U Create Macon student-athletes win national awards

U Create Macon student-athletes win national awards

When the National Interscholastic Cycling Association announced its annual awards on March 15, the U Create Macon team had reason to be proud. Actually, two reasons!

Richone Jackson won the Specialized Student-Athlete Leadership Award and Jaddarious Taylor received the GU Energy Extraordinary Courage Award. The awardees are members of the U Create Macon Bike Team and the Middle Georgia Composite Team, and are the only Georgians to bring home NICA awards.

“Richone and Jaddarrious were in disbelief that they won national awards. And when I told them there was a pool of over 25,000 students nationally, one of them got emotional,” said Charise Stephens, executive director of U Create Macon.

She jokingly said she can’t reveal which one, or else they may not speak to her again.

The NICA Awards are presented across eleven categories to individuals who have been nominated by their peers as the most outstanding student-athletes, dedicated coaches, and most supportive volunteers and sponsors that have contributed to the youth cycling movement during the past year.

Stephens said her students’ achievements have had an effect on their peers. 


“The announcement of the awards really inspired our kids,” she said. “Some of the U Create Macon kids in our program have never gotten an award and to see their teammates getting a national award inspired them.”


And it wasn’t just the students who have been heartened by their success.  


“To be quite honest, this award inspired the adults. We have come a long way from a club with borrowed bikes, to a team receiving national awards. I would have never thought it a million years that four people — Coach Lisa, Coach Janet, Ms. Gigi, and myself — could change our community like this,” she said. “These last two years have been magical.”


As news spread of the awards, interest in Stephens’ programs increased almost immediately.


“Since the announcement of the awards, we have gotten seven calls from parents wanting their kids to participate in our program. This momentum will be helpful as we are growing into We Bike GA chapters throughout Georgia,” she said. “Our goal is to continue to have more smiles by the mile and give every kid — no matter their financial situation — outdoor adventures.”


NICA President Steve Matous said, “The 2020 NICA Award recipients exemplify our mission of building strong minds, bodies, character and communities through interscholastic cycling. Even during a year when activities were restricted due to the pandemic, our student-athletes, coaches, volunteers and community found new and innovative ways to embrace our values and continue to bring NICA’s mission to our community. Through their involvement and contributions to their leagues, teams and the broader NICA community, each recipient has made a unique and profound impact.”


Similarly, Stephens said the U Create Macon students did not let the pandemic lessen their determination or dampen their creativity.


“Our goal with U Create Macon is for youths to ‘create’ their own future and this national NICA award shows that anything is possible,” she said. Our kids are dreaming bigger each day because of their love for cycling. It’s opening up a new world to them and our community will benefit from this for generations to come. Even with a global pandemic, our bike teams never stopped and our kids have flourished during these uncertain times.”


U Create’s success is truly the result of a team effort involving more than 20 volunteer coaches along with a dedicated group of SAG/general volunteers who support the mountain biking and road cycling programs year round.    


“Our volunteers have donated over 10,000 hours to the success of this program and their love shows in the accomplishments of our kids,” Stephens said. “It shows in their smiles.” 


While Stephens is proud of the recent awards, she said they are just getting started.


“So far our organization can say that we have NICA national winners, Positive Athlete regional winners, and our own awards ‘Middle Georgia Loves Bikes’ award for our students. We are looking forward to bringing more awards to Georgia,” she said.


Rumble strips ruining your ride? Use our new form to report them!

Form now available for reporting problematic rumble strips

Georgia Bikes is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to identify state-maintained roads which can be improved to make them safer and more comfortable for people who ride bikes by correcting problematic rumble strips. Solutions could include the addition of rideable shoulders.

We have created a form which problematic rumble strips can be reported. Working with GDOT we will attempt to have the problems addressed during resurfacing and other road construction and maintenance projects. 

The reporting form page also includes resources from the the Adventure Cycling Association covering best practices and design guidelines that support bicyclist safety when installing rumble strips. We will be working with ACA and other partners — in addition to GDOT — on improving design standards and implementation outreach.

