Georgia Bike Summit energizes and inspires

Our 4th annual statewide Summit was a resounding success! 

Over 130 people gathered for the 2013 Georgia Bike Summit in Roswell, where they networked, shared, and learned the many ways that bicycling is part of a healthy “new economy” for the state.

The first day featured our first ever “Bicycle Topics Roundtable,” a half-day workshop where planners, engineers, and municipal staff were updated on GDOT’s Complete Streets policy, funding for bike projects, and best practices for urban bike facility design. Following the presentations, representatives from the state’s regional commissions and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) shared their programs and efforts to promote and

 improve bicycling in communities of all sizes throughout Georgia.

The facilitated roundtable discussion was great- it exposed me to other bicycle and pedestrian planning efforts throughout the state. I got some great ideas and resources that I can take back to Southern Georgia to enhance our  efforts.” – Corey Hull, AICP, Transportation Planner/MPO Coordinator, Valdosta-Lowndes MPO

Participants started off Saturday with inspiring speeches from Roswell’s bike friendly mayor Jere Wood, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety‘s Director Harris Blackwood, and Nikki Javurek, Government Relations Director for People for Bikes (formerly known as Bikes Belong). Over the course of the day, breakout sessions and mobile workshops addressed topics such as:

  • The economic impact of bicycle events and paved trails
  • The power of community bike recycling programs to help people get back on their feet with reliable transportation
  • How to run successful bike tours, and much, much more

After lunch, the audience was treated to an energizing keynote presentation by Jim Sayer, Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association based in Montana. Sayer explained how bike tourism and overnight bicycling trips are exploding in popularity and what communities and states can do to promote themselves as desirable bicycling destinations. We were especially pleased to see a top official from the Georgia Department of Economic Development taking many notes during this presentation!

A major highlight of the Summit was a session sharing the results of a recently completed economic impact analysis of the Silver Comet Trail. With over 2 million visitors per year, the Silver Comet generates $57 million in annual direct spending, increases home values, and has helped revitalize once-struggling communities like Cedartown and Rockmart. Even with conservative figures, the return on investment for flagship bicycle and pedestrian trails like the Silver Comet and Atlanta BeltLine is indisputable and points to the need for more funding and political support for building and expanding these types of destination facilities. 

Julie Smith, a speaker, attendee, local advocate and newly elected Georgia Bikes Board member from Rome, said she “was so impressed by the cross section of people from Georgia impassioned by all things bike,” adding that “the ability to learn from others’ successes and …failures have bolstered me to become even more active in the advocacy of cycling.”

Following a long day of presentations and networking, our friends at Bike Roswell and New Belgium Brewing Company hosted a relaxed social event to let people unwind and reflect on their Summit experience. 

Mikki Griffin, a longtime advocate and bike shop owner from Carrollton, summed up many people’s impression of the weekend: 

“The 2013 Georgia Bike Summit was filled with a tangible energy, one that showed a unified front with a strong mission to work harder towards improving cycling across the state.  I left recharged and ready to continue building bicycling in my neighborhood.  The one “Can’t Miss” cycling event of the year.”

Sunday morning, Bike Roswell and RAMBO volunteers brought the weekend to an enjoyable conclusion with several¬†bike rides¬†in and around Roswell, Georgia’s first designated “Bicycle Friendly Community.”