Originally published May 20, 2013
Whether biking to work all week or pedaling for pleasure on the weekends, a new ranking gives Georgians an idea of how their cycling experience compares to residents of other states.
The League of American Bicyclists, a national cycling advocacy group, ranked Georgia 24th in the nation for bicycle friendliness in 2013. Georgia came in fourth among Southern states behind Virginia, Tennessee and Texas on the league's annual list.
The ranking is based on how the state performs in five areas: bicycling infrastructure and its funding; the amount of education and encouragement of bicycling in the state; adoption of policies and programs that accommodate cycling; legislation and enforcement of laws that govern bicycling; and evaluation and planning. Georgia performed about average in most of the categories, but scored below average in infrastructure, funding, evaluation and planning.
To learn more about Georgia's performance and ranking, check out the state's report card.
Georgia is about as bike-friendly as it was in 2012, dropping just one spot on the league's 2013 list. In a press release, the league noted that the state's steady ranking was partially due to improvements to bicycling conditions made in the state in 2012. In September, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) adopted the Complete Streets policy, making sure plans for nearly all state and federally funded transportation projects will include safe and convenient accommodations for biking and walking. The 2011 adoption of HB 101, a law that requires that motorists maintain a three-foot buffer when following or passing a person on a bicycle, also earned Georgia points in the report.
Brent Buice, executive director of state advocacy group Georgia Bikes, said he was excited about Georgia's progress, particularly the Complete Streets policy, even if it didn't necessarily lead to a big jump in its ranking.
"We've got full faith that we're going to see much safer, convenient bicycling options across the state," he said. "When it comes to transportation, progress takes time. The change isn't going to happen overnight."
Data show that bicycling provides a number of benefits for individuals and communities, including improvements in health, the environment and overall quality of life. A study from the Yale University School of Medicine published in December showed that people who participated in active transportation, such as walking and biking, had lower BMI and lower risks for diseases like hypertension and diabetes.
Local research also shows that many Georgians are hungry for the option to bike around their communities. In a survey conducted by Georgia Bikes and the University of Georgia in 2011, eight out of 10 Georgians said they would love to ride a bike more often, but many were deterred by the volume and speed of traffic. Buice noted that providing safer, more convenient bicycling opportunities could ease those fears.
"You have to provide a space where a parent feels safe riding their bike in traffic with their child," he said. "It's cliché, but if you build it, they will come."
The league said Georgia needs to assign dedicated funds to plan, build and evaluate bicycle facilities, as well as gather more data on the numbers and types of people who ride their bikes in the state. GDOT Chief Engineer Russell McMurry said as the agency works to fully implement its Complete Streets policy, the state will become even more bike friendly.
"The Georgia Department of Transportation acknowledges the League American Bicyclists rating of 24th," McMurry said in a news release. "We believe that this ranking will continue to improve as we implement more bike friendly projects resulting from the Complete Streets policy, updating of statewide bike and pedestrian plan, and focus on safety improvement opportunities at high crash frequency locations."