I am getting urgent requests for tips for riding a bike in my Metro Atlanta suburb city. I whipped this up in twenty minutes. I’ll edit more, and add more links and photos, in the days to come leading up to National Bike Month (for which I create a calendar, with links — call for submissions for consideration open right now).
Although much of this info is hyper-local, there’s some general stuff, too, so it may be worth a glance wherever you live (or you may want to use it as a template to create a users guide for riding bikes in your city)
To learn how to balance and pedal on a bike, as well as basic bike skills (including bike handling, hazard avoidance, and rules of the road), please see my two free downloadable classes as well as quick bike skills tips and inspiration on TikTok at PedalPowerwWithPattie.
By the way, studies show 50% of people with disabilities can ride a regular two-wheeled bike and 78% can ride some sort of adaptive cycle IF cities are safe for them to do so, so this post is not intended to be ableist. I’ve even created a list of recommendations for teaching adults-on-trikes, after being hired for a year to develop and co-teach that class in the City of Decatur, GA (the only silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community in the State of Georgia). Plus, I participated as a trainer with a camp named ICanBike for children/teens with development disabilities in the City of Alpharetta, GA.
Additionally, there is a HUGE e-cargo delivery logistics boom happening nationwide and around the world. These are JOBS for people who have bike-riding skills and interest. However, cities that are not safe-for-all limit the functionality and equitable opportunity of this economic impact.
Note: I am a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, a PeopleForBikes Ambassador, the first Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor with the Amsterdam-based social enterprise BYCS (see my Year 1 Summary), the author of Traveling at the Speed of Bike book and blog (and others), the first survivor of a Vulnerable Road User violation in the southeastern USA*, and the founder and first chairperson of the city’s Sustainablilty Commission** and member of its first Comprehensive Land Use Plan’s Steering Committee. I am currently the City of Dunwoody’s most recent Sustainability Hero. None of that matters if I can’t safely buy a loaf of bread on a bike. You are needed.
I am also a married mom of two daughters. They came with me to city hall when they were 8 and 13 years old and promises were made about safe-access-for-all. (They were already part of the less-than-1% of students who rode bikes to school, and leaving via bike from the camps at the community center 1 mile from our home required special arrangements with the camp director every year.) They are now 22 and 26 and live elsewhere. Children don’t wait — they grow up. If you are a parent of young children who has not yet contacted city hall to demand immediate improvements such as pop-up protection on any road that is signed for 35 mph (a speed frequently exceeded), today’s your day. The construction workers and potholes get more protection than your family gets. (You think I’m kidding? I’ve posted photos and videos for years now. You can follow me on social media here.)
I am currently working full-time with the CDC Foundation and the State of Alaska’s Department of Health on a large wellness project. I recently accepted that job (4,300 miles away, 100% remote) over Metro Atlanta options because it did not require a car commute (and as a good way to pivot to serve my country after my scheduled 2-year Peace Corps Uganda service was derailed due to COVID). Fun fact: I have never seen so many available jobs in my entire career as a communications professional. If you want another way to ditch the car besides riding your bike and taking mass transit, consider job hunting for an increasingly-available remote position.
User’s Guide to Riding a Bike for Transportation in the City of Dunwoody, GA, USA
As gas prices rise and the climate crisis escalates, more people are considering riding their bikes for transportation everywhere. I ride all over Metro Atlanta but mostly where I live in the City of Dunwoody, GA, USA. Along with its neighboring city Sandy Springs, it hosts the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the southeastern USA. Not one of those companies have a safe route to it. Not one. Are they demanding safer micro-mobility access be created immediately, especially if their employees are expected to come back to the office? My guess is no.
I have been using my bike for transportation for many years here, and I currently ride about 5 to 15 miles per day running errands, doing my work research, supporting local businesses, and improving my health and resiliency. (Note: something like 70% of all motor vehicle trips are under 5 miles. This is a very manageable distance on a bike in places where it is safe to ride one. For me to leave my home and run 3 errands within the city limits, I can easily hit 12 miles due to our sprawl. It’s just a mile to the supermarket, 2 miles to the park and post office, and 3.5 to MARTA, city hall and the mall. But done consecutively, it adds up.) Here are some things you may find helpful.
- Bike Lanes
The bike lane map and claims by the city are misrepresentations. Almost all the bike lanes in the city (including brand new ones) do not meet national best practices standards. They therefore do not feel comfortable-for-all (which well-designed bikes lanes do) and require users (especially women and girls, who are harassed more often and passed more closely) to assume what is considered by most to be an unreasonable amount of risk. (I have much more insight on this, but let’s leave it at that for this post.) Use with extreme caution and constant vigilance, or not at all. Ride your bike on these routes for comparative purposes so that you know what actual safe bike access feels like. Contact city hall to let both city leaders and staff know you are aware that you deserve better. Here is the media release that is needed immediately.
