Ugh — I keep adding to this post and it has gotten longgggggggg. Sorry about that! It’s intended to serve as a public record of rubber-hits-the-road truth in a city-at-a-crossroads. Chapters 2, 6 and the Epilogue in my book include more from this specific city but applicable everywhere. ALL proceeds are used to help more women and girls access and ride bikes. FYI, I was appointed by the first mayor to start and lead the Sustainability Commission; I am a founder of both the community garden and food pantry garden (where people from all points of view worked together to create something magical — I met one of my very best friends EVER and fellow garden-founder when we were on polar opposite sides of an issue at city hall and then decided to sit down at Alon’s and talk for three hours straight, may he Rest in Peace); and I was appointed by a city founder/city councilor to serve on the first Comprehensive Land Use Plan Steering Committee when we became the newest city in the USA 14 years ago. I made sure principles of triple-bottom-line sustainability, including safe-access-for-all, were baked into our city’s DNA. We have lost our way and are no longer the positive, can-do city we aspired to be in that church meeting room on that first day of December 2008. Let’s find our way back. Together.
Sweet Joe Seconder. You’ve met him and his wife here before (see a Seconder or Two about Why You’re Needed and Status Quo or Status Joe?). He texted me this video he just spent his entire Sunday making, promoting our city’s community meeting this week about a path master plan (which, as you can see, has a GREAT start), and I see once again why I’m friends with him. I’m also lucky to have him as a city councilor.
Joe Seconder works tirelessly to make positive changes. He is the only city leader/staff member where I live who I’ve seen ride a bike WITH a loved one (his wife) on our city’s dangerous-by-design unprotected “bike lanes.”
Joe’s wife has since refused to ride a bike here due to the persistent dangers. As a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor (#5382), I can tell you for sure that no amount of education, experience or “confidence” will protect you against a driver who is distracted, impaired or intends harm. Additionally, women are close-passed 3.8 times more often than men, and harassed more often, plus are more likely to experience internal injuries when hit due to our generally smaller size and the increasingly large sizes of motor vehicles. We are 51% of the local population.
More fun facts: There’s nothing “ablest” about bike riding (unless you’ve planned your city that way) — 78% of all people who are disabled can operate some sort of cycle (and 50% can ride a traditional two-wheeled bicycle) when provided with safe and convenient ways to do so. Safe access is an equity issue regarding who is allowed to occupy public space; when, where, how and why; and who gets to decide that. Sidewalk-riding (my city is the only city in the State of Georgia that has legalized this on all 65 miles of sidewalk for people of any age, with priority for those walking and using wheelchairs) (yep, there’s a blog post) comes with a 40% time tax (yes, I’ve clocked it) and has its own different dangers and should be considered a temporary solution while real access is being created.
Back to women (for reasons you’d be foolish to overlook): Economically, women make or influence 80% of all consumer purchase decisions, trip-chain more often (which means make multiple stops, such as dropping kids at school and running errands on the way to and from work — so please stop labeling “commuter routes” that don’t take this lived reality into account), and shop locally more often (which keeps more money circulating in the local economy). We are also more likely to make healthy and environmentally-sound decisions (such as using micromobility for transportation) and to include our families when it is safe and convenient to do so. Not providing safe access that meets best practices means our city (and most likely yours if you leave elsewhere around the USA and world) is leaving money on the table as well as the opportunity to improve the health and welfare of our citizens and earth every single day. That’s a triple-bottom-line sustainability fail, team.
Joe has personal skin in the game for wanting to see access-for-all improved, and is often the only one at city hall not just advocating but taking action for rubber-hits-the-road best practices now (not in 20 years).
Oh, wait — I must mention Tom Lambert. He was one of three members of the current city council (Joe is one of the others) who were on the Sustainability Commission (which I was appointed by our first mayor to start and lead one week after our city started operating) and has since taken the lead to sponsor the passage of the first Vulnerable Road User Ordinance in the southeastern USA (it’s a great start to encourage a statewide ordinance, which is needed; however, this local ordinance currently has no teeth due to how it is written and how the courts work — I know what actually happens after the charge because I am the first victim of a driver charged under it).
Tom was also there at the Ride to Lunch with the Mayor a few years ago (but not with a loved one), at which I rode in what’s known as the sweep position (photo below on an unprotected bike lane that does not meet safe-access-for-all standards taken from my GoPro, which I wore on my chest). See the post here.
By the way, the man in the solid red shirt is city founder and third mayor Denny Shortal, a retired Brigadier General and fighter pilot with the Marine Corps. Here is his statement after participating in that ride:
(John Heneghan* has been actively opposed to trails if they are on public land in front of private homes, which would be just about everywhere you actually want and need to go in a suburb. Here is my User’s Guide to Riding a Bike for Transportation in Dunwoody, GA USA) (Note to John: I know you are particularly concerned about trees being cut down. All the trees on one part of Wylie Street in the City of Atlanta were cut down when the Atlanta Beltline extension was built. New trees that are actually more appropriate for providing shade and beauty for people walking and riding bikes — as well as more resilient against storm damage — were planted. It has been just a few years and it is already stunning. If you’d like to ride bikes with me there sometime, please let me know.)