Organizing a cycling event? Here’s how to make it more successful and support Georgia Bikes at the same time!

Organizing a cycling event? Here's how to make it more successful and support Georgia Bikes at the same time!

Are you organizing a ride, race, or other event? Wouldn’t it be great for your event to have safer roads and drivers? Georgia Bikes is your voice for better bicycling in Georgia. Our mission is to improve bicycling conditions throughout the state.

Whether you’re planning a virtual or a physically distanced in-person event, you can support Georgia Bikes by donating a portion of registration fees to support our advocacy efforts. When you offer a Georgia Bikes supporting event, you’ll enjoy:

  • “Featured Event” status on our statewide calendar
  • Publicity for event on our website, social media channels, and email newsletter
  • Safety equipment — including road signs, volunteer vests, and two-way radios — to use at your event
  • Access to “Georgia Bikes Supporting Event” graphics to use on your promotional materials
  • Assistance with outreach to bike shops, cycling clubs, advocacy organizations, and other resources to spread the word about your event.

It’s a win-win: Your event will be more successful and will support our efforts to make streets safer and friendlier for people who ride bikes in Georgia.

Let’s send a big (virtual) delegation to the National Bike Summit

22nd Annual gathering of bicycle advocates will be held online Feb. 28-March 3

Members of the Georgia delegation at the 2018 National Bike Summit

The 2021 National Bike Summit will be held online again this year, making attendance more accessible and affordable for bicycle advocates in Georgia. League of American Bicyclists members qualify for a reduced registration rate. A Summit Youth Scholarship is available for attendees age 21 and under.

Programming for this year’s Summit will start around 1 p.m., each day permitting people from across the country tune in to take part in the movement, highlighted in this year’s theme of Bikes: Our Vehicle For Change. 

Program highlights so announced so far include:

  • A keynote presentation by thought leader and researcher Charles Brown, MPA, CPD, highlighting “the social, political, economic, and health impacts of racial disparities in transportation and examine the ways in which our approaches to transportation research, planning, policy, and design can and must be reimagined to achieve greater mobility, health, and quality of life for all road users.” Brown delivered the keynote at the 2018 Georgia Bike Summit.
  • A session on “Making Cars That Don’t Kill” featuring a discussion with author Angie Schmitt, David Zipperand Dara Baldwin with the Center for Disability Rights about the increasing size and deadliness of cars and trucks on our roads, plus ways advocates can push to make the safety of people outside of cars a priority in vehicle design.
  • A panel getting into the details about “Communicating Active Transportation Benefits to State DOTs” with insights from Toks Omishakin with CalTrans and Julie Harris with Bike Walk Nebraska. 

The summit also includes a virtual Lobby Day during which advocates will communicate with members of Congress, regional online social events, the first U.S. screening of We Cycle Together, and many more sessions on four tracks: Education, Engagement, Engineering, and Encouragement. The next secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation has also been invited to attend.

Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Awards Grant to Georgia Bikes

Macon, Ga. — Georgia Bikes is pleased to announce it has received a $69,655.63 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS).

The GOHS grant will fund the organization’s outreach and educational programs, which are produced in partnership with local organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies to reduce bicyclist injuries and fatalities.

“The loss of one life on our roads is one too many, and the fact almost all fatal traffic crashes can be prevented is one reason why we are awarding this grant,” Allen Poole, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said. “The target of zero traffic deaths in our nation is achievable, and we will continue to help develop and implement educational messages, enforcement campaigns, and other safety initiatives aimed at bringing us one step closer to our goal.”

“Georgia Bikes is once again happy to be partnering with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in 2020-2021,” said Georgia Bikes Executive Director Elliott Caldwell. “With so many people getting back on bikes this year from essential workers to retirees and everyone in-between, we’ve got a ton of work to do! We are thankful for the support of GOHS and look forward to a busy and productive grant year.”

