Biking in Birmingham: perilous yet rewarding
Posted on Mar 12, 2013 in Features
Ever since I was a freshman here at UAB, I’ve notice the multitudes of students who zip around the campus on bicycles. I’ve always wanted a bike for those medium distance trips that are a bit too far to walk, but make you feel like a lazy bum when you drive. I’ve noticed one problem though—Birmingham doesn’t exactly feel like that much of a bicycle friendly city.
Even with these considerations, I decided to buy a bike anyway. I headed over to the Birmingham Craigslist site and replied to a few of the ads. There were plenty of great bikes to choose from and many were quite affordable in the 100-200 dollar range. I settled on a Diamondback Momentum bike. Although the bike is ten to fifteen years old, it is still a great machine.
It did not take me long to realize that biking in Birmingham is not particularly easy. First on the list of factors complicating intercity touring are the motorists on the road. They don’t really have much respect for bikers. In the short time I’ve been on the roads, I’ve already been honked at and yelled at to get off of the road, but I can’t if I want to ride with any sort of speed. Zipping around on a sidewalk is a recipe for disaster considering the number of buckles in the sidewalks, the parking meters and lampposts to dodge. Also, motorists don’t seem to be looking out for people on bikes. They always seem to see you at the last minute.
The state of the roads in this city don’t make it any easier for bikers either. Since I have a roadbike, I have to be particularly careful when I ride around town.
If I am on the sidewalk, there are plenty of hazards to dodge, but the road seems to be just as bad. Because roadbikes can gain considerable speed on the roads, it becomes an imperative to dodge potholes and large cracks in the road or you risk bending the frame or the spokes of your tires, but it’s impossible to dodge all of these. As a result, theses jolts will eventually will result in me getting a flat tire somewhere in the city. For now I’m trying to stay near blount, because I’m not particularly fond of carrying my bike for more than 5 miles away.
Finally, this is a hilly city, although this means you can get some pretty ridiculous speed in the city, it also means that you better be prepared for hard pumping to climb some of the more grueling ones, however, the majority of the hills that I’ve come across have always had a very satisfying downhill section after the crest.
Even though there are some complications to riding in town, It is definitely worth considering getting a bicycle for use in and around the campus. Just be sure you are prepared for some of the potential hazards of riding a bike in a town that definitely isn’t designed with the bicycle rider in mind.