Joe is also, like me, a Road Violence Survivor (as is John’s son).
Note: I posted Joe’s video with added music — Queen’s Bicycle Race, of course: “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike . . . ” — on TikTok at SpeedofBike. Check it out and follow for lots of bikey fun:
*This campaign (which I created pro bono for Bike Walk Dunwoody with the participation of featured subjects) is from 2015. City founder and ongoing 14-year City Councilor John Heneghan, pictured below from the campaign, has three children who are now just about grown. I’ve been riding a bike as transportation 5-15 miles a day for more than ten years here. I have never seen him ride a bike on a road that goes places, either alone or with a loved one.
Please note that John has been a terrific supporter of many positive changes in this city in the past (and, in fact, did ask the public works director to look into temporary pop-up protection on our pretend bike lanes after he ran into me at a MARTA station; the public works director, who has used one of my videos at a national conference to show our city’s dangers, continually claims that providing equitable safe-access-for-all on our numerous recently-created dangerous-by-design “bike lanes” is not possible, which John appears to have accepted). Question for John: If you are not going to support actual (not greenwashed) bike-friendly infrastructure on the roads OR multiuse paths beside them, what exactly are you supporting?
UPDATE: John addressed this question in his blog post last night by saying his main concern is the 12-foot width of the path and asked if it could be 8 or 6-feet instead when in front of homes. I do think that is a conversation worth having, and there is precedent of this in other cities such as Decatur, the only certified silver-level bike-friendly city in the state of Georgia. SEE THE 3RD PHOTO IN MY virtual bike TOUR OF DECATUR. I HAVE CONTINUALLY OFFERED CITY LEADERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO RIDE WITH ME IN THESE PLACES OVER THE YEARS, as it only takes five minutes to “get it” (yet 14 years and counting so far to not get it). ALMOST NONE HAVE JOINED ME.
Fun fact: None of the women pictured below (except me and very occasionally Caryn) currently ride their bikes in our city anymore due to dangerous-by-design conditions or having moved elsewhere.
I’ve seen the family below ride this cycle once and only once — and that was on the morning of the July 4th Parade, when one of our main roads to actually get places was closed to motor vehicle traffic and open to people:
I rode my bike on that street last week to go 3.5 miles to my nearest MARTA station. It looked like this:
Finally, this is the very last video my family would have found on my phone after a driver hit me (and kept going) (my post about that is the most-viewed-ever here on Traveling at the Speed of Bike). I recorded it at Joe’s request for a safe-driving-around-people-on-bikes class he was creating for city employees:
And yet another public service announcement (note that our neighboring city already has a ghost bike— for a Dunwoody citizen):
Oh, and by the way, that Share the Road sign in the photo with Joe at the top of this post? That ain’t workin’:
The TikTok above as well as the one below were on my way home from Lemonade Days, our “family friendly” city’s big signature event. I strongly recommend that my city leaders take the two minutes and watch it (and have, in fact emailed this post to them). Thank you.
BOTTOM LINE: YOU ARE NEEDED
P.S. I have forwarded this post to the PATH Foundation, which is leading the meeting this week in my city about a multipath plan that actually goes places. I don’t intend to engage in detailed conversation about my lived and learned expertise at the meeting as that now has a price tag on it. I will be covering the meeting as a multiplatform photojournalist. I will be especially curious to see what identifiable aspects of the plan show a clear and inclusive understanding of gender equity in public space (lighting, no isolated or hidden segments, inclusive signage that doesn’t visually depict only men on road bikes, bike parking for trip-chaining, priority at intersections and a count-down pace that takes children and elders into account, etc.) and the oversized economic impact of women on bikes.
Oh, and for the record (as a mom whose children attended more than 10 years of daycare, camps and other activities at the community center on Tilly Mill Road, to which we often rode bikes the one mile from our home and which required I get “special dismissal permission” every single year), that path belongs on the west side of the road, not the east side. There is no debate about that, if you are actually looking at what makes rubber-hits-the-road sense.
By the way, if we truly wanted to be bike-friendly, we would be already. It’s not hard. The fact that we are not leads me to think that this whole discussion is not actually about bikes at all. And That’s a whole other post.
(My email this morning to City Hall and others)
Good morning, all! Last night’s multiuse path meeting was actually really fun! I had so many lovely conversations with old friends and new ones, and, dare I say, I felt hope again! Whoo hoo! Thank you to the city for hosting it. Here are a few follow up links, as promised:
Rob: Per our conversation, here’s my post about sneckdowns! “Sneckdown” is a term used for the untouched snow on the roads after motor vehicles have been able to blaze their path. These spots are prime candidates for tactical urbanism, bulbouts, bioswales, protected bike lanes, pocket parks and more. The beauty is that if you capture visuals of them in photos following a snow storm, then it’s pretty easy to show citizens and businesses how these spaces are ripe for repurposing without impacting the hallowed motor vehicle traffic routes. So, let is snow, let it snow, let it snow! (Fun fact re: photo below — that little sneckdown shown is now a concrete barrier — I can’t remember if it is a bioswale or not, but either way, this is good!)
