Georgia Bike Summit energizes and inspires

Our 4th annual statewide Summit was a resounding success! 

Over 130 people gathered for the 2013 Georgia Bike Summit in Roswell, where they networked, shared, and learned the many ways that bicycling is part of a healthy “new economy” for the state.

The first day featured our first ever “Bicycle Topics Roundtable,” a half-day workshop where planners, engineers, and municipal staff were updated on GDOT’s Complete Streets policy, funding for bike projects, and best practices for urban bike facility design. Following the presentations, representatives from the state’s regional commissions and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) shared their programs and efforts to promote and

 improve bicycling in communities of all sizes throughout Georgia.

The facilitated roundtable discussion was great- it exposed me to other bicycle and pedestrian planning efforts throughout the state. I got some great ideas and resources that I can take back to Southern Georgia to enhance our  efforts.” – Corey Hull, AICP, Transportation Planner/MPO Coordinator, Valdosta-Lowndes MPO

Participants started off Saturday with inspiring speeches from Roswell’s bike friendly mayor Jere Wood, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety‘s Director Harris Blackwood, and Nikki Javurek, Government Relations Director for People for Bikes (formerly known as Bikes Belong). Over the course of the day, breakout sessions and mobile workshops addressed topics such as:

  • The economic impact of bicycle events and paved trails
  • The power of community bike recycling programs to help people get back on their feet with reliable transportation
  • How to run successful bike tours, and much, much more

After lunch, the audience was treated to an energizing keynote presentation by Jim Sayer, Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association based in Montana. Sayer explained how bike tourism and overnight bicycling trips are exploding in popularity and what communities and states can do to promote themselves as desirable bicycling destinations. We were especially pleased to see a top official from the Georgia Department of Economic Development taking many notes during this presentation!

A major highlight of the Summit was a session sharing the results of a recently completed economic impact analysis of the Silver Comet Trail. With over 2 million visitors per year, the Silver Comet generates $57 million in annual direct spending, increases home values, and has helped revitalize once-struggling communities like Cedartown and Rockmart. Even with conservative figures, the return on investment for flagship bicycle and pedestrian trails like the Silver Comet and Atlanta BeltLine is indisputable and points to the need for more funding and political support for building and expanding these types of destination facilities. 

Julie Smith, a speaker, attendee, local advocate and newly elected Georgia Bikes Board member from Rome, said she “was so impressed by the cross section of people from Georgia impassioned by all things bike,” adding that “the ability to learn from others’ successes and …failures have bolstered me to become even more active in the advocacy of cycling.”

Following a long day of presentations and networking, our friends at Bike Roswell and New Belgium Brewing Company hosted a relaxed social event to let people unwind and reflect on their Summit experience. 

Mikki Griffin, a longtime advocate and bike shop owner from Carrollton, summed up many people’s impression of the weekend: 

“The 2013 Georgia Bike Summit was filled with a tangible energy, one that showed a unified front with a strong mission to work harder towards improving cycling across the state.  I left recharged and ready to continue building bicycling in my neighborhood.  The one “Can’t Miss” cycling event of the year.”

Sunday morning, Bike Roswell and RAMBO volunteers brought the weekend to an enjoyable conclusion with several bike rides in and around Roswell, Georgia’s first designated “Bicycle Friendly Community.”

Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Awards Grant for Bicycle Safety Programs

Thanks in part to Georgia’s “Share the Road” specialty license plates, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is once again supporting statewide bicycle safety initiatives in Georgia. GOHS is awarding over $100,000 to Georgia Bikes to implement bicycle safety programs and awareness campaigns in 2013. This grant represents a fourth year of funding to Georgia Bikes and its local partners. 

Programs enabled by the Share the Road Tag Grant include:

  • Support for statewide bicycle safety outreach and educational activities managed by Georgia Bikes, as well as for related activities in Savannah, to be implemented by Savannah Bicycle Campaign
  • Law enforcement training on bicyclist rights and responsibilities as operators of vehicles
  • Printing and distribution of Bicyclist Pocket Guides, which cover state laws relevant to bicycling as well as tips for safe cycling behaviors
  • Coordination of the 4th annual Georgia Bike Summit
  • Training and support for local bike safety advocacy organizations throughout Georgia

Brent Buice, Executive Director for Georgia Bikes, says, “Many Georgians ride a bicycle, for transportation and for recreation, and many more would like to ride, but they are concerned about inattentive drivers, a lack of safe facilities, and they are unsure of their legal rights and safe cycling practices. By funding education and outreach activities through this grant, GOHS is showing a strong commitment to reduce bicyclist injuries and fatalities in Georgia.”

