetcar is awesome even though the locations it travels to are rather pointless. However, the streetcar isn’t much of a concern to cyclists. The rails for the streetcar on the other hand present a rather dangerous obstacle.
Since the rails have been there since I started cycling to campus, I had to plan my routes to and from campus around them. There is a bike lane opposite the rails on both Auburn and Edgewood avenue. The rails are of minimal concern until you have to turn left. Making a left turn is stressful enough on a bicycle while in traffic and having to cross over those rails just makes it worse. So far, two of my friends have had their wheels caught by the tracks trying to avoid careless drivers and have been thrown over their handlebars and into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, I have yet to shout profanities at the city of Atlanta while I am thrown off my bike (excuse me as I knock on wood).
While I ride my bike to class, I occasionally have beautiful dreams where the streets intersecting the downtown campus are motor vehicle free. Students, faculty and staff are all able to walk and bike freely without the fear of being hit. But then I am snapped out of my daydream by a car slamming on its brakes in order to not hit someone jaywalking.
Biking is a good way to get around campus quickly and parking is convenient and free. Just be sure to wear a helmet, unless you really want to become an organ donor early.