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Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and PEDS in merger talks

Streets Alive Atlanta Streets Alive on South Broad in downtown in 2017 (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

By Maria Saporta

Pedestrians and cyclists in Atlanta will walk (or ride) in sync, if a merger between two major nonprofits is successful.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition issued a statement immediately after its Quarterly Stakeholder Briefing Thursday night stating it is in merger discussions with PEDS, a leading organization that focuses on pedestrian improvements and safety.

The statement was signed by Naoya Wada, board chair of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition; and Carolyn Rader, PEDS’ board chair. It stated:

For decades now, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and PEDS have been two critical pieces of Atlanta and Georgia’s sustainable transportation puzzle. We have partnered and learned from one another as we each advocated for an Atlanta where everyone can walk and bike to get where they need to go. 

In today’s environment, the opportunities and challenges we each face combined with our desire to have a greater impact on these issues have led us to explore the possibility of joining forces. 

“We have entered into talks to consider whether a merger of some kind might help us gain efficiencies in our operations and emerge as a stronger, more cohesive voice for equitable mobility throughout Atlanta. “While it is too early to speculate on the outcome, our two organizations have formed a committee of board members and staff representing both organizations, which are working diligently on the issues involved.”

Both organizations have been steadfast advocates for their respective modes of transportation – bicycling and walking – for decades. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition was founded in 1991 by Henry Slack and the late Dennis Hoffarth. PEDS was founded in 1996 by Sally Flocks, who retired in 2019.

That’s when the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, in collaboration with partners, members and supporters, began to move in a new strategic direction.

The statement said the nonprofit responded to changes in the environment, deciding to expand its goals to include safe streets for walking, biking and transit that works for all. It adopted a new mission statement “to reclaim Atlanta’s streets as safe, inclusive, and thriving spaces for people to ride, walk, and roll.”

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also is exploring changing its name to reflect its growing mission.

“As we enter our 30th year, we are enthusiastic about the potential to create a unified voice for sustainable transportation solutions,” according to the statement.

In a text exchange with Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, she said she could not add anything more at this time.

Atlanta Streets Alive Five Points

Atlanta Streets Alive, presented by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, in April 2019 at Five Points with the neon Coca-Cola sign (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“We just felt we should be transparent with our members that we are talking,” Serna said adding she would be able to say more if the talks are successful.

Larissa Bradburn, PEDS’ interim executive director, also declined to be interviewed in a text exchange.

“We are only in beginning discussions regarding a possible merger or collaboration,” Bradburn said. “I don’t have anything more to add at this point other than we are dedicated to continue our mission.”

The statement did highlight one difference between the two nonprofits. PEDS has been an advocate for pedestrians and walkable communities throughout the Atlanta region and Georgia. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition has focused its efforts in the city of Atlanta.

But the statement hinted that the Coalition’s scope could change if the merger goes through.

“We are committed to continuing our mission of making streets and communities in Georgia, safe, inviting, and accessible to all pedestrians,” according to the statement. “We are excited about this opportunity to strengthen and grow our mission to ensure that walking and wheeling is equitable and safe for everyone.”

 

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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