Support from last year’s Share the Road grant allowed Georgia Bikes to:

·        Host a successful statewide Bike Summit in Augusta

·        Distribute $15,000 to new and emerging local bicycle advocacy organizations in the state

·        Award matching funds to four Georgia communities for the installation of “Share the Road” signs and sharrow lane markings

·        Create and broadcast a professionally produced TV PSA about bike safety

Jekyll Island, Savannah join ranks of Georgia’s Bike Friendly Communities!

Congratulations to Jekyll Island and Savannah, Georgia’s newest Bicycle Friendly Communities!

Today, the League of American Bicyclists announced the newest awardees of their coveted Bicycle Friendly Community designation, and both Jekyll Island and Savannah are among the 30+ new BFCs in the nation! Congraulations to the Jekyll Island Authority, the City of Savannah, and our friends at Savannah Bicycle Campaign for implementing the infrastructure and programs needed to obtain this competitive honor.

Savannah and Jekyll Island join Athens-Clarke County, Decatur, Roswell, and Tybee Island as Georgia’s officially designated Bicycle Friendly Communities.

Roswell, the site of our upcoming Georgia Bike Summit and the state’s first recognized BFC, successfully renewed its Bronze level designation with the League as well. We hope to see you there this weekend!

League Press Release: 

Suburbs Join the Rise of Bicycle Friendly Communities

Suburban communities outpace urban centers in latest round of national awards

Washington, D.C. — October 15, 2013 — The national boom in biking has officially found a pedal-hold in a previously unlikely place: the suburbs. 

The League of American Bicyclists today announced its latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) — and suburban towns, like Menlo Park, Calif.; Elmhurst, Ill.,; and Ferguson, Mo. are showing large urban centers aren’t the only areas making biking better for millions of Americans.
 In the largest application since the program’s inception in 2004, the League welcomes 32 new BFCs, growing the overall number to 291 BFCs in 48 states. The BFC program provides cities and towns with a roadmap and know-how to make effective investments and take meaningful steps to increase bicycling in their communities.
 “One of the great challenges in envisioning a truly bicycle-friendly America is the need to transform suburban communities,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “Well, that transformation is evidently underway and is being lead by communities like Menlo Park, Calif.; Elmhurst, Ill.; Reston, Va.; and Richfield, Minn.” See the full list of Bicycle Friendly Communitieshere. Menlo Park, Calif., moved up to Silver status in this round by making significant improvements through its partnership with Facebook, a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business. Since its last application to the BFC program, Menlo Park has added miles of bike lanes and boosted its share of bike commuters to 8 percent — more than doubling its bike commuters in the last 10 years.  “We’ve worked hard over the past few years to raise our BFC status through policy, infrastructure and education efforts to encourage more active transportation in Menlo Park and improve our community health, environment, and quality of life,” said Peter Ohtaki, Mayor of Menlo Park. “Our recent partnership with Facebook, headquartered in Menlo Park, is improving bicycling infrastructure and connections to their new campus. We look forward to continuing to enhance bike connections and amenities across the City to encourage a healthy, vibrant community.”   Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, has led the way with its education and encouragement policies, including an Earn-a-Bike program that’s free to local youth.  “Ferguson’s residents and businesses, with the help of regional organizations, have been working to update our practices and policies to be more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly,” said Dwayne T. James, Ferguson City Council member.  “Receiving this Bronze Award shows that we’re on the right path to doing what is right and what is best for our residents and the region as a whole. I’m thankful for this honor as well as look forward to continuing our efforts to be an even better Bicycle Friendly Community.”   Outside Chicago, Elmhurst, Ill., has so many children who bike to school — between 10 and 20 percent — that they recently had to install hundreds of additional bike racks to local schools.  “We applaud Elmhurst,” said Ed Barsotti, Executive Director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists. “They could have been content with the major regional trail going through their suburb.  Instead, they took a holistic approach to becoming bike-friendly through education, encouragement, and expansion of the bike network.” Learn more about the program and view the full list of Bicycle Friendly Communities at    ***   About the Bicycle Friendly America Program: 
The Bicycle Friendly America program provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities, universities and businesses that actively support bicycling, and ranks states annually based on their level of bike-friendliness. Learn more.    About the League: The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America’s 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. Learn more.

