7 “Rubber-Hits-the-Road” Tips for OTPers

beltline cyclists with bike cops

“It’s so much better than I expected!” I hear over and over again as I take friends and family members, predominantly from Outside the Perimeter (OTP), on their first bike rides on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. Some of these people hadn’t ridden bikes in years. Some didn’t even have bikes. Some weren’t even sure they could ride. Yet they did. If you’re an OTPer who wants to be an Eastside Trail insider, too, this little article is intended to give you some rubber-hits-the-road (literally) tips.

  1. Park for free. You can park on side streets in neighborhoods along the trail (see the trail map below) but do not park anywhere where there are signs saying that parking is restricted (such as at the Midtown Promenade Shopping Center). Also, you can park at the bike shop if you are renting a bike (see below).

  1. Rent a bike. Many OTPers can’t easily get their own bike to the trail, or may not even have one (or one that works). Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle on Sampson Street (close to one end of the trail at Irwin Street) offers bike rentals for $15. They also offer a quick tune-up of your own bike for $20 and will give you reasonable estimates for any needed repairs. (There are also alternatives you can rent such as electric bikes and pedicabs if you simply cannot ride a regular bike. Plus, motorized wheelchairs are allowed on the trail.)

  1. Don’t worry if you’ll be able to do it or not. Every person with whom I’ve ridden, representing a wide range of ages (from teens to seniors) and physical fitness, found it an easy four-mile roundtrip. One direction (Irwin to Monroe) is slightly downhill, which is a breeze. The other direction is slightly uphill. Just drop to a low gear, go slow, and chat and you’ll barely feel it. Plus, rest assured that riding a bike is a skill you never forget–every person with whom I rode channeled their inner 10-year-old within minutes.

  1. Follow trail etiquette. Look both ways before you get on the trail.  Once on it, stay to the right, pass on the left, alert people when you are passing if it’s crowded, and keep moving forward at a steady, predictable pace. If you stop to look at something or to take pictures (photos by the murals and graffiti are always popular on OTPers’ Facebook pages), move off the trail and be aware of others when you re-enter. And finally, smile and say hello to people you pass. Atlanta is a friendly city.

  1. Be prepared to be surprised. The ride takes you seamlessly past murals, meadows, buildings and bridges; there’s a diversity of ages and lots of interesting art; and the trail’s connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods makes a big, traffic-logged city feel very small and accessible very quickly. The basic ride can be done easily in 45 minutes, but feel free to explore (take the spur trail at the silver rhino head to get to the Freedom Parkway trails, or explore Piedmont Park). You can make the ride different every time you go.

  1. Relax and enjoy yourself. Not only are you safe from vehicular traffic while you ride the Eastside Trail, but you often see either bike cops or mounted police patrolling the area. As always, be aware of your surroundings, but note that many people (including me) usually feel comfortable out there alone. If you have any concerns, call 911 immediately.

Since I started riding pretty regularly on the Eastside Trail just three months ago, I’ve lost weight, built stamina and strength, reconnected with friends, seen more of the city, been inspired by art, and had tons of fun. OTPers, come give it a whirl. If you want the bigger story about the Atlanta BeltLine, I highly recommend its three-hour tour in a cushy temperature-controlled bus. See my post about when I took that tour http://www.foodshedplanet.com/2013/04/close-your-mouth-we-are-not-codfish.html

I look forward to seeing you out there. If you have more tips to offer, please be so kind to leave a comment.


Top image courtesy of vahi.org

Bottom image courtesy of BeltLine.org

About Pattie Baker

Pattie Baker is a writer/photographer who specializes in all aspects of triple-bottom-line sustainability. She blogs at FoodShed Planet http://www.foodshedplanet.com and writes for corporations and publications. 

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