photo of Geri Hope, Tracey, Andrew, and Jackie Blair Harding
So I’m on a multiuse path at an intersection, waiting for the light to change and drooling (as always) over the gorgeous two-way protected cycletrack in front of Decatur High School across the street*, when who pulls up but the family I’m on my way to meet!
They don’t pull up in a car. They slide into my space, laughing and full of endorphins on three ebikes, one a bakfiets (front-load cargo bike) carrying the youngest family member (who has her own ebike, but not that day).
Meet the Hardings — Andrew, Tracey, eleven-year-old Geri Hope and seven-year old Jackie Blair. Andrew, Tracey, and Geri are all team-members of mine on Trust the Journey in the Atlanta Bike Challenge for Biketober. (Geri is the youngest member of the team; my mother, Marge, at 85, is the oldest.)
I originally met Andrew and Tracey when they organized a public screening of the astounding documentary Motherload in Piedmont Park in Fall 2019**. They have been car-free for six years, and their comfort as both individuals and a family unit while navigating public space on bikes is immediately evident.
Andrew hands me a headset and I find myself inside all their brains, in the inner circle of communication while the endless stream of motor vehicles whip past us as we make our way past Agnes Scott College to an old orphanage-turned-city-park. There’s a kitchen garden there as part of the Global Growers collection of refugee farms, and we tour it led by a guide named Daphne Fowler (who recently moved here with her family from her work with an NGO in Nepal).
Afterwards, Daphne (who also rode her bike there) falls into the positive-ebike-energy vortex as well, and the next thing you know she and I each test-ride the bakfiets, with 185-pound Andrew in it!
I had ridden Jump ebike rentals before (and loved them) but never a bakfiets. Daphne had used bikes and scooters as her primary transportation in numerous cities around the world, and now sees the bakfiets as a great way to combine the best of both. (Needless to say, Daphne has now joined the Atlanta Bike Challenge.)
Aided by multiuse paths, we continue on to lunch in nearby Avondale, and then to Clarkston. Andrew’s rock music livens up our kudzu-lined route to my Sharing Garden at the Jolly Avenue Garden for refugees. Andrew waters, Tracey harvests, and the girls play in the dirt. (I’ll save the grasshopper story for another post.)
When I ask if they’d like to leap for a photo, it’s no surprise what results:
Our trip home has me “hit the wall” around my 27-mile point for the day (I had ridden from my suburb-city-home to the MARTA transit station, and then from the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta to Decatur before we had even met). Andrew and Tracey, quickly sensing this (my “I’m gonna stop in Decatur and take the bus home” may have been the tip-off lol) graciously tell me how much Tracey wants to ride a non-electric bike. This enables me to coast the final six miles or so back to Midtown Atlanta. (In case you don’t know, if you use the pedal-assist mode on an e-bike, it’s like when you walk on the moving sidewalk at the airport — you still get exercise, but it’s way easier, plus hills are flat.)
I can’t even tell you how much fun I had with this family. How much I loved how each of them could be so close with each other (in each other’s brains!) and yet so independent at the same time. How much Geri reminded me of Anna Paquin in the movie Fly Away Home when she flew that glider all by herself so expertly in order to guide the geese to safety. How knowledgeable about the world the girls are. How time stood still and flew. How natural this all felt.
So, now, of course, I want to win that ebike in the Atlanta Bike Challenge more than ever. And I challenge anyone to test-ride an ebike and not feel the same way.
AN ebike’s electricity doesn’t just power the bike. It empowers families, and everyone they meet.
*but lamenting the loss of a gorgeous community garden (where I had a plot in 2013 for awhile) when it was turned into a parking lot for that same school — see Another One Bites the Dust
As Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, a League Cycling Instructor, a PeopleForBikes Ambassador, and the author of Traveling at the Speed of Bike (book and blog), I shine a light on people making it more welcoming to ride bikes and access public space close to home and around the world. Meet some below! If you’d like to put stories to work for your company, municipality, or organization, see here.
Meet Greg Masterson (Metro Atlanta Cycling Club)
Meet Marjon Manitius (Brookhaven Bike Alliance)
Meet Byron Rushing (Atlanta Regional Commission)
Meet Creighton Bryan (Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy)
Meet Betsy Eggers and Jack Honderd (Peachtree Creek Trail and Brookhaven Bike Aliance)
Jon’s Leap of Faith (Street Minister and Bike Saver Extraordinaire)
A Second(er) or Two about Why You’re Needed (City of Dunwoody)
Meet Matt (Painter of New Cycle Track by Mercedes Benz Stadium)
Meet Dr. Walter May (Reinhardt University)
Meet Alex Gee (World Bicycle Relief)
Meet Shawn Deangelo Walton (Everybody Eats ATL and WeCycle)
Meet Charlton Bivins (Clayton County Cycling Club)
Meet Emmett McNair (tour guide extraordinaire)
Meet Mike Flueckiger (Primary Mechanic at Global Spokes)
Thank You, Courtney (NYC’s Peoples’ Bike Mayor)
Meet Carden Wycoff (Wheelchair Warrior at 6 MPH)
Meet Jillian Banfield (Bicycle Mayor of Halifax, Canada)
Meet Arcy Canumay (Bicycle Mayor of Waterloo, Canada)
Meet Shelley Carr (Bicycle Mayor of London, Canada)
Meet Susan Stokhof (Bicycle Mayor of Victoria, Canada)
Meet Daniel Eppstein (Director of Operations at BYCS)
Meet Charise Stephens (Founder of the U Create Macon youth bike program)
Meet Andrea Learned (climate influence consultant)
Meet 31 Women Making the USA More Welcoming for Riding Bikes (the “You Go Girl!’ Series)
Meet 11 Bike Tour Guides (from the Bicycle Tours of Atlanta Team)