News, updates, commentary and more from BikeAthens. BikeAthens is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Athens, GA. BikeAthens promotes transportation and land-use policies that improve alternative modes of transportation, including pedestrian, cycling, and public transit options. The mission of our organization is to make alternative transportation a practical, convenient, and safe option for all citizens of Athens-Clarke County.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Demand for our refurbished bicycles continues to grow, and volunteers have been whipping through our inventory of bicycles this spring. We need to procure more bikes so that our volunteers can continue to work at providing transportation options to the community.
While you can drop your donated bike(s) off outside the shop at any time, the shop is open and staffed with volunteers every Wednesday from 6-8:30 pm and every Sunday afternoon from 2 to 4:00.
BRP details and directions available here.
Thanks for your help!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply. These systems can be listed concisely:
The way we produce food
The way we conduct commerce and trade
The way we travel
The way we occupy the land
The way we acquire and spend capital
And there are others: governance, health care, education and more.
As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending. These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis. What's more, the stress induced by the failure of these systems will only increase the wishful thinking across our nation.
So what are intelligent responses to our predicament? First, we'll have to dramatically reorganize the everyday activities of American life. We'll have to grow our food closer to home, in a manner that will require more human attention. In fact, agriculture needs to return to the center of economic life. We'll have to restore local economic networks -- the very networks that the big-box stores systematically destroyed -- made of fine-grained layers of wholesalers, middlemen and retailers.
Fixing the U.S. passenger railroad system is probably the one project we could undertake right away that would have the greatest impact on the country's oil consumption. The fact that we're not talking about it -- especially in the presidential campaign -- shows how confused we are. The airline industry is disintegrating under the enormous pressure of fuel costs. Airlines cannot fire any more employees and have already offloaded their pension obligations and outsourced their repairs. At least five small airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past two months. If we don't get the passenger trains running again, Americans will be going nowhere five years from now.
We cannot afford to remain befuddled and demoralized. But we must understand that hope is not something applied externally. Real hope resides within us. We generate it -- by proving that we are competent, earnest individuals who can discern between wishing and doing, who don't figure on getting something for nothing and who can be honest about the way the universe really works.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Wheels of change
A bicycle is a perfect machine: simple, elegant and efficient. It does exactly what it needs to do, whenever it needs to do it (unless, of course, its chain falls off in the middle of the pouring rain on a bridge, but that's a story for another time). But beyond providing environmentally friendly transportation, exercise and a heartening feeling of bohemian European-ness as one pedals along, there's a convincing case (laid out by none other than Susan B. Anthony herself!) that the bicycle advanced the cause of women's liberation more than any other inanimate object.
According to this Mental Floss article, in the 19th century, "the Victorian lady rarely exercised or engaged in physical activity, which left her poorly conditioned." But the appearance and popularity of the bicycle in the late 1800s changed all that. Unlike horses, which could be difficult to control (particularly when one was trammeled by the dangerously ladylike convention of riding sidesaddle), "bicycles, by comparison, were easy to manipulate. There was no reason a woman couldn't get on a bike and sedately pedal farther from her home than she'd ever been before."
I used to live in Holland, where bicycles are as much a part of the landscape as cars are in the States, and the sense of freedom when you are riding across a perfectly flat landscape with the wind at your back can be pretty exhilarating, physically and psychologically. But reading this, I can't help thinking, a little sadly, of the spinning classes I walk past every day at the gym -- 30 or 40 women, all in terrific shape, pedaling none too sedately … and going nowhere.
-- Rachel Shukert
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Lots of ideas may be on the table: increasing meter rates, increasing various fines and fees, bringing in new “pay-and-display” technology that prints a receipt for the dashboard, and more - like maybe even extending meter hours beyond 6 p.m.Kudos to Carl Jordan for pointing this out!
Meanwhile, ACC Commissioners - for the most part unaware of the conversation that’s just beginning on ADDA’s end - briefly discussed the downtown parking issue at their May 6 voting meeting, when it came time to renew the county’s two-year contract with ADDA for managing parking. At that meeting, Commissioner Carl Jordan repeated his call for looking at downtown parking in the wider context of Athens’ transportation issues as a whole. “To the extent that we may be subsidizing the parking of automobiles… we’re encouraging cars over alternative transportation,” Jordan said.
One thought, an admittedly radical one for the USA, is to consider eliminating on-street parking altogether and expand our sidewalks so that they can accommodate more than single-file foot traffic. One unintended consequence of the indoor smoking ban has been the creation of fenced off drinking areas in front of bars. While these are pleasant places to hang out, they eat up half the walkable space on the sidewalks.
