We are so lucky to have some really smart people in the Atlanta area who have the knowledge and background to help us navigate the sometime murky questions of how Georgia bike law applies. One of those, is Bruce Hagen of Bike Law. Today, he published a really great follow up to a question asked by another local advocate. Some really great information in here that really needs to be read and understood, not only by cyclists, but also by enforcement and road planners to understand just how quirky this subject is.
Riding the bike to work is always such an entertaining exercise. I enjoy the ride, and more often than not, I will ride the ‘main’ road. Today I did just that, and it was a good ride, a little muggy, but heh, it is Atlanta, in the spring on a day with thunderstorms in the forecast. Some days though, are just different. This morning was one of them, in that I have absolutely no idea where the north bound traffic went. Seriously, there was nothing. Not a single backed up light, the entire way in. It was simply blissful.
Of course, in Atlanta no ride is complete without someone yelling to get off the road. The funny thing? todays yeller was a young male in an early 2000’s Toyota, he was in the last car in a 5-6 vehicle line following an 18 wheel Pepsi delivery truck that I paused at a red light to give him a chance to get in front of me on the green light. Unfortunately, all of us were held up by a good 10-15 seconds by the gentleman in the green Chevy Sonic that just HAD to finish that text message before he could go. Anyways, the guy in the blue Toyota decided to tell me, the bike that he was passing, without issue as there was both space and no oncoming traffic, to “Get the hell off the road, roads are for cars!!!!”. Apparently, I am also gay because of the spandex. I should note, that I really don’t understand why this is supposed to be insulting, but hey, if it makes him feel better, whatever it takes man.
These are the moments that give me great entertainment.
Seriously, I’m getting yelled at, by a guy in a car, whose commute I impacted in absolutely no way. The guy in the Sonic created a far more immediate slow down and delay than I did, and yet I am the one that needs to get off the road?
As is my habit, I waved and gave him the Hang Loose sign. I do hope his day gets better. He certainly improved mine by starting the morning with a good chuckle..
Ten minutes of transit time. That is the length of time most of the people that I talk to are willing to travel via alternative means before they will ‘just drive’. When asking around to find out what that threshold is amongst the suburbanites I live around 10 minutes has been the most consistent answer. However, that answer is almost always accompanied by a qualifier; If there was a safe route.
Therein lies the issue. Safe routes remain scarce in the suburban build out, and so, the car has become the default mode of transportation.
Interestingly, the communities that have traditionally been the least likely to invest in non-car infrastructure, are the very same ones that are now seeing the light and becoming the first communities to invest deeply into establishing new infrastructure. Sadly, in many of these communities, the drivers are all wrong, but he results may well be the right ones.
Today, the drivers that are urging this infrastructure build out are purely commercial in origin. These new ‘walkable’ suburbs are being driven by small commercial centers and new suburban residential centers, with high dollar price tags. Small walkable hubs have started springing up in the affluent suburbs around the country. While these hubs are all about these expensive homes and high end retail which really isn’t the point of good, non-car infrastructure at the end of the day, these builds outs accomplish the long term goal encouraging walkable communities.
Curiously, the side effect of these little suburban enclaves is starting to show a side effect. The neighborhoods that are just a little further out from the community hubs are pressing for viable infrastructure as well, at least in our little suburban enclaves.
These are the very pressures that have to exist in order to garner the money and incentive for our communities to undermine the 50 years of car primacy, which is particularly egregious in the suburbs and the rural edge communities.
But let us step back and think about what 10 minutes means:
- The average walking pace is about 18 minutes per mile, or just a tiny bit over 3 miles an hour.
- The average pace of a casual bike ride is about 6 minutes per mile, or about 10 miles an hour.
So, if you extrapolate that from these little community hubs and draw a circle of just one half mile in radius from these hubs in order to see just how much of the residential areas are encompassed. When you expand that circle out to a 3 mile radius, and you start connecting these micro community hubs with real, viable non-car infrastructure.
