Georgia Transportation Summit 2016

I arrived at the Classic Center in Athens, GA by bicycle, likely the only person to travel to the 2016 Georgia Transportation Summit (GTS) on two wheels. GTS is a statewide transportation conference known more for emphasizing freight corridors, ports, and automobile traffic on fast moving state roads than pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. It is put on by one of our partners (Georgia DOT) as well as the Georgia Transportation Alliance (GTA), the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).  To be frank, bicycle issues were rarely mentioned, but it was a hopeful sign that transit, particularly in the Atlanta region, received attention and was viewed as an integral part of the transportation network in Georgia.

Early in the day, attendees heard optimistic remarks from Keith Parker, MARTA’s CEO and General Manager; he spelled out MARTA’s future growth and recent funding victories. Though he did not explicitly mention the need for bike connections to transit, as bicycle advocates, we know that any discussion of transit in a region the size of Atlanta helps dispel the myth that the only way to get somewhere is in a car. Connecting to transit by bicycle could be a gamechanger for neighborhoods and cities in metro Atlanta, especially transportation underserved areas with low percentages of car ownership.  MARTA rail expansion into Clayton County, with a number of cities like Forest Park with very high bicycle modeshare, is a prime example of this potential.

Interestingly, bicycle and pedestrian issues came up prominently during the main panel of the summit, just prior to lunch; the panel covered the post-election outlook for federal transportation policy. The panel was filled with transportation trade association policy experts based in Washington, DC. Ed Mortimer, the Director of Transportation at the US Chamber of Commerce, mentioned visiting the Beltline the day before the summit and essentially said this kind of project with walking and biking at the center is the future of transportation and development; he emphasized the need to tout economic development opportunities of bicycle and pedestrian projects with the new administration. We know that while these arguments are important, we cannot lose focus of equity issues in bicycle/pedestrian development, especially residential and cultural displacement. Another panelist followed up with how his teenage daughters in suburban DC are old enough to get drivers’ licenses but are simply not interested in cars – they want access to transit, biking and walking, ride-sharing, and connections to trains and airports to travel. Transportation choices and options are crucial to meeting the needs of people who have access to personal vehicles and those who do not.

Unfortunately, there was not a break out session that dealt with bicycles and only one that had any non-motorized component. In the middle of a workshop on pedestrian accommodations during bridge repair, the summit was interrupted by a tornado warning.  I took advantage of my proximity to home and my efficient choice of transportation and pedaled home through traffic, thankfully beating out the storm and the cars.

Three Georgia universities recognized as Bicycle Friendly

The League of American Bicyclists announced 51 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Universities, and Georgia had an exceptionally strong showing with three major institutions joining or moving up the ranks.

“In its fifth year, we’ve seen the Bicycle Friendly University program’s momentum continue to grow and reach even more campuses across the country,” said Bill Nesper, [League] Programs Director. “We applaud this round of BFUs for raising the standard and being innovative in making bicycling a safe, convenient and enjoyable option for students, staff and visitors alike.”

Congratulations to Georgia Tech, our state’s first Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University! 

Big high five to Emory University for moving from Bronze to Silver, and we’re glad to see our state’s flagship institution, the University of Georgia, recognized at the Bronze level. 

Goooo Jackets, Eagles and Dawgs!

Kudos also to Columbus State University for receiving an Honorable Mention. We look forward to your Bronze award in the near future!

New report highlights needed improvements in local policies

With continuing support from Voices for Healthy Kids, we are working with a number of Georgia cities to see adoption and implementation of best practices Complete Streets policies. An essential principle that guides a “best practice” policy is that the policy should focus on the needs, health and mobility outcomes for historically underserved communities. In too many neighborhoods, where many people already bike, walk and use transit, infrastructure investments are few and far between or have been planned and constructed without meaningful engagement with the affected community.

To help guide our work toward achieving more equitable policies, we enlisted the help of Naomi Doerner, an Equity Strategist, to review and assess several local policies in Georgia.


Regardless of the individual circumstances of a place, it’s widely acknowledged that accessible transportation is a – if not the – lifeline for sustained economic opportunity, prosperity and vitality for individuals and communities. Without healthy transportation options – people and communities are significantly and detrimentally weakened and often suffer poor outcomes across a variety of livability and quality-of-life indicators. Therefore, policies and funding mechanisms that support transportation planning and projects are of vital importance. Transportation ensures that people have equitable access to physical mobility – the ability of all people, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, ability and/or socioeconomic status, to safely pass through public spaces and travel to and from the places they need and want to go – and economic mobility – the ability for all people to access employment opportunities, affordable housing and accumulate wealth.

Several counties, cities and regions within Georgia have Complete Streets resolutions or policies on the books, however implementation has lagged, and much needed improvements for non-motorized road user safety have not been pursued to the fullest opportunity.

For the purposes of the analyzing and evaluating Complete Streets equity, research and analysis was conducted on the five priority cities identified where resolutions or policies had already been adopted and the greatest potential for equitable implementation exists. Those five cities are: Athens, Columbus, Gainesville, Milledgeville, and Savannah.

Key recommendations for all of the cities include:

1.     Form a Complete Streets Advisory Council

2.     Use an Equity Impact Assessment Tool

3.     Develop a Complete Streets Implementation Work Plan & Checklist

4.     Prioritize Complete Streets Investments in Traditionally Underserved Communities

Our thanks to Ms. Doerner, local partners, and everyone who helps advance safe, balanced transportation options in Georgia. Our hope is that this analysis will fuel productive conversations in these cities – and beyond – to foster needed safety and quality of life improvements in a fair and equitable manner.

For specific recommendations for these five Georgia cities, read the full report.