Bike to Work Week - share your commute story!

During this Bike to Work Week, we want to hear the story of how you came to enjoy your commute. Every bike commuter has one, and sharing stories of our growth into this healthy mode can help others get started! Even in a region like Atlanta that has so much sprawl and congestion to contend with, getting started bike commuting is only the second hardest part. We've found that once you get going, it's much harder to stop. I got us going with the post below - now please share your own! All ABC Members have their own blog (call or email us if you can't figure out how to post), or you can submit your story as a comment below.

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My commute via bike/MARTA

I committed a few weeks ago to trying the bike to work. It’s been a while since I’ve commuted on my bike, as I live in Dekalb County. I’ve tried MARTA on foot, and the commute time can be 2 hours long. My bike route to downtown would require narrow, no-shoulder streets and multi-lane, heavy traffic , a horrific route to get downtown. But I do have good access to MARTA, so I’m game. Problem is, I have to be downtown Friday the 21st before 8 am for the Congress for New Urbanism, a conference I’m attending.
I use the A-train trip planner to check the MARTA schedules. I actually have a couple of bus connections to the train, and I select one that will involve a little more than a mile ride to the bus stop, then a ride to the Brookhaven station, hop off at the Civic Center station, then about one-half mile to the Hilton, the conference venue.
On Thursday May 20, the dawn breaks clear and cool. I decide to move up my ride by one day. Given Friday morning’s weather, this turns out to be an excellent decision.
I depart home at 7:30 am, excited and full of anticipation, my new Bell helmet on my head, my u-lock in my pack, and 2 new tires on my bike. Down the hill out of the cul-de-sac. At the end of the road, I realize I’ve left my phone on the charging cable at home. Dang! Will I still have time for the short ride to the bus stop? Given my schedule for the day, I decide that the phone is worth retrieving.
Off again, out through the subdivision. Within a minute, I meet another cyclist. A friendly wave received and extended. I am feeling good. The cool morning air is refreshing as I speed down the hills, adding to the feeling of exhilaration!
I arrive at the intersection near the bus stop. I immediately see the bus, about 1 block away. Yes, I’ve made it in time! I start to cross the street, and immediately realize the in my excitement I did not see a car coming in the other direction. The alert driver hits the brakes, and I squeeze the brakes in time to keep from pulling out directly in front of her. Rookie mistake! A deep breath or two, and I get across the busy street just before the bus arrives.
It is time for MARTA buses and bicycles 101. I look at the bike rack, which appears to be much too narrow to accommodate a bicycle. I look at the bus driver, and she shouts “read the directions.” Sure enough, there are printed directions about pulling a handle. The rack folds open to expose 2 bike slots. A tension bar and a hook hold the front wheel in the wheel slot. I board, tap my Breeze card, and we are underway. 7:41 AM.
The bus route is mostly direct, but serves several neighborhoods. The bus is full of riders several minutes before we arrive at Brookhaven station. 8:02 AM, on schedule.
I enter the station and find the elevator to take bike and me to the platform. Along with a mother and her small child in a stroller, we arrive on the platform a couple of minutes before the southbound train that will transport us downtown.
Now, I move on to Bicycles and MARTA trains 102. The train is moderately full. I find room at the front of the car, where a wheelchair could be placed. It’s available, so bike and I stand for the ride, out of everyone’s way. It’s a small challenge staying balanced as the train accelerates, turns, and stops at each station, while holding my bike. At 8:25, the train arrives at the Civic Center Station, and I exit the train. It’s been a while since I’ve been at this station, so it takes a minute to find the elevator and the exit.
I’m out on West Peachtree St. Down to Ivan Allen and turn left. Across Peachtree and down the hill, right turn onto Courtland. In previewing the route in my head, Courtland was a concern because of the dense one-way traffic speeding toward the Capitol. However, the stop light is in my favor, and I have no traffic to contend with as I cross five lanes to get to the left hand side of the street. 8:30 and I pull onto the semi-circular driveway in front of the Hilton. It’s been 60 minutes since leaving my door.
I see no bike rack- what to do? I ask a bellman, and he directs me to go in, through the front door! I walk my bike into the Hilton and through the atrium. The Hilton provides valet service at the bell stand, and the bellman checks my bike and takes it to their storage room. I am just in time to wash my face and hands, change my shirt, grab a cup of Starbucks, and find a seat in the ballroom just as the morning session starts.
The sessions are done, and it’s time to head home. I retrieve my bike from the bellman (nice tip to him) and leave the hotel at 5:10 pm. I pedal up Baker Street, climbing the steep hill toward Peachtree, cut through the small park, and head down hill to the Civic Center station. It’s warm now, in the low 80’s, and the air definitely has a different feel. The traffic is heavier, with commuter buses and cars. I board the train, which is quite full, with several people standing. The wheelchair area is occupied by people indifferent to me and my bike. Standing by the door appears to be the best option. At stops, I maneuver to stay out of people’s way, and the riders appear to not be inconvenienced. I roll off at the Brookhaven Station around 5:40.
It’s 6:05 pm before the bus leaves Brookhaven. I deploy the rack again and load the bike on the front of the bus, this time like a pro. We head toward my neighborhood in a moderately-full bus. I hop off at 6:30 and thank the driver for serving me. The hill that provided the rush of cool air over my body in the morning is a first gear quarter mile slog. I pass another bicyclist-neighbor, I have a few more turns, and I am home. It’s 6:40 pm, about 1 hour 30 minutes since I left the downtown hotel.
I was the only bicyclist this day on my 2 buses and 2 train rides from Dekalb to downtown. My commute was about twice the normal time (when driving), but I got about 20 minutes of bicycle riding and kept a car off the road for one day at least. I had time to read and make phone calls during the bus rides. I didn’t have any traffic problems to deal with, except my morning mistake. The full ride to work would have taken perhaps 5 additional minutes longer than today’s trip to the Hilton. The experience was interesting, and I hope to continue at least occasional bike/MARTA commutes.

