Country Mouse/City Mouse Commuter
A car hit me on my second day commuting by bike. This was six blocks shy of my office and three weeks shy of my first wedding.
It was my second week living IN Atlanta, having spent the previous three months in Peachtree City, living with my then-in-laws while saving money and hunting homes. I was not a fool, neither brash nor brave, but too trusting: a country mouse coat not yet shed from my Empire State upbringing.
I came from rural western New York state, the cradle of my youth and young adulthood; I was raised and educated there. I was, as is crooned in my alma mater, nestled away 'mid the Empire State hills, 'neath the watch care of sentinel pines.
There, I started taking a little commuter bus 12 miles to and from work, for a ridiculously low monthly price, because I am frugal. That led to an interest in sustainability and avoiding waste. The more I read of it, the more I learned, the greater my desire to get back on a bicycle, something I hadn't done since before I was a growth-spurt-tortured teen.
So I found an abandoned bicycle, no great feat on a college campus, and gave it a home. It was a Panasonic Sport Deluxe and, though several sizes too small (it must have been a 55 or 54cm frame, and I rock a 63cm, minimum), I loved it. It was the best feeling in the world, riding that bike, and so fast! So fast! My coworker, Emily, passed me on the way to work one day and wrote to me:
"I know we all talk about going green, helping the environment and all that, but COME ON! Did you really ride your bike all the way to work?!" Emily is a cyclist, too, but more of a weekend warrior. I wanted the challenge, to see if I could do it. I had several times walked home before. Why not ride? Twelve miles seemed then an incredible feat. Now, 12 miles is average to me. Now, I always want more.
Urban life was familiar to me, having visited and at times lived in metropolises, and I felt (and feel) perfectly at home in the heart of the city or the center of a field. But I was too trusting. Riding 12 miles to work on a "busy" country road and in town where high-volume traffic meant four cars deep at a quick-to-change light gave me a false sense of security: certainly I know how to ride with cars. Share the road and everyone gets along fine.
Also, there, you get between points A and B as you would connecting dots: directly. Pick the most direct route and go. So, that's what I did here. My route for two days went Briarcliff; LaVista; Cheshire Bridge; Piedmont; Juniper; and Courtland.
Atlanta cyclists, lower your eyebrows. I know, I know: yikes. And the entire time, I stayed in the road, sharing it, signaling, doing all I was supposed to. Once, ONCE, to avoid slamming into a driver who stopped short, I veered left onto a sidewalk for one block only, and WHAM. That is where a College Park police officer turned into me, as she entered the drive of the Hilton.
Banged and battered, I took a month off to lick my wounds (figuratively) and learn. That is how I encountered the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (then Campaign), too, and began volunteering. I wanted to help make other would-be commuters feel safe, help them learn the best routes for their rides.
But the spirit of what brought me to a bicycle remained, and remains still: challenge and adventure and fun. The physical freedom to both power and control my own direction. Now bicycles are part of my identity; they are part of my heart.
And they remain the cheapest form of transportation and recreation around.