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Column: Cycling a rite of spring we have to learn to live with
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
May 15, 2013 11:38 AM | 2438 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
When I was younger I had zero interest in sharing the road when I was on my bike.

It was mine, all mine.

Cars were merely nuisances preventing Evel Knievel-inspired jumps off the particularly severe curb cuts along Peachtree Road or attempts to break the sound barrier going down Habersham Road toward Peachtree Battle Avenue. This was in the mid-1980s. To say Atlanta’s roads have changed since then may be the understatement of the year.

“Share the Road” is the motto touted by cyclists, a rallying cry demanding drivers to be aware and respectful of people riding bikes, who have as much right to use our thoroughfares as cars. A sure sign of spring is the explosion of sleek carbon bicycles traversing our neighborhoods. I am talking about those who don brightly colored spandex and ride — really ride — for exercise or therapy for hours at a time.

Given that most of us are driving two-ton tanks and have the attention span of a mosquito, we need to have a reckoning with the cycling community. The fact that there have been several fatalities around Atlanta over the last year demands it.

A few weeks ago during a rare break from the torrential downpours, I led Thornton, 11, and Virginia, 9, on a bike ride which took us for a spell down West Paces Ferry Road. We wore helmets and rode on the sidewalk, but it was a harrowing experience. There was almost no buffer between us and the automobiles, which seemed to be traveling at the speed of light.

Meanwhile, drivers weren’t taking us into consideration at all. By the time they noticed us, we were a blip in their rearview mirror. Our little daredevil Virginia gave me a series of mild heart attacks as she sped along. Riding in the road, which is legally what we are supposed to do, would be to put our fate in the hands of those drivers, which wasn’t going to happen. I felt in a way we were doing that just by riding on the sidewalk.

The recent repainting of West Paces Ferry near the intersection of Peachtree has seemingly solved that. Half of the road is now a dedicated a bike lane that no one uses. Meanwhile, traffic is backing up a half a mile because the city inexplicably decided to take a two-lane road and make it one. I would feel a little better about it if a cyclist ever used the lane.

It is not the cyclists that need to pay attention to the drivers. They are exposed, they are the ones trying to fit between a white line and edge of the road, which in just about every case, except apparently in front of Whole Foods, is too narrow to actually fit a bicycle of any kind.

My friends who ride say the best thing to do if you get behind them is to pass as quickly as possible. They are not sympathetic to trying to pass someone on a bicycle on a narrow street with oncoming traffic traveling at 50 mph.

Cyclists drive cars, and most drivers have ridden a bike. It is more the cyclists’ road than the drivers’, as the danger is much higher in their case. We just need to learn to get past them safely.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at

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