By Rebecca Serna
Atlanta Bicycle Coalition
My family’s Atlanta-by-bike lifestyle began when my car broke down. Rather than replace the last in a string of clunkers, and always running late for the bus, I bought a cute blue hybrid at a local bike shop.
Living Intown made my decision possible, with destinations close and a nascent bike community. A few of my female friends were riding and making it look good, wearing regular clothing – even skirts and dresses. They arrived glowing and fit, getting accidental exercise while getting places.
Inspired and determined, I jumped on the bike and set out for the train station to keep my initial trips short. I made many mistakes when I started, and felt intimidated by all the cars. Riding with more experienced friends and a class with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) set me straight and gave me confidence.
Two years later, married to a bike commuter (who started after seeing how much fun it was for me), and working as the Executive Director of ABC, I had a baby on the way and a decision to make. Should I keep biking to work? Could I? I elected to stick with it and I’m so glad I did. Drivers gave me extra space as they passed, waving and smiling. Towards the end of my pregnancy, it was actually easier on my hips to bike than walk.
The first year of my son’s life, we didn’t bike as a family. Babies’ necks can barely support their heads, much less a helmet. We took turns driving the baby to daycare while the other got to ride to work.
As we approached his one-year birthday, we started getting excited. And nervous. Which streets could we take to daycare that would be safe? I set out with the empty trailer for a few test rides and found a meandering route that avoided major streets.
We rode it together, all three of us, the first few times. As with the pregnancy, drivers responded positively, many rolling down their windows to ask about the trailer, “what kind of contraption is that, and where can I get one?” A few wagged their fingers, but once we pointed out that cars carry their own risks (who doesn’t know someone who’s been in a serious car crash?) the doubts seemed to subside.
Biking with my child made me a stronger, more alert, and more assertive rider. The baby weight I carried for a year melted away, our son loves the ride, and we have the joy of knowing we’re helping prevent things like childhood asthma through cleaner air. While we don’t always get to where we’re going by bike, my favorite trips are when we do.
Rebecca Serna is the Executive Director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (atlantabike.org) and a board member of Earth Share of Georgia and Georgia Bikes.