Re-Learning To Ride A Bike On The BeltLine

elleshadow

We’re all jumping some sort of hurdle in our lives. Juggling jobs, families, running a business, maintaining relationships, creating new ones; we’re all working around some sort of challenge. Those challenges can be present in our every day normal activities, or they can be more like the one I’m writing about today: in the back of your mind, and slowly nagging you to death.

A few years after 1999 I was tooling around my college campus on my bike, zipping through throngs of students to get to whatever class was across campus. I had been a semi-avid bike rider up until that point, and loved the convenience of two wheels and a handlebar bell.

It was a warm day, and I was riding beside a cross walk on my way to class. Halfway through the cross walk I was hit by a driver. To me, at the time, it was just a gigantic hood of a car in my face. As it turns out, this driver was making a turn and just hadn’t been paying any attention. Of course, this could happen to anyone. It’s probably happened to a lot of bike riders. But in my particular case, I walked away with two annoyingly broken arms, a ton of road rash, and an intense fear of bikes.

Despite this ridiculous and traumatic event, I carried a small spark of hope. I told myself, “One day I’ll ride a bike again.” I picked up an expensive habit of random bike purchasing. Every few years a new bike would show up only to fall victim to the porch or be given away to a friend. I’d grab the handlebars and walk it around whatever small apartment I was living in at the time, pretending I’d actually take it out. I never made it out for a ride.

In 2013 I moved away from my college hometown and in to a loft on the Beltline with my partner, Jared, a bike enthusiast. The Beltline was nestled 30 feet away from our gigantic factory windows. One long, smooth, concrete pathway right outside my door. Frequently Jared would take down his bike and casually ride it here or there while I longingly wished I had the chops to go with him. He’d buy little things at the store, or go riding out with friends for a beer.

I was afraid to ride. I knew I’d fall and break every bone in my body. Or that I’d die on the Beltline and it’d be awfully inconvenient for everyone involved. Plus there was the problem of not owning a bike. Knowing my history with serial bike buying I was hesitant to throw down another few hundred bucks for something I may never want to tinker with again. We lived on the part of the beltline that housed Atlanta Beltline Bicycle, the perfect place on the planet for me, which Jared pointed out. You can rent bikes by the day, and they make sure you’re comfortable.

It took me a full year to work up the courage to get that damn rental. Jared and I both waited until the middle of the week, when no one was on the Beltline. It was some inconsequential day, like a Tuesday. Jared fitted me with an old helmet while I whined that I needed elbow, knee, and face guards. I needed bubble wrap and ankle protectors and a danger whistle. The attendant at Atlanta Beltline Bicycle was patient, and sent me along my terrified way with a shiny new bike to ride.

Walking it out to the Beltline was awkward and uncomfortable. Swinging my leg over the saddle was weird, and perching myself on the seat was odd but familiar. Pushing myself across the smooth surface of the Beltline felt alright, and pumping the bike peddles to get momentum wasn’t very scary at all. I straitened out my handlebars and focused on Jared riding in front of me. Before I knew it I was at Piedmont Park, crossing the street and riding downs paths like a pro. Everything was easy, and fun, and I wondered why I waited so long?

The Beltline was perfect for me. No obstacles, a bike rental right in front of me, smooth surface, and no one to judge me while I weebly-wobbled myself along the pathway to bike Nirvana. It cleared every hurdle I had for the last decade and sat itself infront of me and asked, “So, are we going to do this?” It broke down my fear, and gave me back my bike confidence.

My permanent bike is being shipped to me today, right now, as I’m writing this. I’m watching the UPS tracking number, refreshing it relentlessly. I’m excited to take this new bike with me wherever I go, and relearn the ropes of gear changes. I want to tackle hills and cuss at my shoelaces when they get wrapped around the peddles. I can’t wait to feel the Autumn air on my face and hear my bike tires crunch through the leaves.

That’s what the Beltline gave back to me- just a little more freedom, and a little more courage.

ellewithbike

About Elizabeth Atkins

Elizabeth “Elle” Atkins is the owner and head brand strategist and brand identity designer behind PostFilm (http://postfilmdesign.com/) She's created a home for herself in Atlanta and has fallen in love with helping local businesses create better, more poignant brands. She designs new brand identities and assists businesses cultivate their existing brands. You may now be able to catch her on the Beltline.

Comments

  1. Orange bikes are the best!

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