Bike GT

Bike GT

Supporting Bicycling at Georgia Tech

Bikes+Think Green Week

This week marks Georgia Tech’s annual “Think Green Week”, culminating with our Earth Day festivities on Friday, April 20th. Both Starter Bikes and the BIIC have some events planned for the week, so check them out!

– Starter Bikes Repair Station

Thursday and Friday of this week Starter Bikes will have a free bike repair station set up on campus (Th along Tech Walkway, on Friday they’ll be part of Earth Day by the IC lawn).

– GTPD Tabling

GTPD will have a table out on Tech Walkway Monday-Thursday from 10am to 2pm so they can answer your questions about bicycle safety and security, and provide free bike registration (which helps you get your bike back if its lost or stolen!). They’ve all recently taken an involved course on bike safety and current laws, so take advantage of their expertise!

– Spring Bike Counts

On Thursday, April 19th, BIIC will be engaging in the second bike count of the year, canvassing bike racks around campus to count the number of bikes on campus (we do this each year to get a sense for how many people use bikes on/around campus). If you’d like to join in on the counts as a volunteer, your efforts will not go unappreciated! (meeting at 1pm between the CULC and Skiles).

– Think Green Bike Tour

Also on Thursday, from 12-1pm, a group of students will be leading a tour of Georgia Tech’s major sustainability efforts around campus (departs from the CULC).

The Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Committee is Looking for New Student Members!

As the end of the 2011-2012 school year approaches, the BIIC must sadly bid farewell to a few of its current student members, who are leaving Georgia Tech for bigger and better things. However, this means that we have the opportunity to invite students who are interested in being a part of the BIIC to get involved and represent the student body in all things bike-related at Georgia Tech!

If you’re interested in being a part of BIIC, or want to know more, send an email with following information to Johannw(at)gatech.edu

1) Name

2) Year and Department

3) Experience with bicycles or bicycling (how long you’ve been riding, if you have particular applicable knowledge or experience, etc)

4) One thing you’d like to see accomplished if you were part of the BIIC

 

We’ll review the submissions, likely ask a few brief questions via email, and then send the selected applicants a formal invitation to join the committee. The deadline for submissions for consideration (for the current openings) is May 4.

Feel free also to contact us with any questions!

Georgia Tech is a Silver Bike Friendly University

We’re very (very) excited to announce that the Georgia Institute of Technology has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bike Friendly University (BFU), with the rating of Silver (the potential rankings are None, Honorable Mention, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum). This is a tremendous recognition, and serves not only to validate the efforts of countless individuals and the university as a whole, but elevates Georgia Tech’s presence on the national scene as a university committed to truly serving the needs of its student body, who at Tech have demanded more support for bicycling in recent years.

Some background on the BFU title: As of this spring, 35 universities have been awarded Bike Friendly status, with one Platinum (Stanford), two Gold (UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis), and 14 total Silver schools. Emory University is one of the Bronze schools, having been awarded status as one of the first BFUs, making Atlanta the only city currently home to 2 recognized Bike-Friendly Universities! For fans of the Tech-UGA rivarly, note that UGA was awarded an honorable mention last fall.

We were recognized particularly for our subsidized bike education and maintenance classes, Bike Week, ViaCycle, Starter Bikes, and the involvement of President Peterson. We were also provided with a list of areas for improvement, which we’ll be reviewing and using to supplement other feedback from students and an internal gap analysis to direct our future efforts! For now, we’d simply like to thank everyone responsible for helping make this possible, and for supporting bicycling at Georgia Tech. The efforts of President Peterson, ViaCycle, Starter Bikes, the BIIC, hardworking staff (special thanks to Parking and Transportation, Capital Planning, Facilities, GTPD, and EH&S!), and countless volunteers, are why we have the programs and facilities we do, and they deserve the credit for this tremendous achievement.

Congratulations, Georgia Tech!

National Bike Summit: The State of The Federal Transportation Bill

In this final installment of my reports on the National Bike Summit, I’m going to do my best to rundown the state of the federal transportation bill(s) and where Hill insiders think things are headed.

