Categories
Uncategorized

Riding in Alabama – Tour of Birmingham with BikeSkirt

A couple of notes….First Off, CONGRATS to Pat and Ellen who won the COED division of the 1st 8 Hours of Independence this weekend. A big Lexington, Kentucky YEEHAW to Y’all! Secondly, this post is a bit out of order and a couple days late, but the road has been busier than I expected, so I’m going to do my best to catch up this week….we’ll see how it goes.

Last week I had the privelege of meeting the ladies that produce the Bikeskirt blog that has really taken off quickly. When I knew we were going through Alabama on our way to Nashville, I dropped them a note for hints on places to stay and eat when we were in the area. We were SO impressed by the amount of great options they sent over — it really helped make our time in Birmingham particularly great.

Since we were about 8 miles up a three lane highway, I drove down to the Bici Coop to meet Elisa and Anna. The Bici Coop, in their own words, “has a goal to create easy and equal access to cycling by providing affordable bicycle maintenance, services, and education, as well as a forum for sharing bicycle knowledge, activism and community.” As the gals explained to me, there’s not a great public transportation system in their neck of the woods, nor are there very many safe routes for people who’d like to ride, and so the Coop exists, at least in part, to do something about that. “Everything makes a difference,” I heard more than once on our ride.

Anna and Elisa, my Birmingham tour guides for the morning.
Anna and Elisa, my Birmingham tour guides for the morning.

The Coop is in a cool older building, and has just enough room to crank away on bikes, hold meetings, help people, and (I would guess) party it up from time to time. After a quick looksee around the shop, I unloaded the Bike Friday, get it all set up and we headed off to see a little bit of Birmingham, from the perspective of those on two wheels.

Not long after taking off, we ended up at the well-known Five Points area, where five major roads come together, and the district houses a bunch of entertainment and eating options. This central point had apparently just recently been repainted red.

Rolling up to the Five Points intersection.
Rolling up to the Five Points intersection.

We cruised through a couple of other parts of downtown as well, including a medical district (UAB)  which employs a large chunk of the area, and the business district. Like any major city, Birmingham has its fair amount of crime as well, and we rode through an area that had lost several businesses due to a teenage shooting that had occurred there.

A view of the streets of downtown Birmingham from our ride.
A view of the streets of downtown Birmingham from our ride.

Along the ride, I asked for more details about the Coop’s mission, and learned quite a bit about the area. There are TWO, count ’em, TWO bike lanes in town, and one is only a couple blocks long. One is right along street parking, and Elisa pointed out that it’s a door knock waiting to happen. The ladies really want to see a change for the better in “The Magic City,” and have done a lot in a short amount of time, having only started two months ago. They explained their need to increase their patience, but they are ready to change their town today! Anna explained how the schools qualified for grant money to create safer bike routes for children by simply filling out paper work. “But no one will fill out the papers, it’s frustrating.”

Some new reduced income housing, (some subsidized, some not) on our ride.
Some new reduced income housing, (some subsidized, some not) on our ride.
I was told this was the only food store on the side of town we were on, and "it's not very good."
I was told this was the only food store on the side of town we were on, and "it's not very good."

After our ride, we stopped at Urban Standard for some great coffee and snacks. I was so impressed to hear the mission and heart of both Elisa and Anna and what they envisioned for the Coop, and for Birmingham in general. Our hotel bordered one of the nicest neighborhoods we had seen on our whole trip, and we ate a couple of trendy little spots for dinner and lunch the next day. Yet Birmingham really benefits from having folks who are willing to volunteer to keep making it a better place for anyone who wants to ride a bike. In fact, when I asked what they Coop needed the most, they didn’t mention money, or supplies, or anything for themselves…they simply said, “We need people. Volunteers. Knowledge.”

Elisa and Anna from Bikeskirt, and Bici Coop in Birmingham, Alabama, outside of Urban Standard coffee.
Elisa and Anna from Bikeskirt, and Bici Coop in Birmingham, Alabama, outside of Urban Standard coffee.

We have a plaque on a wall in our home that says ‘grow when you are planted,’ and while friends and other cyclists have moved out of the area for better riding, the girls seem determined to stay and make a change right where they are. Thanks for the great tour and for being part of our Epic Journey!