Originally published April 9, 2012
Several thousand bicyclists descended on Georgia's capitol on March 27 to rally for better cycling conditions across the state. During the seventh annual Georgia Rides to the Capitol event, cyclists trekked to the capitol to raise support for the implementation of a statewide policy that will ensure future road projects in Georgia meet the needs of all road users, protections for the legal rights of cyclists and securing a fair share of dedicated funding for bicycle facilities and infrastructure.
Rebeccca Serna, executive director for the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition expressed the importance of safe streets to public health.
"We have learned that there is high percentage of people who are interested in riding their bikes to work, or to run errands, or just to exercise, but they are afraid to because of traffic and unsafe roads," said Serna. "Bikes are a great public health tool and improve health on multiple levels. The environment benefits from fewer cars on the roads and people benefit from the exercise."
The benefits of commuting by bike for work or to run errands are supported by research. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that active transportation as part of everyday travel is as effective as structured workouts for improving health. Another study, published in the Journal of Occupational Health, found that a 30-minute round-trip bicycle commute is associated with better mental health in men.
Georgia Rides to the Capitol was hosted by the statewide advocacy organization Georgia Bikes and the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association. Mayors, public officials, and residents from across the metro Atlanta area rode to the Capitol to show their support for cycling.
Decatur Commissioner Fred Boykin said the event helped to put a face on the cycling community and allowed residents and elected officials to see the importance of bicycle safety and living a healthy lifestyle.
"It's amazing to look out on the steps of the Capitol at the sea of all of the different types of people coming together," said Boykin. "It's just people out there supporting a healthy, alternative way to not having to take a car everywhere."
This year, cyclists celebrated the law passed last summer requiring motorists to allow three feet or more when passing cyclists while raising support for a "complete streets" policy.
A complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
"In a nutshell, what complete streets says is that public roads are for moving people, not just combustible machines such as cars and trucks," said Brent Buice, executive director of Georgia Bikes.
Wade Sellers, M.D., M.P.H., district health director for Northwest Georgia Public Health, did not attend the event, but rides his bike to his district health office most days and supports making roads safer for all users.
"Extending our sidewalk network or creating bike lanes would make everyone's bike riding safer," said Sellers. "It would also make the ride easier and encourage more people to adopt the healthy habit of walking or biking for work and errands. Georgia Public Health needs to lead the way in making bicycle lanes and safety laws part of the agenda for a healthy Georgia."