White residents provide bike rest stop
by Jason Lowrey
Aug 05, 2012 | 5371 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Greg Hanchar sets his GPS device while Al Pannell prepares his bike for a 65-mile Saturday morning ride in Bartow County.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Greg Hanchar sets his GPS device while Al Pannell prepares his bike for a 65-mile Saturday morning ride in Bartow County. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
slideshow
Christopher Sosebee, left, and Gary Fox look at a map at the Sosebee Cycling Park that outline the area’s bike routes.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Christopher Sosebee, left, and Gary Fox look at a map at the Sosebee Cycling Park that outline the area’s bike routes. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
slideshow
Sara McCort and Craig Clark grab a drink before taking off Saturday morning from Sosebee Cycling Park near White.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Sara McCort and Craig Clark grab a drink before taking off Saturday morning from Sosebee Cycling Park near White. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
slideshow
Christopher Sosebee, his wife Chandra and their sons have created something unique on their corner lot at 465 Simpson Road -- a rest area for bicyclists. A wooden pole and hanging sign with a bicycle carved into it marks the corner, while a covered bulletin board, changing room, restroom and sitting area are available for cyclists. They started building it a year ago and have been adding on to it every since.

Area cycling groups, such as the Red Top Cycling Club, and individuals are welcome to use the Sosebee Cycling Park. Cyclists can park their cars there, change and spend time with other cyclists. Some of the visitors drive all the way from the south side of Atlanta to use the rest stop, as it is located in a prime cycling area.

"It's a pretty area," said Red Top Cycling Club President Gary Fox. "You can get on a road and go for a long time and never see a car -- and that's a good thing. We don't purposely go where cars are, trust me."

Cyclists prefer remote country roads as they usually have little traffic. They enjoy the silence that comes with riding bicycles, where the only sound comes from the rubber tires rolling across the asphalt.

"We come up here because we love the country roads," said Gina Diodati, one of the individual cyclists using the rest area. "We love the peacefulness. The community has been amazingly supportive of cyclists, which you don't often find. We ride on the other side of Atlanta and you don't really seem to get the consideration that we get here."

That consideration became somewhat strained after July 17 when The Daily Tribune News published a Bartow County Sheriff's Office incident report. The report stated a group of cyclists had been trespassing on the Glade Baptist Church's property, using the church's restroom and insulting some church members.

Cyclists riding in Bartow County were shocked about that behavior.

"We were very upset about the conflict with the church. ... We were stunned that some of the riders would have been so aggressive and as pushy as was presented in the article. That's not our attitude at all," Diodati said.

She continued, saying private property like Sosebee's was the answer to any problems communities could have with cyclists.

"I feel that, if we're going to do anything, [it's] create our own piece of property and our own stops and not further impose ourselves on the community," she said. "Particularly these church communities. I mean, that's like the mainstay of this type of environment, this type of area. I mean, we grew up in small churches."

Sosebee started the rest area to solve such problems.

"We understand the frustration of motorists and we're doing something about it," he said.

Before he built his rest area, the only other available space was the Budweiser plant parking lot. While a number of riders and groups still use that parking lot, it is not comfortable because it has no restroom facilities, changing rooms or even shaded areas where cyclists can rest after a ride.

His funding comes from donations, which can go toward covering maintenance and improvements to the area, but are often used to buy water and ice for the riders. A donation box sits next to the entrance and riders can donate as much as they wish. The bulletin board provides route information for riders, as well as announcements from the different groups. Signs posted near the entrance remind riders about road laws.

"Here's what I want to do as far as the future," Sosebee said. "I want to see like a matrix of these things. We're even looking at a piece of land over here and what that's going to do, I don't know if I we can swing it or not -- and I'm sure maybe someone would want to help with that, I don't know -- but what that's going to do is put us on even more rural roads. Because you've got to have a place to stop."

As far as Sosebee knows, no one else in Georgia, and possibly the nation, has such a private rest area. He views it as a necessity because he, and other cyclists, do not want to interfere with motorists.

Building the rest area has also pushed Sosebee into being a sort of intermediary between the cycling community and the rest of the area. He has contacted Glade Baptist Church and asked if they would allow him to place a portable restroom on their property. He also would build a privacy fence around it and maintain the restroom.

The church is seriously considering the offer, he said. In the future he might make similar offers to other churches if it became necessary.

Sosebee would ultimately like to see the cycling park turn into a larger nonprofit organization that would maintain cycling areas and promote the sport. Sosebee and his family already work to further good etiquette among cyclists by encouraging large groups to have a rider at the back who uses a mirror to look for cars. When a vehicle approaches, the rider gives a signal and the rest of the group falls into a single-file line.

If one thing has surprised him about the rest area, it is how well his neighbors and community welcomed it. Sosebee was afraid they would not want additional visitors, or cyclists, coming to the area.

"But I've not [heard] one negative. I've had neighbors up the road here come by, stop the car, and tell me 'thank you.' They like what they see," he said.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Sosebee Cycling Park may do so online at donate@sosebeecylingpark.com.