Much akin to the greatest hit from Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust,” I’ve added another passenger to the ranks of the formerly sparse public transportation partakers. I am now waiting for the bus with another person!And another one on / And another one on / Another one rides the bus…
Puns aside, this bus ride is going to be different: I have a bicycle.
Pedals scraping the new bus paint, chain getting grease on the seats, bike knocking over a complete stranger, bus driver saying “No.” As these horrible images of dragging the bike into the bus begin to mentally conjure, I remember the racks on the fronts of the buses. Problem averted. I think.
Right on time, the bus pulls up to Clement Hall. Irma Meade, the driver, watches intently as I decipher the bike racks directions. I survey the mechanism and quickly come to this conclusion: if you can count to three, you can use the bike rack.
It’s simple. Pull a lever to release the rack from its storage position, put bike in the desired track, pull hook up and over front wheel. Done.
According to the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency website, “assistance is available to first time users where it is safe for the driver to exit the bus,” just in case complications arise while loading bikes.
As I load my bike, the other passenger, a foreign exchange student, boards the bus.
“I don’t have any need for a car, especially not now,” the student said earlier while waiting.
I board the bus with the same curiosity as I did on my first ride.
Greeting Irma Meade again, I ask, “Have you had a bike yet?”
“Yes, I’ve had a bike on before,” Meade said, “but you’re the first passenger with one. Before [CATS] opened, [UCHRA] had us train with a bike on front to get used to it.”
After showing Meade my Eagle Card, I find a seat near the front. I note the same familiar smell coming from the blue vinyl seats. This time, one more is occupied.
“I like it so far,” the student said. “It’s nice.”
Looking around the vast interior, I see a few crumbs of dirt on the floor, a thin coat of dust on the steps, and two footprints. It’s nice to see the bus has had some passengers.
“The bus that services the campus route gets most of the traffic. This one, not so much,” Meade said. “I imagine it’s kinda tough to get the word out.”
Other exchanges (the weather, my major, current news, etc) make time pass relatively quickly. I pull the thin yellow cord to signal that I want to get off at the Jackson Plaza Shopping Center.
Taking the bike off of the rack is as simple as putting it on the rack. Making sure the rack is in its locked and upright position, I bid farewell to Irma and the CATS bus.
After riding over to TJ Maxx to pick up some swimming goggles, I head back home.
Cruising down the sidewalk alongside Willow Avenue, I see one of the buses turn onto campus. Hopefully Cookeville’s new installment picks up momentum because bike riding in the winter has the potential to makes one’s face hurt.
For bus routes, schedules and more information, visit www.uchra.com/cats.
The official kick-off for CATS is March 19. Congressman Lincoln Davis will speak at Leslie Towne Center at noon to mark the occasion. The event is open to the public.