The grant year for this award is Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021. In the early part of the pandemic, Georgia Bikes Safety Education Programs Manager John Bennett expanded the resources available on the organization’s website, including materials that can be used by parents and other caregivers to teach bike safety at home. Online safety quizzes for child and adult cyclists, drivers, and operators of buses and other large vehicles will be launched early in 2021. Bennett is continuing to support bicycle advocates, schools, universities, municipalities, and other organizations by providing bicycle safety materials and assisting in organizing safety events.

Georgia Bikes’ mission is to improve bicycling conditions and promote bicycling throughout the state of Georgia. Based in Macon, the nonprofit has offices in Athens and Savannah. Georgia Bikes organizes the annual Georgia Bike Summit, which has been held in cities around the state since 2009. The 2020 summit was held on line and attracted more than 150 participants.

For more information on this grant program, contact GOHS at 404-656-6996 and for more information on GOHS and its other highway safety programs, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org.

Advocacy organizations around Georgia working to make the season brighter for children through holiday bike programs

Making the best of a difficult situation

As the pandemic bike boom continues, bicycles remain a hot commodity and that applies to children’s bikes as well. That hasn’t stopped bicycle advocacy organizations from continuing annual programs aimed a making sure children in their communities are able to experience the joy of receiving a bicycle. It’s definitely been more difficult this year, though, according to BikeAthens Executive Director Scott Long.

“Each year the BikeAthens Holiday Bikes for Kids (HB4K) program donates refurbished kid bikes to our service partner organizations. The major recipients in years past have been Project Safe, Children First and the Athens Land Trust,” he said. “This year, due to COVID-19, we will be doing a smaller batch since we still don’t have our regular volunteer sessions in our shop. In addition to the lack of volunteers, the supply chain for bike parts is still straining due to massive demand for bikes during the pandemic. It’s been hard to get basic stuff like tubes and chains.”

Bikes refurbished by BikeAthens volunteers await distribution to their new owners.

Still, Long said he and his volunteers are, “giving it our best shot.” He said they’ve also modified the way they work to keep their volunteers safe.

“Our normal sessions after Thanksgiving would usually have nearly a dozen of our regular volunteers cranking out bikes for us to donate. This year that has been replaced with volunteers picking up bikes to work on at home and bringing back the ones that are ready to go,” he said. “Each bike that we donate will also come with a brand new helmet and a pocket guide on how to ride safe.”

Caila Brown, executive director of Bike Walk Savannah, said the organization’s Holiday Bike Drive is continuing this year, but has a new sense of urgency and new challenges.

“This is the seventh year we will be working with Blessings in a Book Bag, an organization that provides food, uniforms, supplies and mentoring to kids in our Title I schools. Our volunteer driven program collects bikes from around the community, fixes them up, and works with BiBB to identify kids of all ages who have put in hard work — especially during a tumultuous year of virtual learning — and may not receive many presents otherwise.”

Completed bikes outside Bike Walk Savannah’s New Standard Cycles workshop.

Brown said economic pressures faced by struggling families are even worse this year, and she hopes that will motivate people to dust off bikes that have been outgrown so they can be enjoyed by children who wouldn’t be likely to receive a bike of their own.

“We all remember the first bike that was all ours, and the feeling of freedom and power that came with it. But for some kids in our community, they won’t see a bike shaped wrapper under the tree — and may not see any presents this year. Many families in our community have already faced employment, housing and food crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are going to feel the impacts tenfold this holiday season.”

Brown’s organization has also taken steps to protect the health of her volunteers, by reducing the number who are participating in the program this year. They also move their workstations into the parking lot and limit their time inside the building.

“These volunteers work outside, increasing the amount of space available to distance,” she said.

In Middle Georgia, Charise Stephens of U Create Macon said her organization is holding an end of the year bike drive to supply bikes, “not only for the bike teams (Middle Georgia Composite, Major Taylor Middle Georgia, Trips for Kids Middle GA, and We Bike GA) but to give out to underprivileged youths, including some of the kids on the team so they can have their own bike.” 

One recipient of a U Create Macon bicycle went on to be one of the fastest members of the mountain bike team.