My Commute Story

Bravo on your bike commute. Once you get the hang of things it will actually become a bit smoother and shorter.

MARTA personnel are not the best in dealing with bikes, especially on some of the routes that do not have many cyclists, but they try, so I give them credit for that. Bikes on MARTA trains can be hit or miss in regards to placement on the train. They ask that you; 1) Avoid boarding trains that are full. Well many times the train gets full at stops AFTER I get on. Have been asked more than once by a MARTA employee to get off and wait. I usually and politely tell them I was on at Station xyz, before the train got full. 2) Please keep your bicycle out of the aisle and away from the train door. And as far as keeping the bike out of the aisles and doors, as long as I have the area where the wheelchairs go, I will, but sometimes it is packed with riders (despite the availability of seats) so I roll my bike down the aisle and hold it. MARTA really needs to denote the area that bikes should be placed, not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of non cycling patrons.

Lately I have seen an increase in the number of cyclists on MARTA. This morning there were 5 on the car I rode in on from Arts Center to Lenox. We all commented on the number of cyclists on that train. Lets hope it is a sign of the times.

My Commute Story

When I started to ride my bike it was as a means to lose weight. I never expected to make it a part of my life and my commute. But after 5 years, I wonder why it took me so long.

As I mentioned, the bike was purchased as another form of exercise. I was riding around the neighborhood and such and decided one day to ride the bike to the East Point MARTA station and then take the train to work from there. I live about 1.5 miles from the station and traffic is light so i was not too concerned.

Well I decided to "extend" my ride by going to the Lakewood MARTA station. It added about a mile to my ride. Noting that the MARTA tracks paralleled the route I would take on my bike to work, I soon started to ride to the next station on the MARTA route, Oakland City, West End, Garnett, etc. Each time building my confidence in dealing with motorists and the condition of the roads. Before too long I was riding down Peachtree, again being sure that I was near a MARTA station in case of an emergency. Finally I found myself riding into the Art Center station, and them from there taking the train to my office at the Lindbergh AT&T building.

Now from Art Center to Lindbergh, there are a number of options that I could take, if I decided to ride the complete route. So I took the plunge and tried them all.. Up Peachtree to Piedmont and then down to Lindbergh; up Peachtree to Lindbergh and then over to the office,; or through the Ansley Mall area (through the Sherwood Forest residential area) and then up Piedmont to work. After trying them all I settled on the Lindbergh Road cut over to the office.

Now the one thing I love about my bike commute is the fact that I have seen parts of the city that I would normally miss on a car (or on a train.) I have feed the goats at the Metropolitan, heard the geese fly overhead, watched a family of urban foxes scoot across Peters in the Castleberry district. And the smell of fresh baked cookies from the Nabisco Factory in Oakland City or the fresh baked bread from the Natures Own bakery in the Casteleberry district is a pleasant way to start a day.

The effects on my wallet have been welcomed as well. My wife and are have cut our gasoline and auto expenses in half because of my bike commute. In fact we recently lost a car in an accident and it has not made a dent in our travels and my commute. And when gasoline was close to $4 a gallon a couple of years back, I just laughed at it all as the impact to our budget was minimal.

As for the environmental benefits, they may be small but they do add up. I belong to the Clean Air Campaign and I track my bike commute. Since I started my log in June of 2005, I have kept over 14 tons of pollution out of the air; eliminated 28850 miles of vehicular travel; and saved over $14,425 in commute expenses. Not to shabby..

Yes I have had issues and problems on my commute. I have hit once (the infamous 17th Street bridge incident which garnered some attention thanks to a story by FOX5); had someone actually try to push me off my bike and take it (not a smart thing to do. I do not give up easily); was robbed by another cyclists; and have noticed that the ladies on Peachtree and 5th seem to always want to go for a ride?? And yes, I have been honked at, yelled at, cursed at, had things thrown at me and through it all I just keep on pedaling. Yes it has been interesting, but I have come to expect and welcome those moments.

I recently changed positions with my employer so I am at a different location and working different hours, but I just altered my commute schedule and route to accommodate the changes. I now utilize the train for part of my commute, but still start and finish my commute on my bike.

And no matter what the future hold, I expect that a bike will be an integrated part of it. Pedal Power to the People!!

Love it!

You're an inspiration John - I keep saying that! And I love that Nabisco factory - oh my God - what smells better than chocolate chip cookies baking - NOTHING!

so great!

John, you have such a great story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

awesome

Thanks for sharing. I hope to work up to where you have been at least once a month and ride my 12 miles and catch the bus for the middle 62 miles the rest of the time.