Alternate routes besides the dangerous-by-design main roads are extremely hilly and do not connect. If you have an e-bike, these do suddenly become a real option, however, for parts of your route (although this will add time and distance to your transportation outing). They are also good for including if a challenging physical workout is one of your goals for active transportation. Please check a map before you end up a mile downhill into a dead-end cul de sac! Been there; done that. Ain’t a good feeling!
In recognition of the known dangerous-by-design conditions, the city is the only one in the state of Georgia that has decriminalized riding a bike on the sidewalk at any age, with priority for those on foot and in wheelchair. (If you think “the police aren’t gonna bother you” in cities where it’s not legal, they do and have, and statistics show the incidence is higher if you are a person of color.) That opens up 65 miles of de facto “multiuse trail” which can be used as your entire route or combined with parts of roads on which you feel comfortable. See more about the sidewalk ordinance here; other nearby cities are considering it as well). (Note to State Farm: you don’t own the multiuse path, and it is legal for rollerskaters as well.) Sidewalks are extremely uncomfortable if you are on a road bike, however, due to cracks and other reasons, and unusable in general on days/times/routes when many people are using them to run/walk and also get to religious services (specifically on Tilly Mill Road). Additionally, you pay a 40% “time tax” when you use the sidewalks instead of the road due to slower speed, constant “beg buttons at intersections (even if the road lane has a green light), and blind spots and blockages.
4. Bike Racks
The city does not require bike parking. I created a spreadsheet of bike racks in the city, and my lived experience with each — I’ll share it soon. Note: some shopping centers have fat-bottomed poles so you can’t lock a bike to them. If you do find and choose a pole or fence, try to avoid handicapped parking signs and make sure your bike is not blocking access for anyone. Tell owners and managers at places you frequent (or want to) that a bike rack would make a difference. See more about the economic impact of bikes here. I’ve asked all over Dunwoody. Not one business I’ve asked has added one. Our post office doesn’t even have one.
There is a lovely multiuse trail that runs through Brook Run, Pernishol, and Dunwoody Green Parks. It connects one side of Dunwoody with the other (especially if you then go down Old Springhouse Lane and over the creek via a multiuse bridge to the Perimeter business district). Note it is “closed” from dusk to dawn, which includes times you may want to use your bike for transportation to work or school (especially at certain times of the year when it’s still dark, and for shift, gig, freelance, sales, and other work-related trips). Also, note that in addition to no lights, there are no call-boxes and limited escape routes, plus significant areas where you would be isolated, which creates dangerous conditions especially for women and girls. The current mayor (a woman) agreed with me about one particular wooden-fence-line narrow passage in writing to the parks department and yet no changes have been made there.
You can take your bike on all MARTA buses and trains at all times. See here for tips. I’ll add my How-to-load-a-bike-on-a-bus TikTok soon. It’ll have you singing.
7. Bikeshare/Bike Repair
There is no bikeshare, and there is no bike repair shop in the city limits. I get my bikes repaired at REI just over the city line in Sandy Springs. There ARE two bike repair stations in the parks — one near the 1 Mile Marker in Brook Run park on the trail by the playground and skate park, and 1 between the pavilion and the trail in Pernoshal Park. A QR code on each takes you to useful bike-repair tips provided by the company that makes the bike repair stations.
Everyone asks about #BikeNoodle — here’s everything you need to know. (Note: If you see a person using one in your city, your city is not safe for people on bikes. I do not use it in the Metro Atlanta cities of Atlanta, Decatur, and Clarkston, nor when I ride bikeshare in major cities such as New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, although that all requires careful route planning.)
Oh, and by the way, in light of all this, you may ask, “Why do I ride?” The positives outnumber the negatives. the benefits are constant and endless. That’s how good it is.
find out more in my book (chapters 3, 6 and the epilogue have specific info about Dunwoody). My other book has a whole sectiOn With Our user-tested tips riding bikes to schOol and using the public bus. thank you for your support. as always, all proceeds are used to help more people (especially women and girls) access and ride bikes (see the “You Go, Girl!” Toolkit).
*11 Tips Following an Assault while Riding Your Bike– that has been widely shared and I have heard from many road violence survivors across the USA who found it helpful. I hope you never need it.
**I asked the current City of Dunwoody Sustainability Committee if they are providing city leaders with a list of recommendations to accelerate change in light of the just-released latest IPCC report’s summary to policymakers (including local ones). I have not yet heard back. Please ask your city councilors anywhere in the USA if they have read the 22-page summary and what, if anything, they intend to do about it. I will publish my own list of recommendations prior to Earth Day.