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Alabama: Bicycle commute starts with a drive

Posted Jan 14 2009 6:39pm

From (Birmingham, AL):
Two wheels, no motor, no problem for local commuter!
Everything Elisa Munoz brings to work must fit in a small backpack. "Makeup, notebook, Ipod,'s very heavy actually," said Munoz. She is one of a few local commuters who brave rush hour traffic on two wheels with no motor and no roof. "You know I just chance it in case it rains. Hopefully it won't!" said Munoz.

Her seven mile bicycle commute from Birmingham to Irondale begins in a car because the first stretch is so dangerous. "I have to come up over the mountain and there are no shoulders and there's no sidewalks which are illegal to ride on anyway," said Munoz.

She parks about a mile away from her home and pedals the rest of the 20 minute trip. Munoz says she's been chased by dogs and even run off the road, but mostly she just runs into attitude. "I get a lot of looks. I get honks. I get occasional yells to get on the sidewalk even when there is no sidewalk and to get off the road a lot," said Elisa Munoz.

To promote cooperation between bicycle commuters and drivers the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission is organizing a bike to workday (sic) in May. "It's an awareness raising thing...It's a way to get cyclists to see that just because they are biking doesn't mean that they own the road," said Sean Saffle.

Elisa Munoz says bike paths would be amazing, but at this point she would settle for just an awareness that there are cyclists out there. "So I could ride without being yelled at," said Munoz. "There's just nothing like the feeling of riding your bike. I love it." ( Read more, includes video.)
OK, I grew up in New England, now live in California, and have never been in Alabama. So I may be accused of Northern bias. But from what I've read, it seems Alabama is truly deserving of its #48 ranking of bicycle-friendly states in the U.S. That's third from the worst. It just doesn't seem a very hospitable state for bicyclists. Any insights from 'Bama bikers?

This article itself is very suggestive. It's news that a person bikes at all! She drives the first mile! The SmartCommute guy says Bike to Work Day is about disciplining cyclists!?! I'd been hopeful of progress when the Birmingham News introduced an intriguing bicycling columnist. For sure California has some hostile roads, but this report is just scary. Any perspectives? How can we make it better?

Image: Web capture.
Visit:Federally-funded program pays cyclists for pedaling to work, Birmingham News
Visit:Alabama: Lonely bike-commuting parent, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit:Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site
For the record, this Northerner absolutely fell in love with Savannah on my first visit in November.
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