Dear GDOT

photo taken on Georgia State Route 9

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) tweeted yesterday:

Distracted Driving is a major problem on our roadways. Comment below with tips on how we can keep roads across America safer. Chime in!

So fun! So inclusive! A city councilor of mine even messaged me to add my chime!

The desire to start tapping away was great. Rumble strips! Have you tried rumble strips! There was a great session about them at the Georgia Bike Summit this year, with different ways to use them in rural and urban environments! Could be life savers!

But wait.

I paused.

Something about the request sat a little funny with me. Assuming these seasoned professionals already know all the obvious answers, what new info do they actually want? Do they really want a laundry list of things like “slow down speeds,” which most likely doesn’t align with their current objective of increasing “capacity” for only one type of road user?

I asked if you really want actual input, could we pop on the phone? as I wanted to get to the bottom of their request a bit better, and was told to make comments in the Twitter post replies or submit to a link provided. Hence this post, which I’ll use as my submitted reply.

I took a bike ride (of course). I gave it some thought.

Dear GDOT: Thank you for reaching out to the public for input on what’s clearly a growing concern of yours about safe access on our state roads. As a person who drives a motor vehicle, walks, takes mass transit, and regularly uses a bicycle as transportation (and recently survived a hit-and-run), this is greatly appreciated.

I wonder if you would consider revising your request a bit to be more clear about the challenge we face and the opportunity we can embrace. May I suggest we start with “people first” language so that the beginning reads:

People who are driving motor vehicles while distracted

Now let’s define the problem a bit more clearly. How’s this:

are increasingly causing preventable damage, injury and death

And now the word roadways doesn’t really capture the value of that physical and symbolic place in our communities. Let’s try:

in our valuable, necessary, and potentially-transformative shared public spaces known as roads

As we know that there are historically marginalized voices (including those with disabilities, BIPOC, children, and the intersectional 51% of the population that is female), the next part is a great opportunity to increase the diversity of the input you receive. So let’s go with:

Share your equally-valid personally-and-professionally-informed suggestions to ensure all people

Okay, now the tweet says “how we can keep roads across America safer.” Let’s narrow that scope to the state of Georgia, and then let’s punch a hole in the embedded assumption that roads are already safe and we are simply making them safer. They are not currently safe for all people.

So the opportunity here is to actually define what “safe” means and then set a big, hairy, audacious goal that is a point of pride, not divide for the Georgia Department of Transportation to take a national leadership role. So, I offer for your consideration:

can travel in a way that is clearly prioritized as indisputably safe and dignified in order to help reach our goal of being number one in the USA as best place to travel on state roads no matter what type of transportation you use.

Oh, and let’s just add one more little thing because, well, you’ll see:

We recognize that compromising on these ideals kills people and thereby commit to rejecting that temptation.

Okay, granted, I’ve gone over the Twitter space count here but it can be more than one tweet. Thus (drumroll), here is my suggestion for your revised “ask,” open for additional edits as more people “chime in.”

People who are driving motor vehicles while distracted are increasingly causing preventable damage, injury and death in our valuable, necessary, and potentially-transformative shared public spaces known as roads.

Share your equally-valid personally-and-professionally-informed suggestions as part of a paid focus group* to ensure all people can travel in a way that is clearly prioritized as indisputably safe and dignified in order to help reach our goal of being number one in the USA as best place to travel on state roads no matter what type of transportation you use.

We recognize that compromising on these ideals kills people and thereby commit to rejecting that temptation.

* It’s worth considering paying folks for their time and expertise; also, note it’s best practices to include food and child care if any meetings occur in person, especially at meal times, in order to enable people who serve their families as caregivers and those with limited means to attend. Finally, if you “pay for parking” to attend meetings, it makes sense to also pay for mass transit. Thank you for all you do. It matters.

For what it’s worth.

Trust the journey,

Pattie Baker

TravelingAtTheSpeedOfBike.com

Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor

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