This painted sign is starting to appear on more streets in Atlanta. Signs like these are symbolic reminders of more complete traffic laws, but when I see a sharrow, I choose to interpret it as “Trees Ahead!” Seriously. Isn’t the icon really showing a tree canopy shading the biker’s way? Amirite?
A sharrow indicates that a cyclist is sharing the road with vehicles, but my whimsical interpretation could be legitimate, too. The intentions of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Trees Atlanta are favorably aligned in several ways, particularly in our efforts to create healthier environments, connected communities, and a safer and more livable city. Indeed, not only do trees give us cleaner air and beautiful canopies, they help to create safer streets through traffic speed mitigation effects.
Bikes are a great way to experience our City in the Forest on a human scale. One can literally stop to smell the roses, pause to talk with a neighbor, or cool down under the shade of a tree.
Did you know, many of Atlanta’s Champion Trees are on public right of ways? You can get good views and a true sense of their grandeur by biking. Catch one of our Tour de Trees Bicycle Tours and appreciate these giant beauties up close. All our education programs are created with the end goal of moving people toward action, whether to enjoy the outdoors or to plant a tree. Some of our Jr. TreeKeepers Camp programs includes up to 14 miles of bike riding over the course of a 5-day camp! We lead our budding environmental stewards on bicycles to many of our learning destinations. Young campers gain confidence and independence that bike riding skills reinforce.
Whether by correlation or causation, people who commute by bicycle, walk to the grocery store, or cycle for exercise are frequently also environmental advocates, volunteers at Trees Atlanta, and/or sustainably minded.
Perhaps it’s because bicyclists experience our urban environment and the effects of trees immediately and in close proximity. Bikers are without a vehicle cabin separating them from the elements. When a bicyclist rides a stretch of road without any trees, it’s remarkably hotter than roads covered by shade trees. Storm water overflows can present significant obstacles to bicyclists on the road, and when trees are removed from our landscapes, the potential benefits of storm water mitigation decrease.
Through our mutual work, we want everyone to be mindful of this intersection of our built environment and nature elements within our urban ecosystem.
Judy Yi is the Director of Education at Trees Atlanta. Trees Atlanta is a non-profit citizens’ group that protects and improves Atlanta’s urban forest by planting, conserving, and educating. You are invited to attend our Atlanta Canopy Conference on Fri., Sept. 23, 2016.