Rome’s Advocates Receive $7k Grant

Rome’s trail advocate TRED receives grant moving projects closer to reality

Rome, GA – Rome’s Redmond Trail Project is one step closer to being enjoyed by walkers and cyclists. A grant valued at $7,000 was awarded to Trails for Recreation and Economic Development (TRED) last week by MillionMile Greenway (MMG), an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps grassroots organizations plan and build trails. The grant combines a cash award and in-kind services from MMG’s experts in marketing and community engagement. 

“This project has every essential element we look for in a partner,” says Jim Langford, president of MillionMile Greenway. He cited “community buy-in with the ability to match MMG funding, and a solid plan to connect neighborhoods and businesses with downtown Rome.” Langford also credits TRED’s long-range vision to connect Rome’s trails to the Silver Comet Trail (62 miles) and the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail (335 miles) as “a powerful benefit to Rome’s quality of life, now and in the future.”

According to Julie Smith, TRED’s president, phase one is a 1.5-mile paved trail running from The Heritage Trail at Avenue A to the Summerville Park neighborhood. Construction is slated to begin in 2015 – the result of a strong partnership with Rome City and Floyd County governments. “As Northwest Georgia’s only advocacy group dedicated to expanding trails, we’re keenly aware of the economic development and health amenities well-designed trails will bring to Rome,” Smith remarks. “Providing easy walking, running and biking access encourages healthy recreation choices and becomes an eco-friendly alternative to driving.”

TRED was formed in 2012 by local citizens and trail enthusiasts in response to preserving a $400,000 grant awarded by the State of Georgia that was in jeopardy of being forfeited by the County. TRED quickly raised $75,000 to keep the grant “alive.” TRED will also lend its financial and technical support for the 2008 Rome Floyd Trail Facilities Plan – an innovative long-range plan to develop a seamless trail network for transportation, fitness and recreation. Approval to add an additional 3.3 miles of new trails at a cost of $1.8 million will be included on the Rome Floyd SPLOST initiative as a result of a partnership between TRED and Rome City government.

MillionMile Greenway helps communities create or expand trail and greenway initiatives by providing micro-grants and technical and marketing assistance. Current projects include trail planning and implementation in northern Virginia; Ann Arbor, Michigan; North Georgia and Atlanta.

Victory! HB 689 Sponsors Agree to Drop Bill

At the conclusion of a packed public forum in Gainesville, the sponsors of HB 689 have agreed to drop the bill and pursue it no further in the state legislature!

Many thanks to the hundreds who showed up to support bicycling in Georgia and oppose this ill-conceived bill. Over more than two hours, dozens stood up to speak on the many reasons this legislation would harm the growing health and economic benefits of bicycling. A representative from GDOT also informed the crowd about the statewide Complete Streets policy we helped them develop in 2012, a policy which, over time, will address the underlying engineering issues that create unsafe conflicts between motorists and people on bikes. Brent Buice, our Executive Director, spoke near the end of the forum, offering to coordinate a regional task force to work through the issues raised by Gainesville area cyclists and motorists.

To learn more about how to create a bike friendly Georgia, please join us in two weeks for the 4th annual Georgia Bike Summit. To help us continue to serve as a watchdog at the Gold Dome looking out for your safety and rights to the road, please become a member and purchase a Share the Road tag for your other vehicle.

UPDATE on HB689 – Public Mtg Oct. 7 in Gainesville

PUBLIC MEETING: State Representative Carl Rogers, one of the sponsors of HB 689, has requested the use of the Hall County Commission meeting Room on Monday, October 7 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. for a hearing on the bill. 

This room is located in the Hall County Government Building located at 2875 Browns Bridge Rd. Gainesville,GA 30504.

