So I bring my 2009 Prius for an oil change yesterday to the Toyota dealership on busy Roswell Road in the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia. Nicole, who’s my favorite customer service person there, tells me it’ll take two and a half hours, and I’m ecstatic. She’s a little surprised by this.
“I thought you’d say it would only be an hour, and then I wouldn’t have had time to ride my bike!” I explain. I certainly don’t want to sit inside and wait. COVID is surging, and the weather outside is gorgeous.
There’s a bumper sticker on the back of my car that says, “My other car is a bicycle,” and sure enough, my bike is on board in the trunk. I remove it and set out on my journey.
Roswell Road is a sh*t show so I ride a few blocks to a major intersection on the sidewalk, stepping far off it when the lone pedestrian passes. Is sidewalk-riding, over the age of twelve, legal in Sandy Springs? Probably not. Cities in the State of Georgia must affirmatively adopt this allowance, as my suburb city did recently (on the day, in fact, when I was almost killed), thereby decriminalizing this act of self-preservation and reducing the potential for racial profiling.
At the intersection of Roswell Road and Abernathy Road, I walk my bike across the multiple lanes of motor vehicle traffic in two directions and then proceed a short distance to The Abernathy Greenway. There are no signs saying yes or no to bikes on this greenway, but it’s wide and inviting and I ride. Alongside, in the road, is a narrow, unprotected strip of paint and a sign that says Bike Lane. Drivers in trucks, SUVS and cars fly by and a speed sensor sign continually tells them to slow down. I am happy to avoid that.
The Abernathy Greenway includes one of the very best playgrounds anywhere. Every play structure is a work of art, and I’m reminded not to settle for mediocrity and that our ability to add beauty, joy, and fun as well as function to our world is limitless.
I continue up the sidewalk another mile or so — really, not far — and I hit the Chattahoochee River. Gosh this was close, I say out loud. This is a very rideable distance from the service station, and even from where I live, if it’s legal to do so in the way I did it. To date, I’ve only ever driven here.
I ride down Columns Drive and through Cochran Shoals, where my Hand of God Tree (or, rather, the one finger that remains of it) lives. I chat with my younger daughter via FaceTime by a marshland. And I record my little favorite poem, yet again.
The Road Not Taken, while Traveling at the Speed of Bike
And then I ride back, stopping briefly at an arts center, closed due to the pandemic, and am riding on a little gravel path I had never noticed before when I get the text that my car is ready. When I arrive back at Toyota, Nicole asks how my ride was. I tell her I rode eleven miles, to the river and back, and she is shocked by this. “It’s really very close, and quite a lovely ride,” I tell her. This reminds me of that time in Cobb County when I asked someone how to get somewhere on foot and they told me it was too far to walk. It was a mile. This is how screwed up we are in our assessment of distance in sprawled suburbia and what’s reasonably achievable through human-powered movement.
Anyhow, so my question today is: Is that side path on which I rode a legal place to ride to the river? If so, I’d be happy to feature this route in a People for Bikes Ride Spot tour, especially since I especially like to highlight art. Here are my other tours to date:.
I’ll email the City of Sandy Springs today to find out.
I confirmed in more detail yesterday with Amelia Neptune, the Director of the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) Program (beyond this post) what the standards are for including a bike facility on a 35 mph+ road on the BFC application.
Metro Atlanta currently has six cities designated at the Bronze level and at least 2 with current applications. I will be reviewing complete applications from these cities (not just the brief scorecards listed online) as well as conducting my usual ongoing rubber-hits-the-road research to be sure no greenwashing is happening in Metro Atlanta. (Short answer: if the bike lane created by mere paint on the road is less than 4 feet wide on a 35mph+ road, it is not allowed to be included.)
We will not become truly bike-friendly without transparent truth. As a League Cycling Instructor (#5382), a recent road violence survivor, the Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, and a 57-year-old woman who is a daily “vulnerable road user,” I take this seriously. I am, I suppose, at your service.
I will, of course, continue to sing the praises of the positive success stories I find as well (and I expect to find many of them).