Georgia Mayors & Advocates Flood State Capitol for Complete Streets

By Mary Lauran Hall on March 28, 2013


Despite unseasonably chilly weather and a few southern flurries, the 8th annual Georgia Rides to the Capitol drew local officials and citizen cyclists from the metro Atlanta area to rally for implementation of the state’s new Complete Streets policy.

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Advocates gather in front of the Georgia state capitol building

Over 20 elected officials — including local mayors, commissioners and councilmembers — led advocates from communities near and far. A contingent rode from Decatur, an inner suburb about 6 miles east of downtown. Another dedicated group pedaled from Roswell, an outer-ring suburb located 25 miles north of the state capital. Decatur recently earned a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community designation, and Roswell had the honor of becoming Georgia’s first Bicycle Friendly Community in 2006.

The event drew media coverage from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, NBC Downtown 11, and Fox 5 Atlanta.

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Advocates en route to the state capitol in Atlanta, Georgia

The “ask:” complete our streets

Once at the state capitol, riders and local officials rallied to encourage the state government to implement the Georgia DOT’s new Complete Streets policy — a policy with roots in last year’s ride.

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Georgia Lieutenant Casey Cagle addresses the crowd at the Georgia capitol

Brent Buice, Executive Director of Georgia Bikes!, recounted the policy’s legendary roots.

“In 2012, we got the crowd chanting ‘COMPLETE THE STREETS!’” he explained. “One of the attendees was the chief engineer of the state DOT, and after the rally he approached me and said ‘I’m disappointed that you were chanting that, because we already have a Complete Streets policy.’

Brent and his colleagues disagreed with the DOT leader. “We said, ‘No, you don’t,’ and he said ‘Yeah, we do,’ and we said ‘No, you don’t,’” Brent recalled with amusement.

The interaction prompted Georgia Bikes! to collaborate with Georgia DOT to craft and adopt a new comprehensive Complete Streets policy. The successful effort earned Georgia Bikes! the Alliance’s 2013 Advocacy Award for best winning campaign.

This year, advocates returned to thank the Georgia DOT for the new policy and encourage decision-makers to implement it.

“During the rally at the capitol, we had the crowd turn in the direction of the Georgia Department of Transportation office and chant all at once ‘THANKS, GDOT!’” Brent explained.

“The new chief engineer came up to me afterwards and said it was one of the most memorable experiences he’d ever had,” said Brent. “I can’t think of another time that a huge assemblage of citizens has yelled ‘THANK YOU!’ to the state DOT. We wanted to show them a lot of love.”

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Brent Buice, Executive Director of Georgia Bikes!, addresses advocates in front of the capitol building

Now, advocates hope that state decision-makers will follow up. “We asked for commitment from the highest levels to make it happen,” Brent said.

In its lobby efforts with the agency, Georgia Bikes! echoes the asks modeled by America Bikes and Advocacy Advance. “We’re asking state officials to spend up the money we have left from, not to opt out of Transportation Alternatives, and prioritize biking and walking improvements for Transportation Alternatives,” Brent said.

A model in collaboration

The Metro Atlanta Mayor’s Association and the Georgia Municipal Association originally organized the annual Ride on the Capitol to demonstrate support for a regional network of bicycle infrastructure. As the ride has grown over the years, the advocacy event has become a model for cooperation between organizations and groups of public officials.

“The Metro Atlanta Mayor’s Association and the Georgia Municipal Association provide logistical support like the police escorts,” explained Brent. “Georgia Bikes! has a role in promoting the ride, and we give focus in terms of the advocacy asks that we’re bringing to the rally.”

 

This video from an event volunteer shows advocates rolling up to the state capitol, led by police escorts. Public official associations organized the police escorts for the ride.

“We also get a lot of help from Bike MS — they provide free refreshments and snacks at the Capitol steps and mobile bike parking. Local Alliance member organization Atlanta Bicycle Coalition provided all of the on-site volunteers and did a lot of promotion.”

The two associations designated Georgia Bikes! as the ride’s official beneficiary several years ago. “It’s free to participate, but we do raise a few thousand dollars off the event, which helps funds our lobbying efforts,” Brent said.

Next up: local and statewide

In future years, Georgia Bikes! hopes to organize simultaneous actions throughout the state.

“Because the ride is metro Atlanta focused and it has to happen on a weekday, it’s tough to get people from communities outside the area to participate,” Brent explained. “Next time, we’re hoping to have rides to City Halls in the evenings in other communities in Georgia.”

Brent added that this year, advocates in Griffin modeled a successful smaller community ride. Citizens pedaled to City Hall in the evening, and local officials marked the occasion by passing a resolution to recognize the importance of being bike friendly.

A staff member from Representative Lynn Westmoreland (GA-3) also attended the Griffin event — the first recorded successful follow-up to this year’s National Bike Summit. (At the Summit, advocates asked their elected officials to attend a bike-related event in their home district.)

“Next year, we’d love to have rides to city hall happening in Colombus, Macon, Savannah, Rome,” said Brent. “We could make it a truly statewide event.”

Photos courtesty Georgia Bikes / Facebook

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