Atlanta poised to accept $250,000 to create a chief overseer of city’s bicycling programs

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council is slated to approve legislation Monday that accepts funding to hire a chief bicycle officer, who is to oversee the city’s comprehensive efforts to promote cycling.

Atlanta is poised to accept a $250,000 grant that will enable it to create a position to coordinate the city's various bicycling programs. Credit: beltline.org

Atlanta is poised to accept a $250,000 grant that will enable it to create a position to coordinate the city’s various bicycling programs. Credit: beltline.org

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation provided a challenge grant in the amount of $250,000 via the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, according to the legislation. The city’s Department of Planning and Community Development has agreed to match the challenge with $250,000.

The challenge grant is to cover program costs for five years. At the end of the period, Atlanta intends shoulder the full cost of the program, Atlanta Planning Director Charletta Wilson Jacks said at the Sept. 29 meeting of the city council’s Community Development Committee.

“We are ecstatic to stand before you and ask for approval to accept and sign a grant agreement with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition,” Jacks said. “The position will champion and oversee bicycle projects.”

Jacks said the chief bicycle officer will be tasked with extensive public outreach, coordinating grants applications, coordinating with various city departments, and ensuring the city is able to launch the planned self-service bicycle share program.

In addition, the CBO is make certain that the recently approved Cycle Atlanta plan, the city’s long-range plan for expanding bicycle infrastructure is actually implemented. The Cycle Atlanta plan was incorporated into the city’s comprehensive transportation plan called Connect Atlanta.

Rebecca Serna

Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, helped arrange a $250,000 grant to Atlanta from the Blank Foundation. The city will use the money to fund a new position, chief bicycle officer. Credit: mailchimp.com

Atlanta Councilmember Andre Dickens, who chairs the Community Development Committee, asked if the money is intended to fund one position at an annual salary of $250,000. Dickens indicated he knew the answer, but wanted to put the matter on the public record.

Jacks responded that the $250,000 is to be drawn down over a five-year period. At the end of that cycle, the Planning Department intends to fund the position, Jacks said.

The committee approved the legislation unanimously with only one other comment. Atlanta Councilmember Joyce Sheperd said she supports the new position because it will enable Atlanta to keep up with the growing trend of folks shifting to bicycles as a major mode of transportation.

“Our world is changing,” Sheperd said. “Trends are changing. How folks actually are commuting are changing. Having a director will help us [manage] that … and make sure we’re getting it right.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced the position May 14 and cast it in the light of the city’s expanding effort to promote cycling.

“A chief bicycle officer for Atlanta comes at the perfect time to leverage the progress we have made and the opportunities before the city,” Reed said in a statement issued that day. “From the city’s infrastructure bond spend to the bike sharing program and Atlanta’s engagement with the ‘Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets’ sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, this is an exciting time for cycling in Atlanta.”

Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, said this in the statement: “By funding and hiring a chief bicycle officer, the city and its supporters in the philanthropic community are sending a clear message that we are serious about creating a network of safe and connected bikeways designed and built thoughtfully for the benefit of all. This position is an example of how the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is bringing new resources to the table for a more bikeable, walkable, livable city.”

Penelope McPhee, president of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, which is the affiliated fund of the Blank Foundation that provided the grant, said in the statement: “Thanks to the successful advocacy of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and the city of Atlanta, biking is becoming a high priority across Atlanta. We are thrilled to support the momentum of this work that is benefitting residents in so many different ways and is helping make our city safer, healthier and more economically competitive.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

9 replies
  1. madrussian says:

    @Sp60  Obviously you lack the ability to see that more bikers means less cars on the road. I find your lack of logical reasoning…disturbing.Report

    Reply
  2. Veritas96 says:

    That’s just what the City needs- another highly paid chief to pontificate and waste more money.  $250k only lasts so long and then it becomes taxpayer funded.  Stupid!Report

    Reply
  3. Veritas96 says:

    @madrussian  BS!  Bike riders are an extreme minority of the masses who seek a lot of funding for their little hipster community.  This will do nothing for traffic and will only add city government’s overhead.Report

    Reply
  4. urban gardener says:

    Commenter /MadRussian – If an unbiased study of bicycles on the road vs increased intown traffic, particularly in the past 18 months, was conducted that demonstrated a reduction of vehicles, it would go a long way to support your case. And that study needs to quantify each bike lane independently. Some lanes may have some impact, such as Edgewood and possibly 10th St, whereas I suspect others will have NO impact, such as Ponce. Ponce is now regularly gridlocked from Monroe Drive west to Yaarab (sp) as early as 3pm now, and every six months the log jam. The dream of bikes removing vehicles is sadly  more dream than reality for most of the commuting population. Weekend recreational bikers, yes some lanes have been a godsend – when they’re not VIP festival parking lanes. But for relieving commuter conjestion, the reason so many are vitriolic against your position is they see NO evidence of it on a day to day basis for well over a year now (sitting in traffic, looking for bicyclists, usually seeing none) – while their drives have become more fraught with seriously aggressive drivers. Start a conversation w/someone you don’t know about driving in town, and it doesn’t take long for them to say that congestion has skyrocketed in the past 18-24 months and the level of aggressiveness in running stop signs, stop lights, cutting drivers off by racing up designated turn lanes, etc has also markedly increased.Report

    Reply
  5. bike guy says:

    urban gardener 18 months of you THINKING traffic has increased and cyclists being more aggressive isn’t an accurate assessment of reality. Also, 18 months of a handful of new bike infrastructure projects isn’t enough data to accurately assess any of this. From my perspective, I’ve seen more bikes on the road and using these new bike lanes/paths/cycletracks than before they existed. But like your perspective, mine may not be an accurate assessment of reality.

    So here’s a bunch of articles/stats/studies that show the benefits of investing in bicycle infrastructure from many cities: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/category/protected-bike-lane-statisticsReport

    Reply

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