Howard Magazine - Page 10 - Columbia’s ‘bike guy’

Howard Magazine
- Page 10
Columbia’s ‘bike guy’
By Patti Restivo For Howard Magazine

How Broken Land Parkway’s most recognizable cyclist copes with mental illness

For almost two decades, Athar Khan — the “Columbia Bike Guy” — has been cycling Columbia streets every day in all kinds of weather, cleaning trash, clearing drains and helping wildlife.

Motorists honk in greeting, Khan flashes his mile-wide smile and a peace sign; police cars pass and he salutes.

“I use every millisecond of my day, approximately, for something positive,” Khan says. “I am like an institution in Columbia, somebody said.”

Diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe depression as a child, Khan has lived in Section 8 housing in Harpers Choice since 2000.

Khan’s mother, Shahida Khan of Ellicott City, says he has trouble with numbers, that he memorizes and then repeats conversations, and people describe him as a talking computer.

And, she says, her only son is sensitive and empathetic to everyone.

In his early Columbia days, Khan participated in clinical trials at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, was in vocational training at Humanim in Columbia, and took classes at Howard Community College.

But the medications he was prescribed came with severe side effects.

So in 2001, at age 29, Khan discovered his own path to improved mental health and his niche in Columbia when he tossed his medications and took up biking.

“The biking makes him so happy; it’s helped