So I get an email from a woman named Waverley who asks about a bike class. Turns out she hadn’t ridden a bike in years but then went out on the flat Silver Comet trail with a friend and felt like she was really lacking in bike handling skills (and this was completely away from motor vehicle traffic). So we meet, we brush up her basic skills with special emphasis on braking with both hands and then putting her foot down to stop, plus some gear shifting. Taking hands off the handlebars to signal is pretty much not yet an option. That’s where I leave her.
And then I get another email from her a couple of weeks later saying she signed up for an Atlanta Bicycle Coalition class to learn how to ride on roads. That’s good, I say to myself. I’ve assisted in that class and know that the route in Midtown, Atlanta is challenging yet supported by some really terrific infrastructure.
But then she adds that she also signed up for the Beltgrind. Hmmmm, I think. That’s a pretty intense 20-miles that follows the Atlanta Beltline planned loop, which is currently both paved and unpaved, isolated and intensely trafficked (in parts by motor vehicles and in parts by packs of people walking, running, on bikes, skates, scooters, etc.) There are tunnels and bridges and ridges. There is lots of mud. And hills. Many hills. Willy Wonka and Oompa Loompas even appear. This is interesting, I ponder.
A third email eventually arrives. Waverley did it! She says she was totally out of her element and that the only way she made it through the entire Beltgrind was due to the constant support of people on bikes she met that day (except for the guy who told her to go home)– most notably a family she met on the MARTA train ride there. That family? The Hardings!!!
Knowing Waverley probably grew her bike skills a hundred times that day, I offer her a “debrief” class to answer any questions and work on specific things she felt lacking that day, and she takes me up on it.
We meet and do a class in the park. Her stopping is terrific now. Her signaling, coming along. Her laughter, contagious. Her story, amazing. And we even uncover what it was that tripped her up so many years ago. Why she stopped riding. And we work on it, over and over again until we flush that memory out. (Note: Almost every woman I teach can identify a single moment or incident that led to them stopping riding. For some girls and women, it could have been that guy telling them to go home at the Beltgrind.)
Bravo, Waverley. I look forward to waving in solidarity, in sisterhood, in support, when next I see you Traveling at the Speed of Bike.
Oh, and by the way, that Atlanta Bicycle Coalition class was canceled. And Waverley went to the Beltgrind anyway. That’s the kind of woman she is. That’s the kind of women we are.
You go, girl.
Note: I offer one free in-person class a month to a woman or teen girl, thanks to support of my book, Traveling the Speed of Bike (100% of proceeds are used to help others). May 2022 is booked. You can join thousands of others around the world who have accessed both of my free Pedal Power with Pattie classes here (click the How to Ride a Bike tab).
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 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 the Harding Family (empowered by ebikes)
Meet Bill Black (riding for fun and fitness)
Meet Rita Thrasher (adult trike/mountain bike coach extraordinaire)
Meet Audrey Parker (professor of neuroscience)
Meet 31 Women Making the USA More Welcoming for Riding Bikes (the “You Go Girl!’ Series)
Meet 13 Bike Tour Guides (from the Bicycle Tours of Atlanta Team)