The time is right for cycling

Studies show that Americans are sedentary. Sometimes I wonder about those so-called studies when I’m driving around my metro Atlanta, Georgia neighborhood. Whether it’s in the dark mornings, late afternoons or early evenings, this place looks like an outdoor gym at times. Cyclists on $800-$1,000 bikes sporting professional gear complete with helmets, reflective spandex and flashing lights whiz by in those wee hours when the dew is saturating our thirsty lawns. Walkers and runners with or without dogs crowd the sidewalks at all hours.

The challenges to getting exercise in the great outdoors are great. From spring pollen to summer sweat to wind gusts, beginners and veterans alike know that even with those obstacles, a dedication to exercise will be good for their health. Seeing all of these folks hit the pavement – and sometimes grass -- inspires me to get on my bike and explore my area's numerous subdivisions.

On every bike ride, I never have a plan. I spontaneously decide where I’m going. Each time out, I discover something new and sometimes, unusual. Last December, I was in a subdivision cul-de-sac and noticed the beautiful Christmas decorations. I noticed that one house had a gorgeous deer placed in its pine island. The huge buck with its massive horns was the perfect complement to the festive motif. As I came closer, I noticed that the “decoration” had moved a bit. “Wow, now that’s a neighbor investing in quite an expensive holiday display,” I thought. When I circled around the cul-de-sac and came back towards the house, I noticed that this wasn’t a decoration. The deer sprinted in the direction of the Chattahoochee River. Luckily, the massive buck didn’t charge towards me, but sometimes a dog enjoys following me with a neighbor not too far behind saying, “He’s OK, he won’t hurt you!” Of course, I’m thinking the worst as “Fido” gets closer to my back wheel.

For me, cycling in the area is a hybrid of exercise and sightseeing. Whether I’m on the racing or mountain bike, I’m far from being the competitive type. I was thankful for this approach as I passed a major dip/pothole in a subdivision. If I was going faster on my racing bike with its thin tires and I hit that hole, my tire would have bent and I would have gone flying a few feet forward.

I do my best to stay in the subdivisions since this area, like most of the metro area, is lacking in consistent bike paths. I’m not a fan of sharing the road with automobiles in this town since most drivers are not acclimated to bikers. The Atlanta metro area is far from being San Diego, Portland or Seattle. Indeed, sharing the road is a two-way street. Both drivers and bikers may violate the rules of the road. If I had a wishlist for my neighorhood, I would hope for numerous, consistent bike paths.

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