Meet Byron Rushing, Regional Bike/Ped Program Manager

photo courtesy of Byron Rushing

Meet Byron Rushing. He grew in Downtown Decatur, Georgia and now lives in the historic West End neighborhood in the City of Atlanta. Here he is pictured a few years ago with the first of his two children.

“It’s an old photo but it’s one of my favorite,” Byron told me.

No surprise there, because it captures the joy and connection this father and son experience while Traveling at the Speed of Bike. And that’s not just fun and games for Byron. It’s not even just a typical commute for the duo. It’s also his job.

After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Masters degree in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning, followed by stints at Alt Planning and Design and the Georgia Department of Transportation, Byron has been working for the past eight years as the Bicycling and Walking Program Manager of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), which is the regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency for the 10-county Atlanta region*. He is the mastermind behind the “Walk Bike Thrive!” regional bike-pedestrian master plan.

ARC’s plan establishes ambitious goals in support of The Atlanta Region’s Plan to help the region become “one of the most connected and safest regions in the United States for walking and bicycling.” If you are interested, you can drop down that astounding rabbit hole here. Here is a top-line summary of its objectives:

  • Create walking and bicycling options for everyone in every community
  • Ensure safer and more accessible bicycling and walking in the region
  • Tie walking and biking improvements to quality of life, economic competitiveness, and health
  • Establish a vision for a Regional Trail Network
  • Develop a strategy based on compounding growth and relentless incrementalism— i.e. where do we start and what do we do next?
  • Use the region’s pivoting growth and fresh momentum so that in five years, Atlanta can market itself as one of the most walk-friendly and bike-friendly regions in the nation

Byron told me:

“We spend the GDP of small countries to shave off minutes from car trips. I get encouraged by the flip side — cities are rebuilding their city centers** to be more walkable and bike friendly.”

I asked Byron what I could do as Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, specifically serving the 10 counties in the “Bike Walk Thrive!” plan, to help him. He said that there is no master list of people throughout this region that he can reach out to when there are issues in need of support or other actions to take.

I said I would start creating one and continue to populate it throughout my two-year term***. I think I may also add the “best bikey thing” about each city to that compilation. There are 70 cities in the 10-county Metro Atlanta region, folks. That gives us 70 things to celebrate right now as we continue making access-for-all forward strides.

Therefore, if you are with a bike advocacy group anywhere in these ten Metro Atlanta counties:

Please send me your group’s key contact person and website address so I can add it to the “Metro Atlanta Bikey People” Google doc for Byron.

Also feel free to include the name and contact info of your biggest supporter at city hall (such as City Councilor Joe Seconder in the City of Dunwoody) and any other “bikey people” I should know where you live.

If you have a favorite bikey thing about your city, add that, too. I’m shining a light on the good that’s already happening, and the people who are doing it. (Examples: Meet Greg. Meet Marjon.)

If you are considering applying to become the Bicycle Mayor where you live in any city or county in Metro Atlanta, you are needed as I can’t do this volunteer job alone. If anyone would simply like to volunteer to be on my team (rather than take on a whole city or county by yourself), you can reach me here to join the Office of the Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor 🙂 . Even an hour a week would help us reach our shared goals, and may even additionally serve as an incentive to get you out and about at a time when that’s hard to do.

Thank you, Byron, for all you do. Let’s work together so that our entire region can walk, bike, and yes, thrive.

* I originally crossed paths with Byron years ago at an equity meeting prior to when Relay Bikeshare launched. That’s a whole other story.

Additionally, my Atlanta Regional Commission involvement goes back to 1996 when I was hired to write the original Commute Options suite of materials to encourage businesses to reduce their employees’ use of motor vehicles during and beyond the Centennial Olympic Games. I later served as the founder and chair of a sustainability commission which adopted Atlanta Regional Commission Green Community policies from the get-go when where I live became the newest city in the USA.

** Byron specifically mentioned the City of Duluth, Georgia. You may enjoy photos from Downtown Duluth at the end of this bike tour I created for you!

** Note: I am asked to provide eight hours a week pro bono as Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor. I think this effort is worth up to one hour each week. If folks volunteer to help me, we could create this valuable resource faster.

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