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What’s a Georgia-lina? Recap from a Bi-State Bike Summit
Earlier this week, I wrote about my trip down to Atlanta and my first night helping to organize and execute the Red, Bike and Green bike ride on Sweet Auburn Avenue. Well, after all the fanfare of Thursday night, Friday went by in a blaze. Saturday morning it was time to head off to the Georgia-lina Bike Summit in Augusta, Ga.
Statewide advocacy organizations Georgia Bikes and Palmetto Cycling Coalition in South Carolina decided to go in on a joint summit this year, extending the bike-friendliness across borders. The Summit was full of presentations and speeches from advocacy organizations, club leaders, businesses and local politicians about the importance of cycling and how to move this mode of transportation forward in the South. It was set to be a day filled with awesome bike knowledge.
With all great summits like this, there were so many great presentations and so little time to get to them all, so I scoped out the agenda and plotted my plan of attack.
Session on effective local advocacy? Check!
Presentation about Lionel Hampton MTB Park by ABC and IMBA-SORBA Atlanta? Check!
Economic Benefits of Cycling by Alta Planning + Design? Check!
Lunchtime keynote by Jeff Miller from the Alliance of Biking & Walking? Will there be brownies and sweet tea? Yes! Well check!
Women’s Cycling forum? Check, check and check!
This was going to be a busy day. I had my notes app on my tablet, iPhone camera and Hootsuite twitter account ready.
Right off the bat, I ran into Jeff Miller taking notes in the back of one of the sessions and had a great chat about one of the Alliances foci for years to come: making the cycling community look more like the American landscape. The Alliance, the League and other bike advocacy groups have launched initiatives like Women Bike to ensure the voices of underrepresented groups are heard and encouraged in this new wave of cycling enthusiasm sweeping the nation. It was great to hear these groups had such progress in mind at the leadership level.
One of the highlights of the Summit for me came in seeing a great representation of advocates, city planners and officials in the room all intent on learning something new and sharing knowledge. All types of groups from mostly volunteer-run SOPO (with a recently appointed executive director) to professional bike-ped coordinators were in attendance.
One of the more informative presentations came from Alta Planning + Design. The firm is one of the leading consulting agencies working with various municipalities to make their communities more bike-friendly. One of the major challenges faced by local advocacy organizations is selling the quantifiable benefits of bike facilities. Well, Alta had us covered with case studies and statistics from communities like Greenville, Birmingham and other cities nationwide that were able to measure their city’s progress in the realm of cycling, not only in miles but healthcare cost savings, real estate development on trails and bike-able areas, as well as bike/ped based small businesses like bike shops that bring revenue and jobs. Not to mention growing tourist industries in areas that are accessible by bike and hiking trails. That kind of info can win you friends at your local Chamber of Commerce and City Council — quickly.
The most entertaining part of the day came during Jeff Miller’s keynote address when he displayed just how much “plumper” we as a nation have gotten in 20 short years due to a rampant obesity epidemic and more sedentary lifestyle. Jeff showed us a map of the U.S. that grew darker and darker as the years passed and obesity rates rose. In 1990, for instance, no state had an obesity rate exceeding 15 percent — but by 2009 all but one had obesity rates higher than 20 percent. The whole room let out a gasp of shock at the drastic change. A few of us even dropped our second brownie. The news was not all bad for Georgia, though. Jeff highlighted the state for having the most Complete Streets Policies in the country and hosting the city with the largest grant from the Alliance, a model grant given to Atlanta for three years.
The most dynamic session was by far the Women’s Cycling Forum. Moderated by Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the forum included women’s insight and advice, not just about getting more women on bikes but just how influential women have been in advocacy efforts. Pedal Chic, was in the building highlighting how cycling and style have some together to encourage more women biking, while social media guru Mathilde gave pointers on how to engage with women specifically and niche groups generally on social media. Zahra from Red, Bike and Green-Atlanta spoke on utilizing cycling as a community building tool with women acting as the leadership for that movement, while Rebecca gave great pointers on how women can be affective advocates for bicycling policy on the local political level. The topics were awesome, the conversation spilled out of the session and I think most involved would agree that the two sessions allocated for the forum were just too small. Maybe a Georgia Women’s Bike Summit sometime soon?
The absolute highlight of the day did not happen in a session but rather as most of us took a break in between. As some of us traveled outside for fresh air we were greeted by a delightful smell. Was that? Why yes, it was a bike pirate ship outfitted with a mobile kitchen and grill or PedalVore for short. This culinary gloriousness on wheels was serving up freshly made s’mores, veggie kabobs and corn for Summit participants. It was delicious!
For the closing, Brent Bruce from Georgia Bikes and Amy Johnson from Palmetto Cycling Coalition gave us great overviews of the accomplishments their respective organizations have made this year, while giving us a vision for great initiatives to come. The Georgia-Lina Bike Summit was full of knowledgeable presenters and sessions highlighting the challenges and successes on the state level. The Summit left all participants armed with great information, ideas and energy to make their communities great places to bike and live.
Augusta was so beautiful it warranted a quick tour around the city from native Majorca, the newly appointed executive director at SOPO. We saw some incredible historic sites in a small city with a huge potential to become a major player in Georgia as a Bicycle Friendly Community. Like Alta alluded to in their presentation, build the bike lanes and the revenue will come. I look forward to riding down an Augusta bike lane soon, maybe even to the Masters.
For more pictures, presentations and additional information about the Georgia-Lina Summit click here.