That's what I did this morning. For a good cause.
It was called Georgia Rides to the Capitol. It started from the MARTA station by my house. It ran to the State Capitol, about five miles away. It had a police escort. It was 70 degrees and sunny.I'd already blogged about AT&T. I couldn't resist.
Not that there weren't young 'uns. One couple pulled a trailer where their two-year old sat like a queen on her throne, playing with a video game. A 20-something couple rode on a tandem, both in street clothes, both sans helmets, both with flowing hair running down their backs. "Hey," I wanted to say. "My youth called. It wants my hair back." A man near my own age pedaled a heavy street bike, without a helmet, wearing a shell sweater over a dress shirt and tie.
My one regret is that I never asked any of my fellow riders to snap a few shots of me, so you'd see how spiffy I look in my riding togs. The picture to the left is a few years old.
The ride in was deliberately slow. It may have been my most hazardous ride in a year, given how many other cyclists were moving around me in unpredictable ways. I freewheeled, rode my brake, and freewheeled some more.
I was near the front of the pack when we hit downturn. We were prepared to make a left toward the Capitol when we were met (on cue) by another horde coming south, some from as far away as Roswell (21 miles north).
The purpose was to support a "three foot law," requiring that motorists pull over to pass cyclists, even on two-lane roads. The result would be to present a presumption of fault for motorists who hit bikes, although I'm sure some activists may use it to go after kids who pass right next to you, open their windows and yell stuff, hoping you'll crash.
After listening to speeches for as long as I cared to, I rode home alone, through traffic. The way I'm accustomed to doing it. I can still hit 30 on a downhill, but I'm crawling up the hill these days, and increasingly being passed by younger people on heavier equipment.
I have ridden most of my life in danger, so the legal change to me would simply be a luxury. On most lists, Atlanta is the second most-dangerous city in which to try and ride a bike. Houston, where I started riding, is number one.
And the reputation is well-earned. The hills shorten the distance you can travel comfortably. Most of the area is built on a suburban plat, up to a mile or more between through streets, meaning you can't get anywhere without using a main road. And because the government is historically cheap, and focused only on cars, there's no margin for you to ride. Plus many car drivers don't acknowledge the right of a bike to be there — they'd rather play "Gadhafi may I" when they travel.
While in Chengdu two years ago, I saw tons of people riding these electric bicycles. They're cheap, you can pedal them on the flats and glide downhill, and they would be perfect for getting up Atlanta's hills. China has 120 million of them, and the car crazies are scared to death of the phenomenon. They could dramatically increase the number of bicycle commuters if they came here, and improve the chances of something like a three foot law coming into effect.
But for now, it's pure pedal power. Here are some more pictures from today's ride: