The Savannah Bicycle Campaign (SBC) organized Bike to Work Day in Savannah by setting up a commute from Habersham Shopping Village to Ellis Square. At Ellis Square, spokespersons and city officials addressed the state of cycling in Savannah.
Bike to Work Day, an annual event established by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956, was held on Friday, May 20. The event is held in cities across the country to encourage biking in communities and raise awareness of local cycling infrastructure.
The commute started at 7:30 a.m. when a small gathering met SBC volunteers at the Habersham Village shopping center on the corner of East 61st Street and Habersham Street. More participants joined the group en route, including Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson.
The SBC led the convoy north along bike routes on Habersham Street and Lincoln Street. During the trip, the SBC emphasized the use of safe and legal biking practices.
The route ended at Ellis Square where fresh coffee, local media and bike trailers were waiting. Then there was a brief press conference.
Sean Brandon of the Savannah Department of Mobility and Parking Services welcomed guests and participants and addressed the state of cycling in Savannah. Brandon offered insight based on data from this year’s cycling accident reports, plus data collected from the SBC’s 2010 Savannah bike census. The census allows city planning officials to address the areas where citizens are using bicycles so officials can better target local needs.
“The good thing about cycling in Savannah is that more people are doing it,” said Brandon. He explained that, in the five years the SBC has been conducting a bike census, cycling has grown every year. It is also becoming more diverse with only 60 percent of cyclists being male, compared to the 75 percent observed five years earlier.
Additionally, Brandon announced that the city is being inundated with requests for bike racks at local businesses, and there will be a bicycle lane created on Price Street. Savannah cyclists have long demanded a southbound equivalent to the one-way bicycle lane on northbound Lincoln Street. The bicycle lane, as well as on-street parking, will be created late this summer when temperatures and traffic will be ideal for street painting.
After Brandon’s announcements, the podium was turned over to Mayor Johnson.
“I try to join cyclists whenever they do these special events to show my support as mayor of this city,” said Johnson.
The final speaker of the conference was Savannah Bicycle Campaign director Frank McIntosh, who thanked volunteers that make projects like the bike census possible. He also thanked the city of Savannah for its support and cooperation, especially in efforts like sharing the bike-accident data.
McIntosh then promoted upcoming events like the SBC’s quarterly Bicycle Education 101 courses, and he recalled the expansion of cycling in recent years, noting improvements like the 2010 opening of the Washington Avenue bicycle lane and the Georgia State Assembly passing the Better Bicycling Bill, on May 11. The bill establishes three feet as the minimum safe-passing distance for drivers passing cyclists.
As part of his closing remarks, McIntosh reminded his audience that Tybee Island was recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a bronze-level bicycle friendly community. He also noted that Savannah is listed as an honorable mention.
McIntosh is extremely optimistic about cycling’s future in Savannah.Contact Allen Duncan.