Just look at this image. The green circles are the city hubs and walkable areas within that 10 minute threshold, while the yellow circles are the 10 minute ridable from those same community hubs. In this image, they are focused on the community retail hubs, but they could just as easily be dropped on high schools or existing recreational hubs. What is clear however, is that by focusing on infrastructure from any of these as focal points, the overlap quickly covers a vast area of the suburban sprawl. When you look at the area covered, what also becomes clear, that by following this approach of focus, the near term goal of providing safe, viable alternative transportation options of bicycle safe routes in between each hub ceases to be about corridors, because there are very few locations that require a transfer point, which is the problem with todays approaches.
So the question becomes, can we leverage the idea of the 10 minute transit time into a near to mid term solution to obtaining the funding, and construction of viable transit alternatives?
Way back when, before I cleaned up my own lifestyle and got back on the bike. Before I started running, before I stepped on the scale that fateful day and had my “whoa” moment, I often looked at some of the slim, fit bodies and blamed genetics. Like many people, I wanted to attribute my body type to genetics, and let my failures to manage the bad things that my body type exposed be lumped into that genetics thing. Like so very many people, I assumed that most of the “pretty people” were just blessed with great genetics. What I now understand is that yes, they may have been blessed with great genetics, but the level of work that it takes to maintain what we are born with is no accident.
In so many instances, our bad habits are formed at a very young age. Those early years set the stage for our life long struggles, as we build habits that are inhibitors to the work of living fit. Personally, I struggle with an addiction to caffeine in the carbonated, cold variety and a raging sweet tooth. I love chocolate, preferably in large quantities, served with an ice cold soda. These are bad enough, but some other lifestyle things only make it that much harder to keep fitness. I work a desk job where I sit for 8-10 hours a day. With kid schedules, I will often spend another 2 hours a day in a car. Factor in meals and sleep, finding time to get in a good workout is tough.
Over the last couple of years, it has become harder and harder to maintain the discipline required to get those workouts in, and my waistline shows it. That is the hidden part of the fitness equation. Getting fit is hard. Staying fit is harder, as the demands of life intrude upon the demands of training.
In the past, it was a little easier for me, as I used my commute to the office as part of my daily workout. For the last year, some schedule changes have changed that because I have had a passenger. I haven’t been able to ride the 4-5 days a week of the past. This has impacted my base fitness, as well as my ability to get in the volume of work I needed, to overcome some of the bad habits I hadn’t been able to kill off.
So now it is time of fix some diet issues that were masked by the volume of work being done, while also reworking some schedule to fix the issues.
School is almost out, so that adds a level of crazy to the schedules, but for many of the area athletes, it is taper week. Two big 70.3 races this weekend, one in Chattanooga, and another in Knoxville. Local weather doesn’t look to favor much in the way of outdoor training, so for all the athletes that we would normally see this week that won’t be out in the rain or are hiding in pre race prep.
Important, but on the list of things making us safer on the roads, it really isn’t the top of the list…
Trail running is some of the best run training you can do. Even if you do your racing on the roads and never want to trail race, running the uneven surfaces of trails is still something that should factor into the training plan. There are so many reasons, some physical, some emotional. Physically, the uneven surfaces improve balance and strength. The obstacles in the trail help form better stride habits. The short ups and downs of a trail will force stride adaptations that will help deal with road imperfections on race day. The softer surface reduces impact and repetitive stress injuries. The shade of the trees reduces the impacts of the sun on your body. Running through the woods evokes something natural and almost primal in your mind. Enjoying nature, and the sights of a trail run are fabulous ways to rediscover the fun that is running.
Running can be great fun, if we allow it to be. Sadly, too many people associate running with sidewalks and greenways, or tracks and laps. When running is confined to artificial spaces, much of the joy of the experience goes away. Running is not an easy sport. When there is nothing to focus on but the discomfort of the run, it becomes exceptionally hard to enjoy. Fortunately, trails provide a great solution.
