Next week, as metro Atlanta celebrates Bike to Work Week, which starts Monday and ends May 16, commuters and local organizations are touting the benefits of leaving the car at home. May is National Bike to Work Month.
The Clean Air Campaign, a downtown Atlanta-based nonprofit promoting commuter options such as carpools and mass transit, and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, a Cabbagetown-based nonprofit supporting the bicycling community, are promoting Bike to Work Week.
Campaign spokesman Brian Carr said the organization estimates there are about 10,000 metro Atlantans biking to work each day, based on extrapolated data it has taken from both “the participation rate in its Georgia Commute Options incentives by commuters who indicate they bike to/from work” and from the U.S. Census Bureau. That is 0.167 percent of the estimated 6 million metro Atlantans.
The coalition, which uses pneumatic tubes placed at high-traffic intersections in Atlanta to conduct bicycle counts, has limited data on people biking to and from work but those numbers show it is on the rise. From 2011 through 2013 at two downtown intersections, the bicycling commuters increased from 166 to 607.
“During Bike to Work Week we provide bike trains [riding with other bicyclists in groups] and happy hour [Tuesday at the Elliot Street Pub downtown] to network with others and meet up and learn more about how to bike to work,” said coalition Executive Director Rebecca Serno, who bikes to work each day from her home in Kirkwood. “It’s growing and very welcoming of new people.”
West Midtown resident Robert Lowe, bikes each day about 7 miles one way to his job as general manager of the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta in Buckhead. When he moved to Atlanta from New York two years ago, he left his car with his wife and two children, who still live in Manhattan while one of his kids is finishing high school. Lowe, who started biking to work in November 2010 when he started working for the hotel’s New York branch, had a shorter commute , at 2.5 miles one way.
“To be honest with you, more than anything, I enjoy it,” he said. “I find it a release from the pressures of running a hotel. I have a lot of things on my mind and I use the time to digest ideas. … But more than anything, it’s a great way to ride to work. It’s great for the environment. It’s a great example for my kids. Many of my colleagues are amazed by that. It also sets a good example for anyone who is interested. It’s also a great form of exercise.”
Sandy Springs resident Josh Berry, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Midtown, rides his bike from home about 3 miles to the North Springs MARTA station, rides MARTA to the North Avenue station and then bikes about 1.5 miles from there to his job. He has been doing so since he started working there six years ago and had a similar commute routine in his old job at Fort McPherson while living in Buckhead.
“A lot of it is I just don’t like driving,” Berry said. “ … When I graduated from college in 2002, I lost my car [the transmission died] and took the bike to work. I got in pretty good shape without even trying. That made me feel good. It also saved me a ton of money at the time. It doesn’t help that parking is expensive at Georgia Tech. It’s about $600 a year."
Carr said residents can earn $3 a day or up to $100 a year through the campaign’s commuter options, including biking to work.
“It takes about a month for any habit to take effect,” he said. “What we have found is 74 percent of the commuters that have taken part in those incentives are still using those commuter alternatives 18 to 24 months after they started the program.”
Information: www.atlantabike.org or www.cleanaircampaign.org
Click here for an article on how Atlanta compares to other when it comes to bicycling and walking.