Inside the Senate, things are basically concluded for the time being; Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st century, or MAP-21, passed the Senate 74-22-4 (All Democrats voted Yay, Republicans were split close to 50/50 between Yay and Nay). MAP-21 preserves the critical bike/ped funding programs like Transportation Enhancements (TE), Safe Routes to School (SRTS), and Recreational Trails (RTP), consolidating them into one program titled ‘Additional Activities’, which will fall under the operation of CMAQ. While not perfect, MAP-21 is a tremendous victory compared to the House bill put forward by Speaker Boehner.

On the House side, the initial bill, HR-7, put forward by Boehner, cut TE, SRTS, RTP, and gutted transit funding, as well as reducing environmental review processes, and was generally panned by everyone, to the point that the House postponed it indefinitely. After a series of handoffs, the House was left with mostly question marks, and no resolution. As of earlier this week, the vibe amongst House staffers was that the House was not prepared to resolve their issues, knowing that they had little ground to stand on and that bipartisan resolution was less likely than in the Senate. Instead, the sense was that the House would take the easy way out and favor a clean 3-month extension of the expired (5 years ago) SAFETEA-LU. While this would protect TE, SRTS, and RTP, it would mean that in three months we’d be right back to this point, arguing once again for the same programs, and fighting the same political battles.

Given all of this, we devoted our efforts while lobbying on the Hill to thanking Senators Isakson and Chambliss, who both voted in favor of MAP-21, and working to convince our Representatives to step up and either support or advocate for an improved transportation bill out of the House. Optimally, we’re hoping to see the House review and pass their version of MAP-21, which will give us at least five years of funding and provide some stability to transportation planning once again.

Since I attended those meetings for which I was either a constituent or closest to being one (Representatives Scott, Johnson, and Lewis), I had the good fortune of being heard and supported by the Congressmen or his staff; other Georgia delegates had less positive meetings, but the general sentiment seemed to be that all the meetings were more positive than last years, and that the trend over time has been of increased support. Hopefully this will mean good things for bicycling and walking going into the future, not only amongst Georgians, but also across the country.

At least, there is reason for hope!

Thank you all for putting up with the delays on my NBS reports, and feel free to post or email me with any questions, I’d be happy to answer what I can.

National Bike Summit: What I Learned

After a long day of lobbying yesterday, I’ve finally had the chance to sit down and share some of the cool facts and stories that we heard during our speeches and sessions on Wednesday. Here are a sampling of some of the notable things I learned:

Session #1: “Bicycling Means Business” – Steve Meineke (President, Raleigh America), Steve Flagg (President, QBP), Brian Foley (Director of Merchandising, REI).

– Donating to the campaign of local officials is an easy way to get their ear for long enough to tell your story.

– 4:1 return on money spent to support bike commuting compared to the healthcare savings (for QBP).

– There are 2,000 transportation lobbyists in D.C.

– The demand is there; the economics is there; the infrastructure needs to catch up.

– We need more actual analysis from independent and reviewed sources; we need data!

 

Session #3: “The Benefits of Bicycling: Making the Case” – Jeff Miller (President, Alliance for B&W), Deb Hubsmith (Director, SRTS National Partnership), Maggie Grabow, Jay Gaikowski (Marketing Director, QBP)

– Rural bicycling: In towns of less than 10,000 twice as many trips are made by bicycling as in heavy urban areas. In Billings, MT, the chamber of commerce identified bike infrastructure as key to their recruitment of businesses and employees (Billings was ranked #1 small town for business location).

Conclusion = Bikes benefit everyone.

 

SRTS (Deb Hubsmith):

– Adding sidewalks cut accident rate for pedestrians by 50%.

– In 1969, 50% of kids walked/biked to school; today it’s 13%.

– 12,300 schools have benefited so far from SRTS (10% of schools)

– 25% of children’s traffic deaths occur when they are walking and biking and are struck by a car.

– For .5% of transpo funding, SRTS improves safety and increases physical activity at 12,300 schools.

 

Quality Bicycle Parts (Jason):

– Transportation policy is a viable means of addressing our nation’s health care crisis

– Commuting by bicycle can have an enormous impact on employee health and productivity

– Small investments in bicycle infrastructure can generate substantial returns.