The meeting will be open to the public to discuss complaints and concerns from both motorists and cyclists regarding road usage that he and other representatives are fielding on a regular basis.

Please Note: We believe there is essentially no chance this bill will become the law, and we have zero indication it will even come up for a vote in the House. That said, we will keep a close watch on the bill in case it does move forward. We’ll also share an official call-to-action if that happens. To support our lobbying efforts at the Gold Dome to stop this bill – and future anti-cycling legislation – please become a member!

Meanwhile, below is a quick summary of questions that point to why this bill goes against all common sense and would make Georgia the most anti-bicycling state in the nation:

Where does a tag and license requirement stop? Do children have to get a tag to ride their bike around the neighborhood or to school? What if you own multiple bicycles? Do we tag and tax mountain bikes? Do we also tax and require registration for pedestrians?

The reason we tax, register, and require licenses for motorists is because cars are inherently dangerous and create negative externalities and social impacts (congestion, sprawl, physical inactivity, air pollution, crashes, fatalities, road wear & tear, etc, etc). A bicycle does none of these things, and in fact is a common sense solution to many of these problems. Why would we create legislation that discourages and penalizes a healthy, fun, affordable, and sensible form of transportation and recreation?

What about the person that depends on a bicycle as transportation because of economic reasons? This would present an unfair burden on low-income Georgians who are already underserved by streets and roads designed only for automobiles in many areas.

What about the economic impact of this bill? Would the fees even cover the administration of the tags? Would out-of-state visitors to north GA’s mountains, the Golden Isles, the Silver Comet or the Atlanta BeltLine have to register and obtain a license? How would this impact bicycle tour companies across the state? How would this affect the hundreds of charity bicycle events across GA?

Lastly, since the bill’s sponsors mention “safety” as their motivation, exactly what safety need is being met through this legislation? It looks like the purpose of the bill is to allow motorists to drive as quickly as possible and prioritizes eliminating a moment’s delay or “inconvenience” over another person’s fundamental safety.

This legislation is bad. Unacceptably bad. It is poorly conceived and represents an unnecessary expansion of government that would penalize hundreds of thousands of law abiding citizens and visitors who are engaging in a simple, healthy activity. Laws already exist to regulate motorist and bicyclist behavior on the public roads. If anything, Georgia needs laws that increase protection and access for people on bikes.

This bill is a huge step backwards and represents a misguided effort to further marginalize lawful road users. What’s more, it wouldn’t even achieve its own implicit goals of increasing motorist convenience, as demonstrated by these images created by Wayne Whitesides. To safely pass even a lone person on a bike with at least three feet of clearance – as the law requires – you have to move into the oncoming travel lane. Restricting group size and requiring arbitrary gap lengths does nothing to make it easier to pass. In fact, it stretches cyclists out and increases the distance a motorist must travel in the oncoming lane! If it’s not safe to pass, don’t pass. Someone’s life is at stake.

The real issue here is that too many of our roads are designed only for cars, yet our roads are public rights-of-way that should be open and accessible to all users, including pedestrians and people on bikes. Let’s focus on that problem, a real problem, and not on how we can diminish Georgians’ rights and decrease the safety and quality of life of our communities.

2013 National Bike Challenge energizes GA cyclists

Congratulations to GA’s Bike Challengers for riding nearly 325K miles!

Yesterday, the 2013 National Bike Challenge came to an end. 539 Georgians participated in this free, online program that encouraged people to ride as often as possible from May to September, gaining points for both miles logged and the number of days where at least one mile was ridden. Challenge participants could log rides as either “sport,” “transportation,” or “mountain biking.”

Points accumulated on an individual, city, team, and statewide level, prompting some good-spirited, friendly competition and encouragement among cyclists across the state.

Below is snap shot of the impressive stats posted by Challenge riders in Georgia from May 1 – September 30th. Many thanks to the members of team Georgia Bikes for putting us in the top 5, and congrats to the Pecan City Pedalers for racking up some seriously impressive point totals.

We hope to see more Georgians logging rides in the 2014 Challenge!Georgia came in 26th place as a state with 539 participating riders.Our male rider with the most points: Wayne Hospedales (Leesburg, GA)Our female rider with the most points: Sharon Thompson (Albany)