Sixth Annual Georgia Rides to the Capitol

Below is the official press release for the event:

Metro Atlanta City Officials to Ride Again for Improved Bicycle Conditions

ATLANTA—On March 22, 2011 the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association (MAMA) will co-sponsor the Sixth Annual “Georgia Rides to the Capitol” event to raise support for the development of a regional-scale bicycle network of both on-road facilities and multi-use-trails, and cycling connections focused around major transit facilities, activity centers and schools.

Metro-area mayors and council members are encouraged to participate in the bike ride, which will have routes departing from the cities of Decatur and Roswell. There will also be a three-block ceremonial ride from Hurt Park in the city of Atlanta to the Capitol. Last year, more than 30 metro-area mayors and council members participated in the bike ride.

“The ride to the Capitol is my favorite bicycle ride of the year,” said Roswell Mayor Jere Wood, who will lead the bicycle ride from Roswell. “It’s not only fun, it’s a great way to demonstrate to the state that there is strong support for bicycling in Georgia.”

“Transportation is not just moving cars, it’s about moving people,” said Decatur City Commissioner Fred Boykin, owner of Bicycle South and one of the event organizers. “The majority of vehicle trips are less than two miles which is an easy distance to bicycle. If we can keep improving our local infrastructure to make it safe and appealing to cycle instead of drive, then we can help reduce congestion, improve our air quality and encourage a healthy way to travel.”

During the current legislative session, the bike ride’s top sponsor Georgia Bikes! is again pushing for passage of a “Three Foot Safe Passing” bill, similar to last year’s HB 988, according to the organization’s new Executive Director Brent Buice.

“A “Three Foot Safe Passing” law would improve the safety of Georgia’s roadways by educating motorists on the minimum safe distance for passing bicyclists,” Buice said. “When promoted, publicized and enforced, this law will greatly lessen the risk of cyclists being hit by passing cars in Georgia. We will be joining fifteen other states, including Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which have already adopted a similar law.”

More than 1,000 bike enthusiasts are expected to join the ride that will culminate in a press conference on the Capitol steps with metro mayors and council members, state legislators and other state officials highlighting the importance of funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and other alternative forms of transportation.

“The Georgia Rides to the Capitol event will once again clearly demonstrate to Georgia’s legislators that improved safety on public roadways demands passage of this bill. More broadly, this event underscores the need for a comprehensive effort to improve bicycling conditions throughout the state,” Buice said. “Better biking facilities, plus the safer environment fostered by a “Three Foot Safe Passing” law, will lead to higher rates of bicycling. More people bicycling, more often, is good for Georgia’s economy, its health, and its quality of life!”

The bike ride is free and open to the public. Bicyclists are estimated to arrive at the Capitol at 11:40 a.m. The estimated departure times for originating cities are: Decatur at 10:45 a.m. and Roswell at 9:45 a.m.

Seed Grants

Are you a new bicycling advocacy organization in Georgia? Could you use $1,500?

Georgia Bikes is pleased to announce the availability of ten $1,500 “seed grants,” which will assist new and emerging nonprofit bicycling advocacy organizations in Georgia. To be eligible, applicants must meet the following criteria:

1) Organization must be based in Georgia.

2) Organization must be a newly formed bicycle advocacy organization or advisory committee (formed in 2008 or later).

3) Organization must actively promote bicycle safety and road sharing in Georgia.

Submission deadline for the first round of grant awards was December 31st, 2010, 5:00 PM EST.

A Georgia Bikes Grant Review Committee will determine grant recipients. Award announcements for the first round of grants will be made by January 15, 2011. A second round of applications will be opened in the spring of 2011. If you have any questions, please email us.

Funding for these grants is being provided by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, using money raised from the “Share the Road” specialty car tag. Support better cycling in Georgia and buy yours when you renew your tag!

Response to Georgia Ports Authority Comments

In a recent story from concerning the debate over deepening Savannah’s harbor, some unfortunate and misguided comments were made by Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Defending the controversial, $550 million project, Foltz says, “This is not infrastructure for a water park or a bicycle path.” He adds, “This is infrastructure that is absolutely necessary for the nation.”

While we sympathize with the issues GPA faces (bicycling facilities are an integral component of the transportation infrastructure yet struggle with persistent public misunderstanding on their perceived value and importance), Foltz’s implication is clear: bicycle facilities are frivolous.

We couldn’t disagree more, and a wide variety of data supports the need for increased investment in bicycling infrastructure, especially in Georgia.

Grouping bicycle facilities with “water parks” is particularly wrong-headed, since water parks serve no transportation function (except perhaps to create summer-time traffic issues at the gate). A network of interconnected paved and un-paved trails, bicycle lanes, and “bicycle paths,” on the other hand, can have a profound impact on two problematic issues in Georgia: the economy and public health.

Economically, investment in bicycle infrastructure is forward-thinking and business savvy. Bicycling facilities are a proven economic development tool. As economic data from Oregon, Colorado, and North Carolina clearly demonstrates, expanded bicycle facilities yield high returns in terms of job creation, tourism, and real estate values. Many businesses want to locate in areas with a high quality of life, and all communities with a consistently high rank in quality of life have extensive bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. Bicycle tourism is also growing, as Roswell, GA, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and other communities across the country are learning. Building “bike paths” builds economic opportunity and long-term prosperity for Georgia.

From a public health perspective, Georgians are in dire need of active transportation options. 27% of Georgians are considered obese. The ultimate cost of obesity and its attendant chronic health problems is borne by Georgia’s taxpayers. Comprehensively planned and implemented bicycling & pedestrian infrastructure improvements cost a fraction of highway (and harbor) projects but result in long-term reductions in health care costs. Trails and greenways also serve as affordable family recreation opportunities, providing access to all ages and skill levels. Active transportation choices lead to healthier individuals and stronger families.

Georgia currently ranks 35th in the nation for its bicycle “friendliness,” according to the League of American Bicyclists. This ranking incorporates infrastructure investment levels, and Georgia has fallen four spots since 2009. Comments like Foltz’s reinforce this sad state of affairs, where our citizens are locked into a single transportation option, deprived of opportunities for physical activity, and often forced to build sprawling communities that lack a sense of community and will continue to lose property value.

We call on Mr. Foltz to clarify his comments and assert the importance and necessity of bicycling infrastructure in a robust, healthy, economically sustainable transportation system.