The Union Recorder

January 24, 2013

City learns perks of becoming Bicycle Friendly Community

Vaishali Patel
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Milledgeville-Baldwin County community’s leaders and decision-makers are learning firsthand about the benefits of becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community.

“I hope they recognize the value of attaining the status. It’s something positive for the community, which can be used for marketing the community and attracting people wanting to retire here,” said Dr. Jim Lidstone, a Live Healthy Baldwin advocate and director of Georgia College’s Center for Health and Social Issues. “It gives alternate forms of transportation and it’s something positive for businesses that want to relocate here.”

While members and advocates of the Bicycling Club of Milledgeville and the Live Healthy Baldwin coalition continue to urge the community and its leaders to support and implement a Complete Streets policy, Eric Broadwell, founder of the Be Bike Friendly consulting firm, kicked off a three-day local visit Wednesday. An invitation was extended to him from the local Chamber of Commerce, bicycling club and Live Healthy Baldwin.

“[Lidstone] asked me to come down and do an assessment on Milledgeville’s ability to attain a Bicycle Friendly Community designation. The goal in my visit is to create a road map with short-term and long-term goals for them to follow to gain the designation. When I look at a community, there are five E’s used to evaluate the community — engineering, education, encouragement, evaluation and planning and enforcement; enforcement is the hardest one to get a high score on,” said Broadwell, who helped create Georgia’s first Bicycle Friendly Community in Roswell in 2005. “In Roswell, after the first year of the Bicycle Friendly Community designation, $2 million was contributed to the city through cycling; 60 percent of people that came to the community to ride were not from Roswell. I am asking [Milledgeville leaders] about their impression on multi-use trails, if they ride a bike, if they are aware of Safe Routes to School, what they are doing to help businesses reach national designation to move forward, what the laws are and what the city does to promote activity on the bicycle, and if they are aware of bike clubs.”

Among the local leaders slated to meet with Broadwell through Friday include Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley, Chamber of Commerce CEO April Bragg, Economic Development Authority Executive Director Matt Poyner, Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Mike Couch, Oconee River Greenway Executive Director Heather Langston, Oconee River Greenway Foundation Board President Colin Moore, Bicyling Club of Milledgeville President Tom Glover, Middle Georgia Regional Commission’s Transportation Mobility Manager Bob Rychel, County Commissioner Tommy French, District 2, and City Council members Denese Shinholster, District 3, Phillip Joiner, District 4, and Steve Chambers, District 6.

“I’ve received some good, strong support from City Council on becoming bicycle-friendly, which will relieve parking issues downtown. They also liked the idea of putting up a video that tape records people going by and they can fast forward through the video to count how many bicyclists travel through an area. A council member was also excited to hear that we don’t have to put in bike lanes everywhere and that sharrows can help people be knowledgeable of bicyclists; it’s an inexpensive way to approach it,” Broadwell said Wednesday afternoon while heading to meet Johnny Grant, Georgia College community engagement and economic development director and former state senator. “The biggest areas of weakness are enforcement and education. There needs to be more focus on educating the public and positive efforts need to be made from the police department in enforcing the law. Overall, everybody is excited and anxious to get started as soon as possible.”

Lidstone hopes to apply to become a Bicycle Friendly Community with the League of American Bicyclists, the designating authority, in July.

“If a community has a Complete Streets policy, then it makes the application look better; they go together nicely,” he said. “Georgia has already passed a Complete Streets policy statewide.”

Broadwell will compile and evaluate data and information collected through research and from his visit to create objectives “that [don’t] cost that much money.”

“The designation brings national recognition, and understanding that Milledgeville is looking at a retirement potential as a theme for the city, this will put the community on the map for retiring citizens. In becoming bicycle-friendly, it brings tourists to your town, which drives up the economic impact and brings vibrancy in the community; it raises the quality of life for the community. It’s the easiest way to do that with the least amount of money; that’s what makes a Bicycle Friendly Community so attractive,” he said. “I want to be a resource so as the city is going through the application, they understand what they should be saying. The whole goal is to get people active, give options to citizens, improve the quality of life and overall become a better place. All of these things bring more people to Milledgeville.”

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