Stephens said U Create is receiving bikes through a contactless, curbside drop-off system designed to keep volunteers and donors safe. She has a list of children she’s trying to find bikes for before Christmas and has been pleased with the generosity of donors, who she follows up with to report on how the bikes are changing children’s lives. And she’s detected another factor at work.

“A lot of people are at home and have more time on their hands because of the pandemic, so they are looking around and see these bikes collecting dust in their garages.” she said. “They want to do something positive with them.”

Donating to U Create is a perfect match in these cases, Stephens said.

“That is what we are trying to achieve here in Middle Georgia,” she said. “To get more kids on bikes!”

Elsewhere Around the State

Bike Alpharetta is in the midst of its 14th Annual Bikes for Kids. At its Annual Domestique Day on Dec. 5, volunteers will be busy, “cleaning and repairing 250+ previously-loved bicycles, tricycles and scooters” to get them “Santa Ready” for North Fulton Community Charities. Last year Bike Alpharetta distributed 274 bikes and trikes, while recycling more than 1,632 pounds of steel and rubber.

Atlanta’s Free Bikes 4 Kidz is also seeking volunteers to help on Dec. 5 to prepare bikes for its giveaway event. Experienced mechanics are especially needed. Last year 600 Atlanta children received free bicycle and helmets.

Bike Walk Golden Isles seeks input through priorities survey

Over the last year Georgia Bikes been working with residents in Glynn and other coastal counties to launch a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization for the region. The pandemic has slowed progress, but Bike Walk Golden Isles is continuing to discuss how to move forward. If you live in Glynn, Camden, Liberty of McIntosh County, please consider completing this short survey to help the organization identify priorities and gauge interest. 

Bike Walk Golden Isles will also join Georgia Bikes at the Justice for Ahmaud Community Bike Ride in Brunswick on Oct. 31.


2020 Georgia Bike Summit recordings and presentations now available

If you missed a session at this year’s virtual Georgia Bike Summit or simply want to review a session, selected recordings and presentations are now available on the Georgia Bike Summit website. We also invite you to provide feedback on this year’s summit to help us plan for our 2021 event. 

Don’t forget, the virtual summit season continues with the Georgia Walk Summit, Oct. 22-23, and the Georgia Trail Summit, Nov. 9-10.

New League Cycling Instructors are ready to roll

LCI Seminar Participants in Athens
LCI Seminar Participants in Savannah

Georgia Bikes hosted a League Cycling Instructor Seminar Sept. 11-13 with all candidates successfully completing the rigorous training required by the League of America Bicyclists.

League Cycling Instructors are, “ambassadors for better biking through education. After earning certification through a three-day, League Coach-led seminar, LCIs teach Smart Cycling classes to children as well as adults. Their goal is to help people feel more secure about getting on a bike, to create a mindset that bikes are treated as vehicles, and to ensure that people on bikes know how to ride safely and legally.”

The newly certified LCIs are:

  • Jason Perry (Athens)
  • Joshua Crawford (Columbus)
  • Caila Brown (Savannah)
  • Irene Ivie (Athens)
  • Liz Solomon (Athens)
  • Scott Long (Athens)
  • Patti Sistrunk (St. Simons Island)
  • Carmen Kuan (Raleigh-Durham, N.C.)

The seminar was originally scheduled to be held in Macon, but the pandemic required modification of the program’s format. Instruction was delivered by LCI Coach Jenni Laurita through videoconferencing, with candidates meeting at BikeAthens and Bike Walk Savannah for on-bike course modules facilitated by League Cycling Instructors Steven Cousins, John Bennett, and Christopher Mojock. All participants at the Athens and Savannah sites followed strict COVID protocols, including mask wearing at all times. This is only the second LCI Seminar to use the online/in-person hybrid model developed to offer LCI training during the pandemic. 

For more information on Georgia Bikes’ safety education programs, contact John Bennett. 

