Free Wheeling: Biking in Midtown

My love affair with the bicycle began on a cold December 25th in 1960 with Santa’s delivery.

With the help of training wheels I quickly mastered the ride, and by third grade was cycling daily to Bellingrath Elementary. I eventually grew into a “big girl” bike and began to venture into adjacent neighborhoods with other free-wheeling friends and groups such as Girl Scouts. By the time I reached high school, you would have thought I would have grown out of it, but I had transferred my affections to a pre-loved authentic English racing bike that I found in a trash pile discarded by moving military family. That bicycle took me on many adventures exploring neighborhoods around town (which may contribute to my interest in architecture and preservation) including back and forth to a part-time job. In college, I invested in flashy lime green mixte-framed French touring bike that I rode for the next 30 years. I even used the subject of bicycling in college class projects: consumer reports on best bikes to purchase for economics class, bicycling laws for political science class, photographs of bicycles for design class — yes, I was obsessed!

City codes from the mid 1970s specify that bike riders must obey the instructions of official traffic control signals. No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district. No person 14 or more years of age shall ride upon any sidewalk in any district. (I guess that means younger folks can ride on the sidewalk at least in the neighborhoods?) No person shall park a bicycle upon a street other than against the curb, in a rack, or against a building, as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrians. And this is my favorite — No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least 100 feet, except that it cannot be a siren or a whistle. I purchased an obnoxious bell and Wizard-of-Oz-like willow basket for my bike that took advantage of the wheeling revival.

So now in my middle years I find myself continuing to be enamored with this amazing machine and how it has evolved. There are still some of us hardcore cyclers out there and I see us pedaling through Midtown in the afternoons or on weekends. There is a very active Montgomery Bicycle Club that “promotes recreational and competitive cycling in the central Alabama area … and supports bicycle safety and awareness advocacy programs.” The club has some great rural routes to ride on the upcoming autumn days, but I’m more of a non-competitive urban pedaler. I have frustrated more than one companion cycler by just cruising looking at the trees and houses rather than pushing for distance and speed.

The nice fellows at Cloverdale Service Center are fabulous tire-filler-uppers and there are several places around town that purport to sell and repair bikes. Some of our MATS buses sport bike racks on the front for folks who have further to go than the bus routes take them. When I ride, I always must find places to secure my bike because of the lack of available bike racks, although I did see two racks at the Morgan Library downtown. Many of the newest long range plans for neighborhood revitalization and development and the Smart Code are addressing the need for bike lanes to encourage less auto dependency.

So, now that the weather is once again conducive to a pleasant evening ride, I encourage Midtowners to dust off that Schwinn, lube up the tandem and take advantage of the place we call home.

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Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!


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