photo courtesy of Marjon Manitius, shown leading the group
Meet Marjon Manitius. She’s the community outreach director for the Brookhaven Bike Alliance in Metro Atlanta and I had the joy of talking with her recently. About three years ago, she showed up at a living-room meeting* of interested citizens who wanted to make their new suburban-sprawled city (founded in 2012) more bike-friendly. Originally from the Netherlands and with a daughter who knows the freedom of riding when they visit there, Marjon knows what’s possible and is willing to put in the volunteer work to help make it happen.
According to its Facebook page (which now has 464 members), the Brookhaven Bike Alliance’s 2020 goals were:
- Advocate for Complete Streets policy
- Establish metric to document bike infrastructure and connectivity and compare with surrounding cities-
- Build grass root support though community activities
- Monday Night Ride
- Community bike rides (Spring tune up, Pedal the Parks, Thankful ride)
- Bike education and service (Cherry Blossom and Arts Festival Service stations)
- Educate and strengthen relationships with City Staff
- Help city achieve Bicycle-Friendly Community Status with the League of American cyclists.
- Emphasize connectivity
Curtailed due to COVID-19, the group’s popular annual Pedal to the Parks event and other group activities had to be cancelled but they pivoted with a creative alternative — Biketober Bingo!
A bingo card showing locations around Brookhaven was distributed via social media and posted as signs at the select locations. People were invited to ride bikes, take selfies at the locations in order to complete five-in-a-row up, down, or diagonally and submit them for a chance to win great prizes from REI (which is located within the city, right next to the Model Mile of the Peachtree Creek Greenway) and local businesses. More than 160 Bingo cards were submitted! What a fun, replicable idea for other cities!
That’s not the only accomplishment the Brookhaven Bike Alliance experienced during this pandemic. Inspired by the first VRU ordinance in the southeastern United States in the nearby City of Dunwoody (fun fact: I’m the first victim of a motor vehicle driver charged under this ordinance), and assisted by Georgia Bike Law Attorney Bruce Hagan (who is representing me, by the way, in my case), the group encouraged the City of Brookhaven to adopt a Vulnerable Road User (VRU) ordinance, which provides additional prosecutorial options when a motor vehicle driver hits a walker, bike rider, person in a wheelchair, road worker, or other person especially at risk in our shared public spaces known as roads.
Sponsored by City Councilor Madeleine Simmons, the City of Brookhaven’s VRU ordinance even sets a new regional standard (and is more closely aligned with the League of American Bicyclists model VRU ordinance), as it eliminates victim blaming. You can hear and read Marjon’s own words in this local news report about it.
By the way, the Brookhaven Bike Alliance has provided cue cards for self-guided Thankful Ride participation next week. That’s another great idea.
Perhaps, like Marjon, you are interested in taking a bigger role where you in live in Metro Atlanta (or beyond) and could use some tips for how to start or revive a bike advocacy group. I had the opportunity this week to speak with Elliott Caldwell, Executive Director of the statewide bike advocacy organization Georgia Bikes. He provided the following links as resources, and he also said that Georgia Bikes will gladly act as the fiscal sponsor of any advocacy organization or nonprofit bike project that gets started in the state. Georgia Bikes has even done seed funding for orgs and would like to do that again in the future.
Here are the two direct links we share with folks about starting an advocacy org
The Alliance for Biking and Walking is unfortunately no longer around but the League has kept some of their resources online at the below link, along with some of our favorite materials for local advocates just starting up or wanting to engage in a specific campaign.
Top 10 Tips Advocacy Tips When Starting an Organization
Winning Campaign Trainings materialshttps://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1b_tUKWkW5CH_xipd7IHsM4RZzpgz5ZYP
Building Equity (a bit out of date but materials are still relevant)https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/equityreport2015.pdf
Full list of materials https://bikeleague.org/content/alliance-biking-and-walking-archive
The two other resources I usually share are from IOBY (In Our Backyards), who have some great guides on starting up neighborhood projects on street safety, traffic calming, bike/ped issues etc. We don’t have a formal relationship with them but a close friend of mine grew up with the founder/director so I’ve been in touch with them here and there.
Lots of free resources on fundraising etc here: https://ioby.org/resources/freeguides
Feel free to give out my email and phone number to anyone interested as we always make time for folks calling/emailing about starting an org or project.
* That living room was at the home of Jack Honderd and Betsy Eggers. Jack is the founder of the Brookhaven Bike Alliance. He is an American Institute of Architects member and a developer who served on the City of Brookhaven’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan’s steering committee.
Betsy is a whole other story (and I’m gonna write one just about her soon). You know her best here on this blog as the founder of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, featured in one of my Ride Spot tours. We met, believe it or not, at the recent Georgia Bikes Summit (hosted by Elliott Caldwell!), which was entirely virtual. Turns out, however, that she and I have been crossing paths for years (without knowing it) as she is a founding member of the Fugees Family and on the board of directors of the Global Village Project. She is the person who connected me with the girls in Clarkston that I’m teaching each Saturday. And she has a young woman in mind for me to teach in December (in addition to the Clarkston girls). We have become fast friends, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I am trusting the journey that brought Betsy into my life.
Fun fact: I haven’t met either Jack or Betsy in person yet. But that’s coming! Stay tuned!