Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home that’s closer to my office, which has allowed me to start commuting by bike. I rode my bike to and from my office 4 consecutive days before my schedule forced me back into the car. My hope and plan is to commute by bike at least 2-3 times a week, hopefully more if I can swing it.
My brief foray into the world of bicycle commuters has made me aware of several things that I wanted to share. These may seem obvious to those of you who have been commuting on your bike for a while, but to me, they’re all fresh and new.
1) Bike Commuting Requires a Lot of Planning. Initially, I thought I would only need to be concerned about the safest route to take. Then I quickly realized that everything had to be thought through before I left the house. What to wear when riding, what I needed to clean up once I got to work, fresh clothes, my schedule for the day, weather conditions. There’s a lot to think about. The rookie mistake I made on Day 1: I forgot a bike lock and had to buy one at Ponce City Market. I needed an extra anyway so no worries.
2) Atlanta smells great this time of year, even if I don’t. Driving in the car, I never appreciated how sweet the city smells. Jasmine bushes and fresh cut grass literally make for a breath of fresh air as I ride the streets. I’m sure it’s just a Spring thing, but I love it. That being said, I sweat a lot, and I’m sure that my personal contribution to Atlanta’s aroma is not a pleasant one. Forgive me.
3) Driver’s Don’t See Me, and the Ones That Do are Generally Scared of Me. I know from representing so many injured bicyclists that most wrecks are caused by inattentive drivers who are either distracted or blind to people on bikes. Still, it amazes me how drivers can be so oblivious to my existence. I’m also convinced that most drivers don’t want to cause me harm, but they’re scared and nervous to be on the road with me. Riding in a predictable and visible manner is key. Getting more people on bikes would help make drivers more comfortable around us. Encourage your friends to ride.
4) I Love Bike Infrastructure. I’ve gone several different routes, but there’s no doubt that I’m happiest when I’m on a dedicated bike path or protected bike lane. We need more of those. It’s a priority for our city if we’re going to be able to get people safely from one place to another. It’s time that we insisted that our elected officials get serious about bicycle infrastructure.
5) I think I’m in love with my bike. I know it’s not healthy to have feelings for an inanimate object, but I love my new bike, it’s an All City Cosmic Stallion that I’ve named Charlie. Thank you Kenny at Clutch Bicycle Shop in SW Atlanta for hooking me up, I couldn’t be happier.
6) Backpack vs. Panniers. I welcome any thoughts. I’ve been using my standard North Face backpack so far, but my back gets really sweaty and summer’s not even here yet. I don’t mind the weight on my back, but I feel like I’m limited in the things that I can carry. I can put a rack on the bike and add Panniers, but am concerned about balance and weight issues. I think I need to head over to see my friends at The Spindle and see what they think, but I welcome anyone’s thoughts who has figured this out already.
7) Gear, Gear and More Gear. What’s my best bet for shoes? What do you wear if you’re going to go riding but then out to a restaurant? What’s the best rain gear that rolls up small but is still effective? In truth, I don’t plan on riding on rainy days, but in Atlanta you never know when a storm might pop up. I want to be prepared. How about mirrors, do you prefer them on the handlebar, helmet, or none at all?
8) So Many Friendly Faces. I wave or nod to every other bike rider I see. I say hello to every pedestrian (except on the Beltline, I’m not a lunatic, I’m just friendly). Most people have a wave or a smile to give back in return. I say hey to drivers when I stop next to them. If they look up from their phone, they usually acknowledge me. I consider myself an Ambassador for the entire cycling community every time I’m on the bike.
9) Atlanta Has a LOT of Hills. Who knew? My legs have been fine, my lungs will catch up. I don’t blame anyone who prefers to ride an electric bike, I think it makes riding far more accessible and realistic for many folks and the more of us on the road, the better for all of us. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.
10) I Feel Great When I Get to Work. So far, I’ve been more excited for my morning commutes than for the evening ones. I’m energized and excited when I get to the office. I find that I think very clearly when I’m riding in and it helps me to organize my day. I’m not sure why I prefer the morning ride, it may be that by the end of the day, I just want to get home, and I’m used to the faster car ride. I’ll figure it out.
Thanks for any feedback. I hope to be a Veteran bike commuter one of these days, but for now, I’m still just an excited Newbie who is loving everything about the new experience of riding my bike for transportation, not just for recreation.
Bruce Hagan’s cyclist law firm is fully committed to representing Georgia bicyclists. “All of our attorneys and most of the staff are full-time riders,” he says. Bruce has handled hundreds of bike crash cases and actively helps bicyclists understand Georgia’s bike laws.