Jimmy Bowman, now in his 70s and fighting cancer, has ridden his bike to work at the Thrift Store on Green Street for years.
My neighbor, who's a mail carrier in downtown Atlanta, often rides his bike two miles over to the GRTA bus stop, sometimes in the dark. He takes GRTA downtown to work and returns in the evening to ride his bike home, sometimes in the dark.
Many low-income wage earners ride bikes in Rockdale. They are sometimes the immigrants who work at local restaurants or take care of our lawns. Often they ride on the wrong side of the road, on the sidewalk, with no helmet and no reflectors. That there would be laws for them to ride their bikes safely is foreign. In a community like Rockdale with no bus service, there is no alternative for those not traveling by car, except to walk or ride a bike.
I occasionally see young adults with backpacks riding their bikes and I make stories in my mind that they are riding to the bus stop, on their way to college or technical training. Sometimes I see folks on bikes and I make stories in my mind that they lost their driver's license and have no other choice.
I have three friends who each ride their bike to work nearly every day. All have a commute of more than 15 miles each way - two are firemen. I find that reassuring.
Sometimes I ride my bike to work. I love to ride my bike. I like to be fit. I love the money I save, and I love feeling good about helping the environment and taking one car off the road for that day.
For all the riders, the stories are compelling. These people are bread-winners, looking for work,or preparing themselves for the future. They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and beloved sons and daughters. They are our neighbors. Some are in the twilight years of life and still choose to ride. They are all contributors to the richness of our own lives.
This is not an appeal for bike lanes or bike racks. It's a humble appeal to drivers asking respect for the humanity of those on bicycles in our community. Most drivers are extremely respectful of cyclists, giving berth and consideration. A person on a bicycle is vulnerable, and their life is at the whim of the car driver in the most extreme sense.
Please open your eyes and your hearts to these friends and neighbors in our community.
Eddie Shirey is a bike enthusiast who lives in Conyers.