More than 1,200 bike riders, including Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, participated in the Georgia Rides to the Capitol event. The event was held to bring awareness to the need for city bike paths. It showcased bike riding as an alternative mode of transportation and informed the public of proposed legislation to address issues surrounding bike riding safety and bicycles. This event was sponsored by the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association, Georgia Bikes! and the Georgia Municipal Association.
“I am participating in this event to support bike paths and other trails that provide constituents with an alternative to vehicle transportation. Wheter it is from one city to another or just around a park,” said Mayor Johnson.
Although this is her first year riding in this event, she said her regular workout routine at fitness center and membership to has prepared her for this five mile ride. She also said that she is not an official bike rider-- she doesn’t go on mountain rides for two or three miles.
“As I work out I am doing exercises that simulate bike riding, so hopefully all of that training will help,” said Johnson before the ride.
The mayor was not alone. Forty other elected officials, including mayors representing 31 cities throughout the Atlanta metro area were riding with her. Also along for the ride were local area students, parents and cyclists supporting House Bill, HB 180 and House Bill, HB 101.
HB 180 is proposed legislation that, if signed into law, would mandate a three-foot minimum passing of bike riders by vehicles. Georgia, if the bill passes, would become the 17th state to enact safe passing legislation. Due to this bill not making it past “crossover-day," it will qualify for discussion and a vote during 2012 legislative session.
Known as the “Better Bicycling Bill”, HB 101 has been introduced as efforts to address and resolve old bicycle related issues. This bill was set for review by the Senate Public Safety Committee on the same day of Georgia Ride to the Capitol event, March 22.
There were two event departure locations, Roswell and Decatur. Riders leaving from the city of Roswell rode for 21 miles. Departing from the Decatur East Lake MARTA station, with Mayor Johnson, was event coordinator and Decatur City Commissioner Fred Boykin.
“The goal of the bike ride is to raise awareness for bicycle facilities in communities in the state of Georgia. For local residents and visitors to have an active transportation option, and alternative to having to drive a car. To reduce air congestion and improve air quality. To enable kids, children to be able to bike and walk to school,” said Boykin, also owner of Bicycle South bike shop.
Describing himself as a bicycle advocate, Boykin said, “The City of Decatur just put in bike lanes in downtown Decatur. (As City Commission) we are looking at active transportation options and the city was just nominated as the most walkable city in Georgia.”
Mayor Johnson said that while the city is not promoting bike riding as a mode of transportation for getting to and from work or to other cities, it does encourage citizens to use bike and walking paths in city parks.
“The city’s plan for redevelopment of parks could include bike and walking paths, but until those plans are finalized, they are works in progress,” said Mayor Johnson. “If that (bike and walking paths in city parks and throughout the city) is something the people are interested in having, they can bring it before the council for consideration.”
With an eye on the bigger picture, the mayor said she was participating in the bike ride for communities where bike riding would be more conductive.
“There are some cities that have less traffic and are located in more rural areas. Therefore I am, by riding in this event, supporting those cities that have recognized the need for paths and can accommodate the installation of bike paths. In the future Lawrenceville might become one of these cities, you never know,” said Johnson.
After arriving at the capitol, riders participated in a ceremony that included a speech by Governor Nathan Deal.