Monday, May 23, 2011

Bike (Down to Franklin and Then Back Up North) to Work Day

One of my resolutions for this year was to ride my bicycle in to work at least one day every week ... at least, for those weeks that I plan on coming in to work. I mean, we're going to take a week at the beach in July, but I'm not planning to bike in to the office from there that Wednesday.

So far this year, I've met my goal for all weeks but one, and that time I had a medical excuse. A bicycle-human contact points that shall not be named developed something that the doctors had to put me on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to combat, and I wanted to heal up enough to do a 400K that weekend. Since I've had a couple of other weeks when lots of people didn't even drive to work, and other weeks when I had already doubled up on my bike rides in to the office, I'm not going to count that week off.

As someone who regularly commutes by bike, then, you can imagine my reaction to the League of American Bicyclist's Bike to Work Week. As an English major and a grammar nut, my initial reaction is to tell them to hyphenate properly ... Bike-to-Work Week. But nobody listens to the English major, just as nobody pays attention to the cyclist on the shoulder of the highway.

Waa-waa, boo-hoo. Somebody call a waambulance.

Back to the point, though. I actually do get a little excited about Bike to Work (sic) Day ... oooh, that makes it a Sic Day ... so I don't have to go to work?

I get excited about ... well, that day ... because there are a lot of people that actually do bike in to work that normally do not, either on that day or on some other day of Bike Week. As a human being (really ... I have papers) I prefer to immerse myself in a society, and a Society of Cyclists is not just good alliteration, it's a safety buffer. If there are other cyclists biking in to work with me, then motorists are more likely to be aware of us, and maybe give us a little more room on the road. Maybe this is because at some point we constitute a Bike Gang, and everyone knows that you can't just have a fight with just one Hell's Angel. You start something with one bicyclist, it's very possible a whole bunch of us will start flailing at you with our vestigial arms, and that will tickle.

So, Friday being ... you know ... the folks at Walk/Bike Nashville asked some of the more experienced cyclists in the area to lead groups of commuters in to downtown. I was the best that they could come up with on short notice, so they got me to lead the group coming in from Franklin.

Now, the RandoCave is not in Franklin. It's actually in East Brentwood, hidden beneath a glacial lake in a dormant volcano. (I won't say any more than that ... too many clues and it won't be a secret lair, eh?) I suppose that I could have put a bike on the back of the Watzzwagon and driven down to Franklin for this, but that seemed contrary to the spirit of the thing. So, I got up ridiculously early Friday morning, and rode my single-speed commuter the 15 miles to Franklin.

Keepin' it real, man.

I have to admit that, on the way, I was thinking that this was a fool's errand. When I lead this ride last year, nobody showed up, and I felt pretty stupid leading myself in to downtown. The whole thing was made even more ridiculous by the fact that I don't even work downtown, and so ended up retracing my ride 10 miles southeast from the capitol before I could begin my workday.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I got to the Starbuck's in Franklin just before 6 am and there was actually a cyclist waiting. Imagine my shock when I realized that it was ultra-cyclist George Hiscox, who lives in Jackson, TN.

George is a high-school physics teacher in Jackson, but was in town for a curriculum conference at the capitol. He had heard that I would be leading this ride, and had stayed the night in Franklin just so he could ride in with me.

After grabbing a coffee refill, we started north on Hwy 31. We were running a little behind, but didn't pick up any other riders until we got to Brentwood. There, Dave Perrault -- another ultra-cyclist -- joined us.

As we continued north, the three of us saw a lot of other cyclists with backpacks heading south, obviously commuting to work. Cars passed us with a decent gap, the weather was excellent, and the world seemed a pretty good place. Soon, we got to the park on Church Street, just down from the capitol building, where Walk/Bike Nashville had a tent with more coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts.

We stood around and chatted with the other riders, periodically telling homeless people passing by that no, they could not have a donut. Then, Mayor Karl Dean came down and gave a speech about bike lanes and greenways and healthy initiatives, and how Tennessee was one of the most obese states in the nation, and that we needed to find alternative methods of transportation. It was definitely preaching to the choir, but there were also news cameras, so hopefully the message will stick with somebody who needs it.

The crowd then broke up as we left for our offices. Some folks actually worked nearby, but Dave works near where he had joined George and I. We rolled back down Hwy 31 for about five miles in light traffic, and then I split for the bike route on Thompson Lane.

Sure, my normal ride to the office is 27 miles shorter, but it was nice having company on the way in Friday, and it felt good to "make a statement" regarding alternative transportation and the rights of cyclists to use the roads. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but it's possible that Friday showed some more folks that they really can get to and from work on a bicycle. One less car is worth one less hour of sleep for me.


  1. Please dont take this wrong, I'm a big supporter of biking to work buuuut. Does anyone else see the humor in giving speeches about riding a bike to fight obesity and then give out donuts? Just saying :)

  2. Good point. I should have given my donut to the homeless guy.

  3. or maybe your bike - just kidding!