Tour de Georgia 2020: Exploring multi-use paths in the Peach State

By Maria Borowik

My spring and summer plans disappeared without saying goodbye. The big trip across the pond for my best friend’s wedding, the backyard birthday parties, the large social bicycle rides, every single one was cancelled. But despair not, Georgia is full of beautiful places to go on outdoor adventures. If you want to explore local, I promise you, the Peach State will not disappoint.

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, I drummed up my very own Tour de Georgia. This was not meant to be a revival of the acclaimed professional cycling stage race or an ambitious bicycle ride across Georgia. The premise was to ride my bicycle on as many multi-use paved paths I could find through-out the state in three days. Let me tell you, we have many more than just the Silver Comet Trail or the path to Stone Mountain and one could fill many weekends exploring them. Every single one of these paths can be easily accessed and enjoyed by bicyclists, runners, walkers, wheelchair users and four legged friends of all ages.

Tour de Georgia Day 1:

1. The Carrolton GreenBelt: One of the newest paths in the state, the 18-mile loop connects neighborhoods, shops and the University of West Georgia. It currently boasts the title of “the largest paved loop trail system in Georgia.”

2. Chattahoochee Riverwalk: 15 miles filled with historic landmarks, the largest urban whitewater and kayak course in the world and although I didn’t see any alligators there are signs alerting you to their presence.

3. Fort Benning Recreation Trails: located at the southern end of the Chattahoochee Riverwalk you will see signs and a connector path to Fort Benning. I highly recommend you visit and ride through the 102-year United States Army post. Don’t miss the thee jump towers and nose art on Eubanks Field.

4. Columbus Fall Trace Line: this 11-mile rail-trail is not just a phenomenal fitness and recreational path but also has the potential to become a transit corridor connecting northern residential areas with downtown Columbus and the Metra bus system.

Tour de Georgia Day 2:

5. Ocmulgee Heritage Trail: sections of the 11-mile path in Macon are currently closed due to flooding and construction work including bike path access to the Ocmulgee Mounds Historical Park and National Monument. The open sections still allow for a selfie in front of the famous Luther Williams Field baseball stadium and home of the Macon Bacon.

6. Clayton Connects: the 6 miles connecting the International Park to Lake Spivey Golf Club are just a taste of what is to come. Clayton Connects’ progressive master plan may one day make Jonesboro and surrounding cities the envy of the state with 112 miles of multi-use paths connecting Clayton county to the airport and the Atlanta BeltLine.

7. Michelle Obama Trail: originally the South River Trail in southern Decatur and now the first trail in the country named after the former First Lady. Lined with hundreds of wild blackberry patches, this 3.8- mile path rides by the Barack Obama’s magnet school and ends at the Atlanta Radio Club Field.

Tour de Georgia Day 3:

8. – 11. Suwanee Creek Greenway + Brushy Creek Greenway + Ivy Creek Greenway + George Pierce Park Trails: ride one of them or ride them all together for a longer 20-mile bike ride. Under the care of the award-winning Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation department, these paths feature wildlife viewing, boardwalks, swampy lakes and even disc golf. The detour to Town Park Center in downtown city of Suwannee is a must for a quick bite, live music and sidewalk art.

12. Big Creek Greenway: Spanning 19.7 miles connecting Roswell, Alpharetta and Cumming. This family friendly path may look flat like a pancake but beware of the infamous Sawtooth Pass on the northern end of the path in Forsyth County for a heart thumping rollercoaster.

My impromptu “Tour de Georgia” added up to 172 miles over 3 days. I shared the paths with many tiny tot bike riders and kids who are growing up with access to formerly unused infrastructure that has now been reshaped for public good. I’m excited about the trails that are in the works in so many counties across Georgia, some being built today and others in planning stages. They are going to make some epic follow up editions of my Tour de Georgia.

Maria Borowik is an Argentinean/Canadian who has made Georgia her home for the last decade. She loves the outdoors, traveling and recently completed a traverse of the entire US east coast using human powered mobility. When she isn’t working at Hagen Rosskopf/Bike Law GA she is out riding her bicycle or training for ultramarathons.