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