Broad sidewalks would encourage more outdoor seating, a la Walker's Pub and Ben & Jerry's. Anyone who has traveled through Europe can attest that wide pedestrian boulevards attract people:
Pedestrian thoroughfare in Salamanca, Spain
Image from www.educulture.org
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Re: a Local Option Transit Tax bill:
“There is a lot of momentum for additional transportation funding,” even though a local-option transportation sales tax didn’t make it through. “That issue is not dead,” [state Senator Bill Cowsert] said.and
In a meeting that stretched well past midnight, ACC Commissioners last week asked county staffers to consider whether the planned upgrade of an Eastside sewer line paralleling Lexington Road might double as a recreational trail.
The line runs through a mostly undeveloped area - although both the county and UGA have plans to build new bridges nearby to span the North Oconee River.Cities like Chapel Hill and Greensboro, NC are exploring such joint uses of sewer routes, [commissioner David] Lynn said; and while not all sewer routes are suited to walking and biking trails, “this particular one seems right” if property owners don’t object, he said. The route goes through a roadless area, commissioners noted, and could connect with the Greenway trail that will soon be extended southward along the river to the vicinity of the new Bailey Street wastewater treatment plant scheduled to be built by 2011 (and extended, eventually, along the river to College Station Road).
What does public health have to do with transportation and community planning?
Find out Saturday, May 31st, 2008. The Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center, with funds from the Georgia Department of Transportation, along with the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission, presents a program to educate the public about the link between healthy lifestyles and the built environment.
Meet at the Dudley Park/Cook & Brother Plaza Waterwheel (East Broad St. across from UGA’s Chicopee building) at 9:00 a.m. with your bicycle, a helmet, and a water bottle, for a leisurely ride up the North Oconee River Greenway to Sandy Creek Nature Center. At the Nature Center, Dr. Mark Ebell (Chair, Clarke County Board of Health and Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission) and John Devine (Senior Planner, Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center) will give an informative talk on active living, land use, and transportation. Ride back to Dudley Park for refreshments and a presentation focusing on plans for future greenway improvements in Athens. The program is scheduled to end by 11:00 a.m.
This program is free and open to the public, but participants must register by Thursday, May 29th – email firstname.lastname@example.org. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
For more information, visit www.negplanning.org
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The ACC Mayor & Commission is currently deliberating next year's budget. To ensure that essential services are provided, the Mayor has requested a small property tax increase- the first in many years.
Several commissioners, however, have made it clear they will not support a very modest tax increase in this year's budget. The proposed 1/2 mill increase will provide approximately $1.75 million. For property owners, the increase amounts to about $25 on property assessed at $150,000.
Transit expansion - two lines every 30 minutes: Broad Street and College Station Road ($192,500 + support staff additions)
If you care about Athens' quality of life and about the need for equitable transportation choices in our community, contact your commissioners.
Send them an email, a letter, or make a call.
Better still, go to ACC budget hearings this Thursday, May 15 at 5:30pm and next Thursday, May 22 at 6:45pm (see today's ABH editorial).
DON'T wait! The budget meeting on Thursday will decide what will remain and what will be cut!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Four-dollar-a-gallon gas is good for business — if you run a bike shop. Commuters around the country are dusting off their old two-wheelers — or buying new ones — to cope with rising fuel prices, bicycle dealers say.
"Everyone that comes in the shop is talking about the gas prices," said Barry Dahl, who opened Barry's Bikes in Bismarck in April. He sold more than 50 bicycles in the first month, double the projections in his business plan.
Bicycle shops across the country are reporting strong sales so far this year, and more people are bringing in bikes that have been idled for years, he said.
"People are riding bicycles a lot more often, and it's due to a mixture of things but escalating gas prices is one of them," said Bill Nesper, spokesman for the Washington. D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists.
"We're seeing a spike in the number of calls we're getting from people wanting tips on bicycle commuting," he said.
Full story here.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Greenways: A healthy investment in a community's future
By Dr. Mark Ebell
Everyone knows that obesity is epidemic in the United States. Georgia has among the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the nation. These three diagnoses are connected - obesity leads to diabetes, and the most common cause of death among diabetics is heart disease. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can help people maintain a healthy weight and is more effective than medication at preventing diabetes in those who are at risk.
Unfortunately, in the United States we have traditionally planned our cities around the automobile, making it difficult to incorporate physical activity into daily life. The percentage of trips taken by bicycle or on foot by residents of urban areas in different countries is illustrative: 46 percent in the Netherlands, 34 percent in Germany, 16 percent in Britain, 12 percent in Canada, and only 7 percent in the United States.
