McKilip introduces bicycling bills

State Rep. Doug McKillip (R – Athens) has introduced two pieces of legislation this year concerning bicycles: a “better bicycling bill,” which will bring Georgia’s laws up to date on a range of cycling issues, and a “sidewalk cycling” bill. 

Georgia Bikes! is very appreciative of Rep McKillip’s interest in and advocacy for improved bicycle safety. Nevertheless, we must convey our reservations about the encouragement of bicycling on sidewalks. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to non-cyclists or casual riders, bicycling on the sidewalk is demonstrably less safe. For those under 12 and for the elderly, sidewalk cycling may be a safer option than on-road cycling in certain conditions, but overall, cyclists are much safer riding predictably on the road and with the flow of motor vehicle traffic.

Georgia Bikes! is also concerned that allowing communities to permit sidewalk bicycling will eliminate opportunities for creating truly safe, dedicated bicycle infrastructure. It’s easy to imagine communities adopting a “Well, they can just ride on the sidewalk” mentality when local advocates push for bicycle accommodations. At root, McKillip’s sidewalk cycling bill addresses a very real issue: in many areas, Georgia’s transportation infrastructure does not adequately or safely accommodate multiple modes of transportation, including walking and biking.

Rather than push for allowing bicycles on facilities designed for pedestrian travel, Georgia Bikes! hopes the legislature will instead adopt a more comprehensive view of transportation in the state, one which create safe and accessible facilities for a range of public road users.

More coverage from the Florida Times-Union.

Seed Grants Awarded!

Georgia Bikes! is very pleased to announce the five recipients of our first round of $1500 Seed Grants for new bicycle advocacy organizations!

We received a large number of qualified applications from around the state (great news in and of itself, as it shows the growth of bicycling in Georgia!). Many thanks to all of our applicants – please try again this spring for round II!

The following five organizations demonstrated the most exciting programs, enthusiasm and organizational capacity to move bicycling advocacy forward in their communities. Congratulations to our round I grant recipients, and special thanks to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for providing the funding for these grants through the Share the Road grant program!

Round I Seed Grant Recipients

Read more about each grant recipient below:

Wheel Movement

“Augusta is a growing cycling community. Since the 1990’s the community has hosted numerous major cycling events, [including] the 2010 IMBA World Summit, Tour de Georgia, BRAG, the ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta, and the upcoming USA Cycling National Road Championships.

Wheel Movement was created in 2009. The committee was developed at the recommendation of Augusta City Administrator Fred Russell, a huge cycling advocate. The idea was to create an advocacy group represented by the disparate cycling enthusiasts in the area. Representation included bicycle commuters, road cyclists, triathletes, and mountain bikers.

Wheel Movement looks forward to working with organizations around the state to promote safe cycling. We will use our $1,500 award to produce safe riding clinics, develop a safe road initiative/media campaign, host law enforcement education seminars, [and develop] kids [bicycle safety] classes.

Oconee County Cycling Organization

” OCCO strives to promote safe bicycling, assist in improving bicycling infrastructure, and facilitate the growth of all types of bicycling in Oconee County, Georgia.”

With these seed grant funds, OCCO will accomplish the following:

1) Assist in funding Share the Road signs.  Oconee County government officials are leaning towards the acceptance of Share the Road signs, if OCCO pays for them (assuming, of course, the county can accept funds from OCCO for this purpose)

2) The funds will assist in promoting our spring Family Cycling event where OCCO and local bike shops will assist parents in helmet fitting, simple bike repairs, and a skills clinic for their children.

3) The funds will assist OCCO in the inaugural Tour d’OConee, a metric century road cycling event showcasing Oconee County’s roads.”

Bike Cherokee

Bike Cherokee promotes increased ridership and safer cycling conditions through education and advocacy in Cherokee County, Georgia.

“This grant would enable the purchase of basic resources needed to expand our operations. Those resources include:

Tabling supplies, such as a banner,  t-shirts, and a folding table and chairs, as well as printed educational materials (including a cyclist rights and safety guide). Bike Cherokee will also be purchasing tune-up supplies for community events.

In addition, Bike Cherokee plans to initiate the following programs:

1) Spring cycling safety rodeo – we will partner with local law enforcement to deliver a safe cycling education program. And we will offer basic bicycle tune-ups and bicycle safety evaluations.

2) Recruitment/education campaign at many of the local town events that go on throughout the summer.

3) With increased recruitment and higher visibility in the community, we plan to lobby the elected county representatives to adopt a bike/ped plan.”

Bike Alpharetta

“As a new organization birthed in the winter of 2010, Bike Alpharetta is proud to be a community advocacy group comprised of volunteer leaders.  We are focused on providing positive advocacy for cyclists of all abilities and ages through education, recreation and social activities to support civic leaders and planners. We want all types of bicycle use to be fun and safe in our community of Alpharetta, Georgia.

Bike Alpharetta will utilize its Seed Grant for two immediate needs:

1) Web Site –  we have estimated it will cost $615 to set up a new Web site and have it operable for the first three years – secure domain name, web hosting and secure online membership payment system

2) Incorporation – we plan to file formal incorporation documents as a not-for-profit entity in Spring 2011.”

BikeDecatur

“BikeDecatur encourages cycling, advocates for improved conditions, and supports city efforts in support of bicycling in Decatur, GA. They see this grant as a three-part chance to meet several local needs:

1) Develop and print encouragement materials for city residents. Materials will include bumper stickers, water bottles, t-shirts, ankle bands, reflectors, and other promotional materials. Organization volunteers will develop a “BikeDecatur” logo and family-friendly message for items.

2) The organization will use a portion of the money) to post educational messages in the city’s monthly newsletter (“The Decatur Focus”). Messages will include a brief “safe cycling” tip aimed at transportation cyclists and families as well as a link to web resources and upcoming organizational events.

3) Finally, we would like to use the remainder of the grant to partner with the city government and local events to promote cycling and better cycling conditions. Several opportunities are in development:

– partnering with the city to develop and install a covered bicycle parking facility downtown;

– develop a mobile bicycle repair and education station to place at weekly farmers’ markets and regularly scheduled city events (Beer Festival, Beach Party, etc);

– work with city government and city business alliance to develop a bicycle parking promotional campaign for increasing bicycle parking in the city. “

Congratulations again to our deserving grant recipients- we look forward to seeing your accomplishments!

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 SavannahNow.com 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.