– For businesses, changes in healthcare costs are a major aggravation

– Healthcare costs nationally from 2009-2011 up 24%, costs for QBP over the same down 4.4%. QBP employees higher on 15/18 health scores, tied on the other 3.

– $45,000 in commuter rewards programs; saved $175,000 annually on healthcare.

 

Bikeability and the Midwest (Grabow):

– Total economic impact of Bicycle Recreation in Wisconsin = $913 million

– $535 million from bicycle tourism

– Total of $1.5 billion in economic value

– In a study of the 11 largest cities in the Upper Midwest, modeling the substitute of all short trips in urban and suburban census tracts with bicycling during warmest 6 months of the year, they found:

1) Results: .1 microgram/cubic meter reduction in fine particulates, net reduction in ozone production, 608 fewer annual deaths, $4.94 billion in savings per year.

2) 4 trillion fewer tons of CO2 emitted annually.

3) Total of $8.7 billion in benefits and 1,295 fewer deaths (in terms of mortality rates)

 

Alliance for Biking and Walking (Jeff Miller):

– 50,000,000 bicyclists, 4 billion trips (11.5% of all trips)

– If you triple the number of cyclists riding, you cut traffic incidence in half

– 8,400 jobs from TE, SRTS, etc. (1.6% of transportation funding)

– Twice as many jobs from bike/ped projects than highway projects

– 12% of trips, 14% of fatalities, 1.6% of funding

 

Session #2 was focused on preparing for the lobbying day, so I’m going to include those lessons in another entry focused on the state of the federal transportation authorization and our lobbying efforts. Cheers to a great second day of the Summit!

 

National Bike Summit Day Two: Save Cycling

Day Two of the National Bike Summit is drawing to a close, which means it’s time to reflect, type up some summaries and stories, and share it with the world. We got things started early this morning with not one or two but SIX keynote speakers, including Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Tom Petri (R-WI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, and US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (who two years ago made himself famous in the bike community by jumping on a table to convey his enthusiasm for bike/ped projects).

Representative Blumenauer, credited by many as one of the people responsible for the boom in bicycling since the mid 1990s, began with an impassioned speech about the importance of what we, as advocates, do, and credited the audience with being the reason that the House killed its draft transportation bill and is now appearing prepared instead to pass a clean extension of the existing funding (SAFETEA-LU, which passed in 2005, has been extended more times than I can remember, but does contain all the bike/ped funding levels that were threatened by the House draft bill). In his words, “You are the heroes of this movement. Make no mistake, it is a movement, and you are the heroes.” Though perhaps even more exciting was his proclamation about the future of transportation, a statement which we can only hope is true: “We are not going back”.

Secretary LaHood was a bit more restrained than years prior, but he did express his unequivocal opinion that the House bill is garbage, and that it should be “No more excuses, no more politics”, that we need to “ride up to the Capitol and tell them to pass the Senate bill”. His biggest advice in making the case when meeting with congresspeople? “This a jobs bill…It’s about taking care of our friends and neighbors”. Simply put, and an appealing argument!

In contrast to the Democrats present (excluding LaHood, who is a registered Republican), Tom Petri was less focused on critiquing the failures of the other bills, and more interested in why biking is important to everyone. Some highlights:

“We all know our nation needs a first-rate infrastructure to support a first-rate economy.”

“If we continue to underinvest…we’re not going to leave future generations the same opportunities”.

And the crowd favorite: “I think you’re doing God’s work”.

As a youtube favorite, Peter DeFazio’s speeches are always a powerful display of passion, and I’ll leave it to his own words on the interwebs to convey his convictions, but at its core was the idea that we simply cannot under-invest in transportation, and accept the same transportation strategy we had in 1950.

Donna Edwards is a new face on the bike/ped political scene, but a welcome addition given her simple and straightforward view that bicycling and walking are just ways for normal people to get to work, take their kids to school, run errands, and have a decent life. As she put it, “When you’re advocating for cycling, you’re advocating to save our communities”. You can’t have much higher stakes than that!

Jonathan Jarvis spoke to the growing partnership between the Parks Service and IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association), particularly his hope that the partnership would fuel the expanding bicycle tourism industry, and provide the parks with renewed interest and relevancy. It certainly sounds like a great pairing!

