South GA: Something for Every Cyclist

I just wrapped up a week-long tour of south GA, and I can sum up the trip in a few words: surprisedimpressed, and appreciative.

Starting in Columbus, I met with the extraordinarily bike friendly mayor, Teresa Tomlinson, and the local advocacy group, Bicycle Columbus. Mayor Tomlinson’s bold ambition? To see that Columbus becomes the state’s first silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community! Columbus has a great start toward this and a dedicated crew of local advocates. I’m certain they will reach their goal with a few key improvements to connectivity in their bike network. If you’ve never been, you must visit the Riverwalk! You have miles and miles (and miles) of beautiful multi-use path for both transportation and fitness riding alongside the Chattahoochee River. You should also check out their newest path, the Fall Line Trace, which connects downtown to Columbus State University and beyond. Columbus is poised to be the next cycling mecca in the southeast and is well worth the trip.

From Columbus, I traveled to Americus, a true gem of antebellum brick architecture and home to some stunning rural riding. Led on a tour by the Sumter Cyclists, we barely saw a half dozen cars on a long, leisurely ride in historic neighborhoods and on country lanes. Ample bike signage makes touring Sumter County a breeze for even a first time visitor.

Next stop: Albany, where the Pecan City Pedalers rolled out the red carpet, taking me on a pleasant tour of the city’s historic neighborhoods and beautifully maintained multi-use path along the Flint River. Our Signage Grants helped the city install wayfinding signs and sharrows which make for a welcoming, easy ride on low-traffic streets. With a renewed downtown and plenty of destinations within a few miles, Albany can quickly become a hub for both bicycle transportation and impressive rural sport cycling.

After a memorable lunch in picturesque Thomasville, I moved on to Valdosta to participate in a workshop about improving bicycling in south GA, with an emphasis on Valdosta. Despite a noticeable lack of bicycle infrastructure, I saw significant numbers of people riding for transportation in Valdosta. With an informed plan and modest investments, Valdosta, too, can become a major center for transportation cycling in south Georgia. Many thanks to Corey Hull at the Southern Georgia Regional Commission for his efforts to spur the city’s development of a safe bike network.

On to Tifton, where the Tift Area Greenway Association took me on an enjoyable tour of the city (and its BBQ) and then hosted a well-attended workshop where I presented the benefits of being a Bike Friendly Community. Multiple elected officials and the city manager attended, and everyone agreed that creating a safe bike network in Tifton is a worthwhile investment for the city and its residents.

After a long drive along state bike route 10 (which, unfortunately, featured no facilities and continuous rumble strips), I ended my trip with two nights at the home of our Board member TC Hutson on St. Simons Island. Together, we toured the islands growing network of bike paths and visited the local cycling club in Brunswick. We spent a day riding the impressive bike paths and low-traffic roads of Jekyll Island. In between all these rides, I met with local leaders from the islands to discuss funding opportunities for taking the already excellent bike facilities of coastal Georgia to the next level. As evidenced by the hundreds of cyclists we saw along the way, tourists and residents alike know that GA’s “Golden Isles” and¬∑riding a bike are inseparable.¬∑

My sincerest thanks to everyone I met along the way who made this trip such an enjoyable experience. Southern hospitality – and cycling – is at its finest in south GA! I look forward to seeing your progress on creating even better bicycling conditions.