Richard: LOVED talking with you about Woodstock and am so glad you are here. Nice to finally meet you! You have such a lovely aura. Here’s my bike tour of Woodstock as a PeopleForBikes Ambassador, if interested. You’ll recognize where the photos were taken!
Also, per our conversation with several of you about the new Bike/Ped staff person in January and the possibility in 2023 of pop-up pilot examples of actual safe infrastructure — please don’t make this harder than it needs to be. Here are four spots right now in Dunwoody that could be pop-up protected bike lanes TODAY (well, tomorrow depending on Amazon Prime delivery). Add 10 cones to each. 40 cones. $159 a 10-pack on Amazon. Done. (These cones could later be used as a lending library to neighborhoods.) Invite folks to road-test these short segments. Encourage them to take photos, post, share. Have a fun contest! Build community, consensus and comfort. What on earth is everyone waiting for? Is there not $636 dollars in the budget to do this next week? Every single one of you with whom I spoke about this shook your heads and said it was gonna take like a year for this. What will it take for us to become a can-do city again rather than a can’t, can’t, can’t city? What on earth has happened to us, team? Fun fact: I shared that recommendation with City Hall at least ten years ago (and numerous times since then, including this post from six years ago). No more Cone of Silence.
Jason: LOVED seeing you, Paige and your son there. If anyone else is interested, Jason and I are the only two people who rode bikes to this meeting as well as the dedication of the new artsy bike rack in Brook Run Park (which I believe is the most beautiful bike rack in the USA, by the way). He is my Oxford Chase neighbor and is the only other person I know in the city who uses his bike for transportation. (Question to City Hall: The bike rack at City Hall, a certified ARC Gold-level Green Community, is also the smoking section AND a bench is directly covering the bike rack. Maybe this can be fixed? It’s not very encouraging! On a positive note — it IS well lit and that was appreciated.) (Fun fact: The only bike rack in all of Perimeter Mall is by the dumpsters behind Macy’s and it is also the smoking section, and also creepy. This is really, really yucky.)
Oh, and fun fact, on the way home, I just missed being mixed up in a car crash at the corner of Mt. Vernon and Vermack. While I was riding by (on the sidewalk — which is super uncomfortable at night, despite my light, due to all the impediments), at least five police cars arrived and some sort of altercation with one of the drivers was ongoing. My first thought was Jason and gratitude that he had chosen to not ride his bike home since I know he would have been riding in the road. He is my neighbor and I saw him in his driveway as I arrived down the hill by our homes. His first thought as his family drove by the crash was me and hoping I had not been involved. That’s one small way that bike riding unites community members. Note: Jason and his son are both road violence survivors, as am I. That’s an unfortunate way we are also united :(. Big thanks to Paige for advocating the de-criminalizing of sidewalk riding. It might have saved my life last night.
Tom and Catherine: I’m sorry I did not get a chance to talk with you last night. Perhaps we can cross paths again in the near future.
Lynn and John: Missed you! Would still love to teach you to ride a bike, Lynn. I teach many women and girls (who are underrepresented in public space) to ride bikes for the first time in their lives. I have held classes all over Metro Atlanta but will only teach them in Dunwoody in the parks because the roads in Dunwoody don’t meet standards for safe-access-for-all. Meet Kaysha and other students of mine here. That short post includes a message for city leaders everywhere. Please take the moment! Lives depend on what all of you choose to do next to create true safe-access-for-all.
If it is helpful to anyone, I created this little poster of my proprietary learn-to-ride class. The QR code takes you to 75 quick tips and encouragement on a dedicated TikTok account separate from my main one. My second class, offered after new riders practice for a month, condenses the League of American Bicyclists’ 9-hour Smart Cycling course into 1.5-2 hours. See here for downloadable PDFs for both my classes as well as seniors-on-trikes recommendations developed following the year I was hired to teach that class in the City of Decatur. These have been downloaded thousands of times globally. FYI, three regional cities offer seniors-on-trikes opportunities right now. I’m not sure if I will be teaching any classes in 2023 as I am preparing to leave for a cross-country investigative journalism trip (if the stars align, lol) via bikes, buses, trains and working on organic farms (new book, of course — see here if interested) but would be happy to sneak one or two in for you, Lynn. Or perhaps this little 5-step poster will at least help you think about it. (No pressure.)
Stacey, Joe, Nathan, Caryn, Anne, Allison, Nadya: Great to see you again, as always. And Caryn, a special thank you for taking the time to add the red dots of danger to the Dunwoody map last night. I heard someone ask you if the places you indicated were your only concerns and you replied, “No, but I ran out of dots!” For anyone that doesn’t know Caryn, she is one of my dearest friends and one of my fave bike buddies. She chose to move to Dunwoody twice. You met her in 2015 in this campaign. (She hardly ever rides her bike here anymore due to the persistent, known dangers — we mostly roller-skate together now. She drives to meet me.)
I wish you all happy holidays and much success in 2023. Hope to see you out there Traveling at the Speed of Bike.
Trust the journey,