We had some great plenary sessions and a few other speeches, so I’ll try to type them up and post them soon.

(From left to right: Earl Blumenauer, Ray LaHood, Tom Petri, Jonathan Jarvis, Donna Edwards, and League of American Bicyclists’ President Andy Clarke)

National Bike Summit Day One: Keynote and Welcome

Greetings from Washington, D.C.! I’m here reporting back on the National Bike Summit, an annual gathering of advocates, industry members, planners, and anyone else interested in supporting bicycling nationwide. This is its 12th year, but of particular importance given the forthcoming vote on the federal transportation authorization bill in the House of Representatives. While the Senate has produced a bill (titled MAP-21) that would protect the better part of the bike/ped funding programs (though it would consolidate them into one more general program, titled Additional Activities), the House has so far shown that they intend to cut bike/ped programs completely, however, leaving things in a state of great concern for bike/ped advocates. On Thursday the bike summit attendees will descend upon the offices of their congressmen and women to lobby for a jointly-supported version of MAP-21 (or something close, that protects programs like Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails).

Tonight, however, we were treated to a keynote speech by Mark McKinnon, who was media adviser for the Bush Jr. campaign, as well as countless other political and business campaigns. He’s also an avid mountain biker, and gave us a very intriguing presentation on the 9 keys to a powerful campaign.

#1) Purpose – Mark presented examples for each point, many drawn from political campaigns; for purpose, he showcased Ted Kennedy’s misstep when asked at the end of an interview why he wanted to be President and failed to have any answer he could muster. In sum, the idea is that you have to have a dedicated, focused mission, or your campaign will lack the central content it requires.

#2) Tell a story – Here the key is to construct a narrative that conveys your message convincingly and meaningfully. His example of choice was the Obama campaign “Change” commercials.

#3) Brief – As time has gone on, it has become even more important to condense the message. It’s true that issues are complex, but the story/message simply has to be manageable, or it will get lost in the details and complexity.

#4) Emotional – Using a clip of Hillary Clinton at a brunch, where she is asked about why she stays in politics, if it isn’t too difficult sometimes (her tearful and honest response that it’s very tough, that she just gets on trying because she owes to the country that gave her so many wonderful opportunities, was admittedly very powerful), McKinnon made the point that all the facts in the world can fall flat if they don’t trigger an emotional response in the recipient.

#5) Authenticity – Given all the discussion of this in recent politics it doesn’t need much explanation, but it is increasingly important!

#6) Relevance – In a nutshell, without tying the story, the facts, and the emotions in to the audience, it simply doesn’t mean the same thing. The example given here was the terrifying and famous Lyndon B. Johnson “Daisy” ad (if you haven’t seen it, youtube it), which made a very poignant case for why voters needed to turn out to vote and vote for Johnson.

#7) Repeat Clearly and Consistently – Two examples here: (1) John Kerry’s ‘flip-flopper’ speech (where he made clearly opposing statements during a campaign speech), and (2) Bill Clinton’s repeated use of the phrase “bridge to the 21st century” in his 1996 Democratic nomination acceptance speech. Kerry’s failure to stick to a clear and repeated position undermined his campaign, whereas Clinton’s focus on one point led to a victory.

#8) Message Discipline – The message has to be brief (as noted before), but it also has to be disciplined. It must be focused, clear, and directed exactly as necessary. Like Johnson’s Daisy Ad, which only ran once, or many social media campaigns now, the strength is in the discipline.

#9) Be Prepared – A comedic example of a politician being interviewed by Stephen Colbert regarding the politician’s legislation to display the Ten Commandments in judicial buildings. When Stephen asks him to list the commandments, he can only list three; there’s no faster way to derail your best efforts than to falter in the face of under-preparation. Also showcased: Rick Perry’s “Three Offices I’d Cut” snafu, where he destroyed his campaign by failing to answer his own question.

Anyways, more to come from the National Bike Summit, today is the conference sessions, as well as speeches from some impressive government officials and industry leaders!

