Being a bicyclist in Jackson is not always easy. Rude cars tailgate bicyclists; they honk, they weave and sometimes insult or threaten even the most kindly of two-wheelers. While Ridgeland and Madison are actively installing bike-friendly infrastructure, Jackson seems content with offering bikers nothing but exhaust fumes. It will probably take hundreds of bikers overflowing sidewalks and crowding roads before the capital city will take notice. So put down that chicken leg and buy a bike. Forget gas prices while the breeze runs through your hair and calories run off your skin.
Most of us who have graced the seat of a bicycle are aware of at least two rides through the metro area. There is Old Canton in Fondren with its generous bike lanes and rolling hills. The route begins with The Cedars Gallery and proceeds through some of the wealthier neighborhoods in North Jackson. The architecture is sometimes lavish and always graceful with landscaped acres in between. Heading south from Meadowbrook, turn left into Woodland Hills and enjoy the beautiful homes and yards. Make a pass by the old Jitney castle and the stunning Frank Lloyd Wright house.
For another adventurous neighborhood ride, head north up State Street (or cut through the hospital until they give up some bike lanes), and turn east into sunny Belhaven. Wind through the streets and get lost in the diverse architecture. Get some speed and carve generous curves up and down the steep hills. Smile like everyone else: the joggers, laughing children and moon-eyed students who fill these streets on any given sunny day.
But for those truly adventurous urban riders who want the realism, the grit and gristle of a town, head downtown via Mill Street, the easiest bike route between downtown and Fondren. The lanes are wide and safe, and nothing amazes like a train yard in full operation—graffiti and rust, industry, tons of earth and steel molded and moving. Look for the art here, even if cars are the gallery walls.
Race trains south, and upon entering downtown, note the shotgun shacks that line the street. These crumbling efficiencies skirt downtown, bearing witness to how far we still have to go in lifting our neighbors out of poverty. Still, many of the houses here are beautiful, with neighbors chatting in yards filled with clothes hanging out to dry.
Downtown, you can whip yourself into a frenzy on a bike if you have a little courage. There are parks, sculptures, cemeteries and stairs. For the truly daring, head downtown at rush hour and put your bones on the line shooting Pearl or Amite. Woo-hoo!
Note the potential of Commerce Street, the vacant buildings begging to be filled with food and drink, art and happy people, before cutting left on Silas Brown. Cross the Pearl River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Maybe stop on the bridge for a drink of water. Let the bleak terrain get to you: the backwaters of enterprise, the mud and the rot, a choking river. Envision something nicer, a city park perhaps, or a whole greenway along the flood plane, so you could ride bike trails running through cypress from Eastover to Downtown (yes, the river is that close). Grab a tamale across the bridge and end your journey with these possibilities in mind.
Go for a ride and be amazed at our city's diversity. Drink a bunch of water, bring some granola bars and work up a sweat. You'll come to know more about how and where you live, and you might fall in love with Jackson all over again.
I enjoyed this piece. It actually has addressed something that I have been really thinking about lately. Buying a bike.
I use to love to ride on the extensive nature trails in my hometown.
But I must admit I am somewhat intimidated by even attempting to do the same in the city of Jackson because "rude cars" as you stated, but more importantly a fear of being hit by a car. There are not many side walks and I just would feel uncomfortable riding along with the traffic.
But this piece makes me wanna say forget the dumb stuff and go out and just buy one and start riding again because nature combined with excercise is a beautiul and wonderful feeling.