Image from www.peopleforbikes.org

Bikes, trains and not automobiles

Adding a bicycle to my Marta commute


Every time someone finds out I take the train to work daily, they always feel it nessesary to explain why they don’t— or just stare at me in disbelife. As I’ve said in a previous blog post, I have heard it all. Atlantans are full of excuses and they have been reciting them for so long they actually believe them. One of the most common excuses I hear is: “Marta doesn’t go anywhere”. This is a frustrating statement to hear on a couple levels:

Number 1. It’s not only borderline ignorant but also lazy. Marta goes plenty of places, right through the heart of our city. It runs through the most popular, old neighborhoods in town- from Decatur to Grant Park to Vine City. It drops me off at the doorsteps of my favorite bars for happy hours and drives me home safely when I’ve had one too many. It takes tourists from the airport to their hotels in downtown. It takes our sports fans from their OTP parking lots and drops them at the door of Turner Field, GA Tech stadium or the Dome. There is a station in the backyard of our two modern art museums in Midtown and its the same station where all the SCAD kids with no cars get off for school. And it sure does come in handy for those giant events like Music Midtown.

I could go on and on but I won’t here. It is us that needs to change our way we build our lives around Marta. Stop moving out to the suburbs or to neighborhoods like West Midtown where there are no stations—then cross your arms and pout. It’s you who chose to live where you live. Marta has been here since the 1960s. For that one night a year when I need to meet friends at Ormsby’s because — well, they just gotta go to Ormsby’s—I take Uber or ride my bike.

Number 2. The people that spit out this statement, never take the train. I have come to this realization after continuing these conversations and asking them for specifics. They take it to the airport once a year or to a Falcons game with other friends. So, they have no idea what they are talking about.

Number 3. Marta not only takes me everywhere I need to go, because that is how I plan my life, but I have also added a surrounding radius from the stations via my bike or walking. Mass transit doesn’t work without the trips ending in an easy, short and safe walk to a multitude of urban destinations. For those times I need to be at an appointment 10 minutes away from a station and I’m rushing—a bike will do the trick nicely.

In March, my company is moving from the conviniently located Terminus building (about 3 blocks off the Buckhead station) to the much farther removed Shops at Buckhead. I heard there is more parking.

My boyfriend and my own bike-locked up where we could find a place.

My choices are walking an additional twenty minutes (which will now put my commute closer to an hour+), hop on the 110 bus that goes South on Peachtree, or just bring my bike with me each morning. The last one sounds most realistic and may even shave time off how long it takes me now. However, if you take a bike on a Marta train during rush hour—you are kind of a dick. I see the eye daggers bikers receive when they try and shove their huge mens bike with saddle bags into an already overcrowded car. One bike takes up the same standing room as 3 people. It says on Marta’s website that bikes are welcomed at any time of day, maybe just not socially. Also, despite me being a hard ass, I do not wanna deal with lugging a piece of machinery around stations and up stairs from Grant Park to Buckhead. I kinda enjoy my being on foot in my neighborhood. So I have devised a plan that is pretty flawless. I can bring my bike up to Buckhead and leave it there. It’s perfect. Get off the station in Buckhead, bike to office too far away, bike back to station at end of day, get on train, be home free.

So, I have been looking for a place to put said bike all over the Buckhead station and I can’t find one. I can’t even find a proper piece of metal that I can maybe make into a bike rack. Turns out there is nothing for a bike lockup at this station. Out of 38 stations, only 16 stations have bike racks. It says on their website that Vine City even has 15 bike racks but most only say one if it is bike friendly.

Image capture from itsmarta.com

We have to start thinking about biking as part of the mass transit system. Biking allows our trains to take us further and be more usable. I think it’s great they are putting in bike servicing posts at select Marta stations but bike racks are more important.

In Portland, their transit is offering Bike Lockers allowing riders to not just chain up their bikes procariously but hide them in a mini storage unit. This is ideal, but we are not there if we don’t have bike racks now.

Bike sharing station in downtown Savannah

When we visited Savannah this year, and then New York, we saw bike sharing stations everywhere. When I posted this picture on Instagram with the caption: “Atlanta needs this!” one of my followers wrote back: “They’re coming to the A in 2015! Just finalizing contracts.” I hope so and I hope they are placed in desirable, logical and strategic locations.

I read something recently that put into words what I had been thinking for years: “Americans are in the habit of never walking if they can ride” (duke of New Orleans Louis Phillippe in 1798). More than half of all Americans live within just two miles of the closest transit facility, which one could bike to in a few minutes. But when there are no safe bike lanes to bring you to that transit hub or once you arrive you can’t park your bike for the day — many potential bike-to-transit trips become car trips out of convenience.

Bike rack in Old Fourth Ward on a weekday

In terms of this proposal being a financial burden- there really is none. People own their bikes, maintain them, operate them all at no cost to the city. All we ask for are some bike lock-up stations and paint on the pavement. You want these riders. You want them to fill your sidewalks and roads and trains. You want them to promote the use of Marta and make people see how realistic it is. Bike commuting is on a rise as a whole within my generation. I witness it everyday around downtown and Grant Park. This is a simple solution and a missed opportunity if we don’t fix it. We have the rail lines set, what else can we do to make our city a walkable city?

Thanks for reading.

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