Georgia Rides to the Capitol: March 27th

Every March, our statewide advocacy group, Georgia Bikes!, partners with the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association and countless sponsors to lead over 1,000 cyclists in a ride to the State Capitol, where they rally for bicycling and improved legislation. Last year the event spurred Lt. Gov Casey Cagle to helm a three foot safe passing law, which passed in May of 2011 and represented a tremendous win for cyclists all over the state.

This year, the focus will be on pushing for the following three priorities:

1) Implement a statewide Complete Streets policy, which will ensure that future road projects in Georgia meet the needs of all road users, including cyclists;
2) Protect the legal rights of cyclists; and
3) Secure a fair share of dedicated funding for bicycle facilities and infrastructure.

Last year Georgia Tech led a contingent of campus advocates to join the event, and we had a great time (the announcer makes the whole event sound like a WWE showdown, plus the Governor and Lt. Governor usually speak, as well as a number of local mayors), so we’ll be doing it again this year!

The event is March 27th, and a group will be departing from campus (meeting at 11:15 at the corner of Ferst Drive and Atlantic), to join up with the larger group around 11:30 and then head to the Capitol.

Join us, and show your support for bicycling in Georgia!

The Importance of Etiquette

While the preponderance of the posts we contribute to bike.gatech are focused on conveying news, drawing attention to an event or program, or generally sharing how wonderful bicycling is, this time I’d like to address something which I think is particularly critical as spring arrives and more of us are out on the roads riding.

Please keep in mind that I am expressing my opinions only, and not those of Georgia Tech or the Bicycle Infrastructure Improvement Committee. I believe that it will stand to benefit both, but I like to avoid presuming to speak for others unless they’ve expressed their direct support for my words, so as of now, this is merely an editorial.

Frequently I have personally (and I’m sure you all have as well) fielded the comment from other motorists and pedestrians that bicyclists act in a way that is dangerous, illegal, unpredictable, irresponsible, or otherwise offensive to their view of proper vehicle operation. Occasionally these views are predicated on a misunderstanding of what the laws of bicycling are, but often they are quite reasonable criticisms of cyclists running red lights, riding against traffic, dodging in between cars, cutting on and off sidewalks, and so forth. I know that many of you, myself included, have occasionally enjoyed the flexibility that a bicycle provides in doing some of these things, especially in dense traffic or late at night, but I want to encourage all of you to reflect on how this impacts bicycling for everyone (especially yourself).

In the early days of the automobile, drivers were considered scofflaws and hooligans, often driving at reckless speeds down horse roads and striking pedestrians, or crashing into trees, homes, or rolling their cars into fields (often with disastrous results for the driver). In many ways, reading newspaper commentaries from those days (yes, you can find those on online!) feels eerily similar to reading present-day letters regarding bicyclists. This isn’t a good thing, not if we hope to see the same sort of adoption that the automobile experienced, and especially not if we hope to see laws that protect bicyclists become more commonplace. You see, the issue isn’t so much that there stopped being reckless drivers (it probably isn’t hard to convince anyone of that), but rather that as the number of cars increased, the percentage of reckless drivers fell. As creatures that like stereotypes and patterns, this shift made a big difference in the public perception of automobiles, and quickly the stigma attached to cars fell away, only further boosting their adoption. However, when you ride in a way that shows disregard for your presence as a (willing or not) emissary of bicycling, your actions carry a much larger weight than the foolishness of a motorist, because there simply aren’t enough of us around that aren’t being foolish to counter that activity in the minds of drivers.

In this way, each and every one of us riding our bike, no matter the conditions, carries on our wheels and shoulders the burden of being the face of bicycling. I know you didn’t ask for it, but every time a car honks at you for following the law, every time a legislator suggests some new policy that reduces your freedoms as a cyclist, be aware that every motorist, every pedestrian, will often have a say in the quality of our laws, facilities, and practices. If we neglect to show proper etiquette, and the decency that we in turn expect from motorists, then we are undermining our own desires for more lanes, paths, sharrows, bike racks, and safe passing laws.

It may seem a frustration to feel so many eyes upon you, awaiting your next recklessness, but it is your exhibition of humanity and decency that may do the most to save bicycling, and perhaps even enamor it in the minds of others.