Those of us in the health care and public health communities traditionally think of medications, diets and surgery as ways to improve health. But the "built environment" is an equally important factor. Research has shown that when people have interesting or useful destinations, and when they feel safe (from both crime and traffic), many will choose to walk or bike. Multi-use paths like those in the Oconee River Greenway Network provide safe, traffic-free environments for commuters and family-friendly recreation.
Some homeowners worry that a greenway will harm their property value. In fact, the opposite is typically true. Studies of properties adjacent to the Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle, the Luce-Line rail-trail in Minnesota, and other shared-use paths have found that being near a greenway actually increases the value of property. In our own community, condominiums and homes are popping up along the length of the North Oconee River Greenway because developers realize that it adds value and appeal to their properties.
It's important to remember that greenways are about more than just cycling, walking and jogging. They provide a green corridor through our urban landscape and a place for quiet reflection, park activities and picnics. They also are an important corridor for wildlife, and a focal point for stream and river conservation efforts.
The North Oconee River Greenway consists of about four miles of multi-use path running through the heart of town, connecting the University of Georgia with the Sandy Creek Nature Center. Funding comes largely from federal and state transportation programs and local sales tax funds; the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission has never used condemnation to acquire property. Resources already have been secured for key additions to the greenway that will connect it to the East Athens Community Park, restore the historic rail corridor along Oconee and Oak streets to the planned park-and-ride lot at the Athens Perimeter, and continue along the river to College Station Road. Moreover, the University of Georgia is planning to build a bridge that will connect the greenway with East Campus. These are all exciting developments and will make it easier and safer than ever for commuters and students to choose bikes instead of cars, and for families to enjoy the river and its environs.
We feel strongly that expanding the greenway is good for Athens: good for the health of its citizens, good for its economy, and good for the environment. Greenways in Seattle, Madison, Wis., Washington, D.C., and Greensboro, N.C. have become a popular and important part of the public health, transportation and recreational infrastructure of those vibrant communities. They are an important investment in the health and quality of life of a community, but they are not necessarily inexpensive.
Cooperation and coordination between Athens-Clarke County's Leisure Services and Public Utilities departments is an important strategy for reducing costs and should be strongly encouraged. Sewer easements often run along rivers or other gradually down-sloping routes, making them ideal for walkers and cyclists; plus, they require access by county workers for maintenance of the line. Asking that our elected officials and Public Utilities staff consider the possibility of future greenways along appropriate sewer easement corridors is just the smart thing to do.
The Barnett Shoals Interceptor is one such corridor. It runs near hundreds of student apartments, and with the planned multi-use path from College Station along the river and then crossing to East Campus, it would become a great option for students and faculty commuting to UGA. That gets people off congested thoroughfares like College Station Road and Lexington Road during commuting hours, reduces pollution, and improves the public health. What's not to like?
• Ebell chairs the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission and the Clarke County Board of Health.Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 050908
Monday, May 5, 2008
On Tuesday May 6th, the ACC Mayor and Commission will vote on an agenda item concerning a proposed eastside sewer line. During discussion at a recent meeting, an idea brought forward by Commissioner Carl Jordan to consider adding a greenway trail along the sewer line easement ACC must acquire got some favorable response other commissioners.
Trail options are not presently considered for sewer lines built in ACC, but they make sense (fiscally and otherwise) and should be given consideration in the future, depending on where they are, and what locales might be readily connected. However, public support and encouragement is needed for a departure from how things have been done in the past. Obviously, not all sewer lines are useful routes for trails, but this particular one would be a very good first step in a greenway trail that could serve as an off-road option from eastside to UGA.
It is also a particularly good candidate for a greenway because there are only a few property owners along the easement who must approve. Despite recent implications in the ABH, none of the existing Greenway has ever been achieved through condemnation, but always with the blessing of property owners.
A news article on the topic appeared this past Friday in the Athens Banner-Herald:
An editorial entitled “Not the Right Time for A-C to Seek Trails” appeared in the Sunday ABH:
If you support consideration of a trail option, please contact your commissioners prior to Tuesday’s meeting at 7:00 p.m.
See a map of the proposed sewer line in the agenda report at
This project is an upgrade of an existing line linking Lexington Rd (via Shadybrook Dr.), to Barnett Shoals Road, connecting to the sewage treatment plant off College Station Road. Future Greenway plans would connect this area to both College Station Road, and eventually to the North Oconee Greenway and South Campus within several years.
Friday, May 2, 2008
The commission would decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to buy the trail easements, which would cost more than buying enough land just for a sewer.
The county is spending $4 million to enlarge the 2 1/2 mile Barnett Shoals interceptor line. The line runs from Shadybrook Drive - a residential street near Lexington Road - across Barnett Shoals Road to the sewer treatment plant at College Station Road and the Athens Perimeter, where a trail could connect to a future section of the North Oconee River Greenway.