“The newly united organization remains committed to championing an Atlanta where everyone moves safely, easily, and sustainably throughout the city,” said Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “Regardless of your mode of transportation or your ability challenges, it’s all about giving people more options and making those options equitable and accessible.”
Over the past few years, Serna noticed a generational shift in how people approached transportation.
“Previously, I heard from people who said, ‘I’m a pedestrian; I’m a cyclist’,” Serna said. “Then, I started to hear from people more, ‘I just want to get around the city in the way that makes the most sense for me on any given day’.”
For the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, which started the popular Atlanta Streets Alive event and bike valet service at Atlanta United games and local festivals, it just made sense for “two small organizations with really big goals for Atlanta” to join forces.
“Whether you are walking, biking, using a wheelchair or hopping on a scooter, a lot of the issues and barriers are the same when it comes to safety,” Serna said. “Particularly when it comes to high-speed streets and speeding drivers.”
Prior to the merger, the nonprofits partnered on common issues. For example, PEDS conducted data analysis that found most pedestrian fatalities occurred at transit stops. Another critical research finding was Atlanta’s High-Injury Network report, completed by John Saxton and delivered to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition in 2018. Saxton’s research found that less than eight percent of Atlanta streets contributed to 88 percent of Atlanta’s fatal crashes due to dangerous high-speed driving on streets where people are walking or rolling to connect to transit.
“That’s an example of community members and organizations working together to research the issues, raise awareness, and urge local agencies to make concrete physical improvements to streets,” Serna said. “That’s something that we’ve been able to carry forward.” And Serna expects to continue to build on PEDS’ knowledge and expertise on pedestrian issues.
Several PEDS board members now serve on the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s Governing Board and others were invited to join its advisory council. PEDS was dissolved after the asset transfer to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.
“We are committed to continuing our mission of making streets and communities in Georgia safe, inviting, and accessible to all pedestrians through this merger,” said Carolyn H. Rader, former board chair of PEDS.
The roots of the merger can be traced back to 2019, when the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition updated its strategic plan and broadened its focus.
“We expanded our goals to include streets safe for walking, biking, and transit,” says Naoya Wada, board chair of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.” As a result, we adopted a new mission statement: to reclaim Atlanta’s streets as safe, inclusive, and thriving spaces for people to ride, walk, and roll.”
The pandemic in 2020 added a sense of urgency as nonprofits “took a hard look at their operations and asked themselves if they could be run more efficiently by merging or partnering differently,” per Serna.
Post-merger, advocacy will mostly remain local.
“Our geographic focus is primarily on the City of Atlanta” Serna said. “Adding transit advocacy is pulling us more in the regional direction but we want to be very measured and make sure we can deliver on our goals.”
At the state level, the merged nonprofit will continue to partner with Georgia Bikes and advocate for the Georgia Department of Transportation to improve safety on state-owned roads.
“Georgia Bikes has lobbied at the state level for bicycle and pedestrian safety legislation, for example, getting speed cameras in school zones,” Serna said. “That’s something we worked on with Georgia Bikes and PEDS. I recently learned that the City of Atlanta and APS have finally come to an agreement to have speed cameras installed in school zones.”
In preparation of the Nov. 2 municipal elections and change in governance, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition has developed a policy agenda, posted mayoral and city council candidate responses to their questionnaire and hosted candidate forums called TransFormation Tuesdays. The mayoral forum is scheduled for Oct. 25 and additional forums may be added before the anticipated Nov. 30 runoffs.
“All forums are recorded and available online [atlantabike.org/transformationtuesdays],” Serna said. “We’re promoting them as a resource for people to dip into as their time and schedule permits.”
Another priority for 2021 is to create an infrastructure project tracker.
“This is part of our goal to hold our elected officials and city accountable for building planned projects,” Serna said. “We will release the first set of projects we’re tracking in October”.
And in 2022, look for the merged organization to announce its new name at the annual Blinkie Awards event.
“What the merger has done is positioned us for growth,” Serna said.