There are some good trails to run, but these days, many of the best trails are not being built and provided by runners and hikers, but are instead being built and maintained by the mountain bike groups. Some of those trails are closed to runners, but the ones that aren’t, they are fantastic places to run.
One of my favorites in the area is a little 3 mile loop at a park called Haw Creek. It is a perfect little loop to run. Like so many in the area, it is built and maintained on county park land by the local mountain bike organization. Fortunately, they are willing to share their work with us the walkers and runners.
In this situation, we the runners and walkers are the ones that need to respect those that made this happen. It is the rare case, where the pedestrian does not have the right of way. Sharing the path, we need to remind each other to be courteous to the cyclists. Follow the signage, to run and walk counter to the daily flow of the bikes, as most trails reverse directions on a daily basis. In addition, keep a headphone out so you can hear the bikes and give them due space as they pass.
Like on the roads, we can all coexist if we simply extend a bit of courtesy. If we do not make the effort, we will lose these facilities on both sides. The bike organizations will stop building and maintaining, and the park administrations will stop allowing them if these areas become conflict points.
So please, runners and walkers, let’s make a concentrated effort to support organizations like SORBA and RAMBO in their efforts to build the trails, but also to respect the users and donors that have made them possible when they are sharing those facilities with us.
The newly launched Garmin ForeRunner 735 looks and feels an awful lot like a replacement for the interesting, and decent VivoActive but in a more complete and attractive package. We won’t have one in our hands to play with and test for a few more weeks, but suffice it to say, for the Sprint up to 70.3 distance triathletes, or the 2 sport athletes that do not need more than 8-10 hours of GPS battery this may well be the device of choice.
So things have been a little quiet here at OGRE HQ. Sadly, this has more to do with some directional questions. Namely, where to we want to go with it. Initially, the idea was to use this for our racing, but as I have really gotten back on the bike and remembered how much I love the bike, my own personal focus has moved more towards the advocacy and cycling instruction than it has the racing aspect. In fact, it has gotten to the point where it is May, and I have yet to race a single triathlon of any distance in 2016. I’ve run a couple of 5k’s, a Ragnar Trail and biked a couple of area century rides, but that has been the limit.
Meanwhile, impacting training time has been a massive time investment into learning, researching, and working to establish some relationships in the local advocacy groups for pedestrian and cycling issues. Who knew how much of a time sink these activities could become. It is no wonder so few active cyclists are also advocates. The time it takes to be an effective advocate is time not spent on the bike, because we still have to make a living, and the people we need to communicate with usually aren’t out on group rides. The lesson learned is that in many ways, we, as active cyclists are not really doing much to make a strong case for making cycling better for ourselves, or others.
For much of this year, I admit that I have been pondering how active I wanted to get into the advocacy mess, and believe me, the more I learn, the more of a mess I think it is. It is something that I have really struggled with. Ultimately, I’ve concluded that there really cannot be a debate. If we don’t get busy on the advocacy side, we are going to find ourselves in a bad spot, with the perception that we don’t belong on the roads becoming more of a reality than any of us want.
So, with this, I am officially jumping into the advocacy waters. In many ways, I have come to think of cycling and pedestrian advocacy as the 5th discipline of being a triathlete. Sure swimming, running, and cycling are the obvious 3, with transition being the 4th, but protecting our rights and obtaining facilities for us to use is the 5th.
Advocacy though, is a two way street. It is not just getting a message to the municipal leaders and planners, but also engaging and motivating the runners and cyclists in the communities to get out there and support these efforts at the polls, in the council meetings and the community meetings. Teaching them to be visible, and to support the efforts of the municipalities to make the areas better places for everyone.
So, while things have been quiet around here, they are not going to stay that way. Let’s make some noise, and instead of waiting for change, let us become the instruments of that change.