Hello, my name is April and I'm a master's student in Transportation Engineering. I did my undergrad at Tech as well, so I've been in Atlanta for about 5 years now, but I'm originally from Santa Barbara, CA. Santa Barbara is generally very bike friendly, except in some of the downtown areas. I worked for the City of Goleta, a small city that was once a part of Santa Barbara, and they told me that they had to be careful to not make their bike lanes so wide that drivers thought they were a driving lane. I used to walk and bike to school until I got to high school which was an hour bike ride (I did it a few times). Most of my riding was recreational and some of my favorite memories are riding my bike to the beach with my Dad. As far as transit goes, there is a bus system, but I have never used it. Although bike friendly, there is very little traffic, so there is hardly any deterrent from driving. I didn't realize how much I disliked driving until I came to Atlanta. Since joining the cycling team last semester, I'm becoming more comfortable riding without the nice wide bike lanes I had in Santa Barbara, opening up many more destinations by bike within Atlanta for me.
I've been to quite a few other countries and cities, and as a transportation engineer I do always check out their transportation system. I studied abroad in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji my second year. Each was a very different experience. In Wellington, New Zealand, it was easy to walk everywhere within the city, but I was terribly disappointed by the difficulty of getting to any other city in New Zealand. In contrast, Sydney was giant but with so many buses, trains, and ferries, it was easy to just hop on one and go somewhere. I hardly even worried about catching the wrong bus because buses were so frequent, it was hardly a delay to get off at the next stop and catch the correct one, or it just turned into an adventure. In Brisbane the buses even had their own underground passageways! In Fiji, I was surprised by the complete lack of infrastructure. They had roads, but hardly anything else and coming from America, this was pretty startling. I've also been to Europe and enjoyed testing out their subway systems. I especially appreciated the walkability of cities like Paris and Florence where even though I might have walked a long distance, there was always something interesting around to pass the time. I also went to Amsterdam for a couple days, but was terribly disappointed that it was raining and no one was willing to ride a bike with me, so I missed the chance to bike in the Netherlands. I vowed to return to this place where people biked even in suits! I didn't expect it to be so soon. Overall, I'd say my travels have given me more of an appreciation for alternative modes of transportation and how they can bring about more public space and community interaction.
My goal for this course is to broaden my knowledge and learn about an aspect of transportation that I rarely deal with. My research has thus far been very focused on pavements and highways, but I hope to one day apply the skills I have learned there to other areas. I believe both the cultural exposure and the exposure to topics of sustainable transportation will allow me to widen my focus when thinking of future research projects.