Dec 2, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
Each October, Georgia Commute Options sponsors the Atlanta Bike Challenge, a chance for cyclists of all levels to hit the road on two wheels and encourage others to do the same. The challenge allows riders to form teams and compete against other workplaces for who can log the most miles and get new cyclists to join.
This year, a slew of Tech employees did just that. Overall, Georgia Tech placed first out of 67 organizations with 500+ staff, and first overall out of nearly 300 organizations that participated in the Challenge.
In total, Tech employees biked 22,300 miles, with more than 9,300 of them serving as part of a commute. The collective efforts prevented more than 7,400 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
“Encouraging others to ride cannot be limited to the Challenge, as increasing the number of people who ride not only reduces congestion on our campus roads and improves the quality of air we breathe, but also helps to make the roads safer for all of us,” said Becky James, instructor at the Campus Recreation Center who helped captain the challenge for Georgia Tech.
A group from the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) took home first place among teams from Georgia Tech. The members of team “GTRI’s Thighs” biked 5,166 of Georgia Tech’s total miles.
Jett Marks, a research scientist in GTRI’s CIPHER lab, was among the leaders on that team. When Marks joined GTRI in 2015, he was elated to find others who shared his love for biking — for fun, for a commute, or both. He had participated in the Atlanta Bike Challenge in the past and became a catalyst in getting others within GTRI to participate.
The Challenge “game-ifies” cycling by awarding points for daily riding, number of miles, and encouraging others to join. For Marks, encouraging others to take up cycling comes naturally.
“Outside of riding a bicycle, I’ve not found any other single act that brings so much positivity in so many ways,” he said. “Riding a bike obviously trains our physical muscles, and it also trains our smile muscles.”
Joshua Forester, who also works in the CIPHER lab, was the top rider overall for Georgia Tech, and a member of GTRI’s Thighs. Forester bikes for commuting and fun, and recently completed a bike race in Fiji. He blogged about the experience of this year’s Challenge and some of the activities that took place that month, including a trip from Georgia to Alabama along the Silver Comet Trail. Forester had a goal of being a top 10 rider during the challenge, and he biked nearly 900 miles in 10 days to meet that goal.
“I had to work through knee pain, some mild tennis elbow, a family emergency, rain and lightning storms, extreme fatigue from the exercise and sleeplessness, sickness, and vertebrae bruising from storing my headlight battery pack (which is itself padded) in my center jersey pocket and not realizing what was causing it until the final day,” he wrote. “Some much-needed rest was in order.”
Though the Challenge is over, Georgia Tech offers many resources for cyclists year-round. Some of those available from Parking and Transportation Services include a SmartPark permit (for occasional vehicular parking), helmet sales, and bike/scooter safety classes (in conjunction with the Georgia Tech Police Department and Bike GT). Georgia Commute Options offers ridematching, commuter rewards, and guaranteed ride home programs. Many buildings are equipped with showers, and the new Dalney Parking Deck has Tech’s first bike storage room outside of campus housing. See locations at map.gatech.edu, and learn more at bike.hwb.gatech.edu.