Update: This was originally published in April 2022. I had taken it down but then decided it deserves to be in public view.
Dear Mayor, City Council, and the Sustainability Committee: Thank you for continuing to recognize sustainability heroes. Congratulations to Laura Johnson and to the Dunwoody Community Garden and Orchard for being named this year’s heroes. Laura’s beekeeping work is absolutely critical for our future food security — note: I’ve had about a 95% loss of pollinators in my home food garden in the last few years due to environmental conditions beyond my control. Also, Bob Lundsten (may he Rest In Peace) would be so happy to see how loved the community garden seems to be, and very touched that the food pantry donations continue.
These projects are very important, and there is much more we need to do, with great urgency. The most recent IPCC report includes a summary for local policymakers about which I hope to see a specific response from our city, with measurable metrics for quantitative goals. In the meantime, I do applaud the 2022 sustainability goals (although most have no metrics or budgets attached to them, if I understand that correctly).
I do want to clarify a few points of concern, specifically in relation to “bike-friendliness” as there has been persistent greenwashing and misrepresentation on this issue by city hall (both staff and councilors) for many years now. I am also deeply disappointed that city hall has collectively allowed that compromise-that-kills named Tilly Mill to happen as currently represented, as well as other locations that were affirmatively redesigned to include sub-par infrastructure that serves as mere “bike friendly” theater and could actually further endanger people as it implies a safety that does not exist. In addition to life-and-death safety concerns for people of all ages and abilities, we, as a city, leave significant money on the table by discounting and marginalizing key ways to drive revenue (especially to small businesses — see attachment at end — and through the e-cargo boon happening elsewhere) by not creating actual safe access.
As a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, PeopleForBikes Ambassador, Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor as part of a 130-global-bicycle-mayor consortium with the Amsterdam-based social enterprise BYCS, author of Traveling at the Speed of Bike (book and blog), and first survivor of a Vulnerable Road User Violation in the southeastern United States (on Tilly Mill Road while riding my bike home after filming a video about how to drive safely around people on bikes, per Councilor Seconder’s request), and with a pool noodle sticking off my bike for more than four years now (which I do not use in places that are actually bike-friendly), I expect my input to be taken seriously. Please see attached.
I have already served on the original Comprehensive Land Use Plan’s Steering Committee (for which I donated more than 100 pro bono hours), and was appointed to start and lead the Sustainability Commission at the exact same time that the city launched (which became almost a full-time job for me that year, while also working a full-time job, which ensured the city became a certified Green Community with the Atlanta Regional Commission). I have answered surveys, participated in focus groups, and shared my lived and learned expertise for free in hundreds of other ways over the last 13 years in relation to safe access for all. I have seen much of my expertise be disregarded. That is no longer acceptable.
Although I appreciated being named Sustainability Hero last year, I am far more interested in ensuring that the rubber-hits-the-road truth about our city’s lack of safe access right now, today is admitted, embraced, and addressed. I am deeply concerned that people in our city must assume unreasonable risk on continually dangerous-by-design streets if they want to ride a bike to get actual places (I ride 10-15 miles for transportation on my bike almost daily — I am usually the only person on a bike as transportation that I see in our city, and definitely the only 58-year-old woman). No amount of expertise, education, or enforcement changes that (especially with increased driver distractions, impairment, rage, and intention to harm at the same time vehicle size is expanding exponentially). Please note that decriminalizing riding a bike on the sidewalk at any age as a necessary act of self-preservation was good but it is a temporary solution — it requires a 40% time tax and additional, different dangers, access, and insurance defense issues. It is also an unusable option for those with joint pain issues as it is an uneven, unpleasant ride at best and painful at worst — note that 50% of those with disabilities can ride a regular bicycle and 78% can ride some sort of cycle; additionally, people using wheelchairs are legally allowed in bike lanes.
The time for change is now, not after the first ghost bike appears. Here is my specific ask: Direct staff tonight to add pop-up temporary protection to the currently-deadly paint-on-the-road masquerading as bike lanes on Tilly Mill Road during National Bike Month 2022. Citizens in a self-proclaimed “family friendly” city deserve the same protection as construction workers and potholes. We are worth more dignity than is currently being provided.
My daughters came with me to city hall when we became the newest city in the USA. They were 8 and 13 years old when safe access was promised. Children don’t wait — they grow up. They are now 22 and 27. It’s time.
Trust the journey,
Users Guide for riding a bike in Dunwoody, GA USA (with some useful info for everywhere)