Even bicycling is bigger in Texas

Back from a week in Fort Worth, Texas for back-to-back bike advocacy events, I’m still trying to process all the content, ideas, and fantastic memories with new friends. 

During the week, I attended the Texas Trails and Active Transportation Conference, a highly professional series of workshops, seminars, keynote speakers, and even a bicycle fashion show! I presented on our successes here in GA training law enforcement officers and transportation officials on ways to improve bicyclist safety and convenience.

Among the many valuable workshops I attended was one entitled “Innovative Approaches to Enforcement of Safe Passing Laws” by the Austin Police Department. The three-phase enforcement effort in Austin included rear window decals on all police cruisers that emphasized the city’s safe passing law as well as sting operations. In these undercover operations, plainclothes officers rode bikes on roadways with high bicycle crash rates. Using GoPro cameras and concealed microphones, officers would document unsafe passes and radio to patrol cars to pull over and cite offending motorists.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said his department’s initiative was about raising awareness and enforcement. “The time for excuses is over, and the time for not knowing what the law is, is over,” he added.

Over 6 months, the Austin PD’s enforcement campaign led to 39 citations, 78 warnings, and 4 arrests. This is an easily replicable program here in GA. For more information and guidance, contact the Austin-based Please Be Kind to Cyclists organization.

Another jaw-dropping session was on bike tourism, an exploding travel market across the globe. A few quick facts:

* Wisconsin sees $533 million in annual revenue from out-of-state bike tourists

* Minnesota brings in $427 million/year from bike tourism

* In Texas, the State Sporting Goods Sales Tax, which funds its state parks department, gets most of its revenue from bicycles and bike gear sales.  Even in Texas, bike sales are bigger than hunting and gun sales.

* Bicycle tourists spend ~ $75-150/day which is more than what motor-vehicle driving tourists spend

Think Georgia might need to get on the bike tourism band wagon? If you’re still not convinced, check out this Travel Oregon ad, then just try and tell me that doesn’t look like fun. 🙂

Most enjoyable, however, was participating in the inaugural Southern States Caucus Regional Retreat. Executive Directors 

from the statewide bicycle advocacy groups in AlabamaFloridaMississippiSouth Carolina, and Texas met with me and advocacy experts from the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking for a full-day retreat to discuss our shared issues and challenges. Over the course of the day, we talked about messaging strategies for southern audiences, common political roadblocks, how to work effectively with local advocates, and much, much more. It would take pages to share everything we discussed, but suffice to say there is a great deal of energy, talent, and passion out there working to create a bike friendly south, and I’m proud Georgia Bikes – and all the local groups in Georgia, are part of it.

After all that talking about better bicycling, we did actually get out on two wheel to explore Fort Worth, a beautiful and surprisingly bike friendly city. Fort Worth had ample bike parking, a new bike share system, and an impressive network of roads that featured sharrows, bike lanes, and buffered bike lanes. My favorite riding was along the Trinity Trails System path beside the Clear Fork Trinity River. 

Many thanks to our friends at BikeTexas for being such gracious and generous hosts. I look forward to visiting Fort Worth again some day, and I can’t wait to adapt all the great ideas I heard last week to help improve bicycling in Georgia.

~ Brent

Roadway fatality numbers down in GA…except for people on bikes

GDOT/GOHS Press release:

Georgia 2013 Highway Fatalities Down For 8th Consecutive Year

The number of fatalities on Georgia highways fell again in 2013, the eighth straight year traffic crash deaths in the state have declined.  The Georgia Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) announced today that there were 1,186 persons killed as a result of crashes on state roads last year.  That total is 13 less than in 2012 and 562 fewer than 2005’s record of 1,748.

“The reduction in fatalities over eight years means that more than 500 additional persons will get to celebrate the life events that are special to us all,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood noted.  “Each number represents a family that has been spared from the horror of learning that a loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle crash. We must continue to work toward reducing injuries and death on Georgia roads.”

Georgia DOT Commissioner Keith Golden noted an array of efforts by Blackwood’s agency and his own department’s Traffic Operations Office are constantly being refined and employed to improve highway safety and reduce fatalities, injuries and crashes.  “We are gratified by the continuing progress of these efforts,” Golden commented. 

Continuing areas of concern are bicyclists, which increased from 19 to 26 deaths and pedestrians – up 11 for the year to 178.  Georgia DOT’s “Complete Streets” policy was put in place last year and is aimed in part to help reduce these incidents.  “Complete Streets is a long-term, broad initiative to design and build our transportation infrastructure in a way that best serves all of its users, be they drivers, bicyclists or pedestrians,” Department Chief Engineer Russell McMurry noted.  “Growing segments of the population using our system, especially in metropolitan areas, are cyclists and walkers.  The system must accommodate and protect them.”

Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety is a data-driven effort focusing on identifying and creating opportunities for changing American culture as it relates to highway safety. The effort focuses on developing strong leadership and champions in the federal, state and local organizations that can directly impact highway safety through engineering, enforcement, education, emergency medical service (EMS), policy, public health, communications, and other efforts.

The mission of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is to educate the public on traffic safety and facilitate the implementation of programs that reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities on Georgia roadways.  See more at: http://www.gahighwaysafety.org/about/mission/#sthash.hbTu7g4l.dpuf

The Georgia Department of Transportation is committed to providing a safe, seamless and sustainable transportation system that supports Georgia’s economy and is sensitive to both its citizens and its environment.  For more information on Georgia DOT, please visit www.dot.ga.gov or subscribe to our Press Release RSS feed.  You also may follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/GeorgiaDOT) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/gadeptoftrans).

9th Ride to the Capitol shows widespread support for bike friendly GA

The 9th annual Ride to the Capitol event drew hundreds of supporters of better bicycling conditions to the state capitol. Speakers included Governor Nathan Deal, Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Deputy Director Lauren Pugh, and GDOT Deputy Commissioner Todd Long. 

 The impressive crowd chanted “Don’t delay – safe streets today!”  before major media outlets heard state leaders and local officials pledge their support for safe, complete streets that will encourage more bicycling for recreation and transportation. Pictures from the event are available here and via the Facebook link below. Many thanks to everyone who participated and to our volunteers and sponsors!