Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd said there is still a lot of work to do to make residents of Decatur, and all of Georgia, feel safe riding a bicycle.
“One of the things that hit me hard this year was that just a month ago a resident’s son got hit by a truck while he was at the University of Georgia,” Floyd said. “People don’t realize the impact it could have on somebody’s life if they’re not paying attention.”
On March 27 Floyd, along with several thousand others, participated in Georgia Rides to the Capitol. The event was hosted by the statewide advocacy organization Georgia Bikes and the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association. Residents from across metro Atlanta rode to the Capitol to show their support for cycling.
This year, cyclists were hoping to raise support for the development of a regional-scale bicycle network of both on-road facilities and multi-use trails, as well as cycling connections focused around major transit facilities.
Brent Buice, executive director of Georgia Bikes, said his organization was looking for people to support a “complete streets” policy.
“In a nutshell what it says is that public roads are for moving people, not just combustible machines such as cars and trucks,” Buice said. “Really what we’re talking about is dedicated funding at both the national and state level.”
Buice said Georgia Bikes recently conducted a survey and found many Georgia residents choose not to bike because they don’t feel safe on the road. Floyd said he supports the complete streets policy because it is important to make people aware that transportation is more than just motorized vehicles.
“It’s practical when you do an addition to any type of road project you could take the complete streets policy into consideration. We’re just trying to make people consider all forms of transportation when they’re doing design work,” Floyd said.
Decatur Commissioner Fred Boykin said the event started years ago when Roswell Mayor Jere Wood gathered cyclists and rode to the Capitol to promote better roads for cyclists. Boykin, who owns Bicycle South in Decatur, said since its inception the ride has steadily grown each year.
“It’s one of the largest bicycle advocacy events in the state and actually one of the largest in the country. To have 2,000 riders going to the state Capitol and having your senior elected officials come out and speak is pretty powerful,” Boykin said.
Boykin said the event helped to put a face on the cycling community and allowed residents and elected officials to see the importance of bicycle safety and living a healthy lifestyle.
Last year Gov. Nathan Deal spoke at the event and two months later signed into law the Better Bicycle Bill, which modernized several outdated bicycling laws and implemented a number of significant improvements for bicyclist and motorist safety.
“It’s amazing to look out on the steps of the Capitol at the sea of all of the different types of people coming together,” Boykin said. “It’s just people out there supporting a healthy, alternative way to not having to take a car everywhere.”
This year, nearly 30 elected officials from the metro area participated in the ride, including Floyd, Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson, Doraville City Council member Brian Bates and Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson.
Boykin said the ride was a great opportunity for residents to meet elected officials who are usually surrounded by security or extremely busy.
“Folks are riding with the lieutenant governor and just chit-chatting with him because they’re only going six or eight miles an hour. We have mayors from all over the metro area and it’s a great opportunity to just sit and talk to folks,” Boykin said.
This year, officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation and officials from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety spoke at the event. Boykin cautioned it was important to remember that “transportation is not just moving cars, it’s about moving people.”
“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,” Boykin said.