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District 1 Candidates Decatur Bicycle Coalition Q&A

The Decatur Bicycle Coalition believes that open discussions of issues facing the City of Decatur will lead to a better informed public. As the Decatur Bicycle Coalition advocates for expanding bicycle infrastructure throughout the city, we believe that it is important for City of Decatur residents to understand where the District 1 Commission candidates stand on bicycle transportation improvements. So, we asked each of the four District 1 Commission candidates three questions about their support for bicycle transportation initiatives.

We thank each candidate for their commitment to the City of Decatur and for taking the time to respond to our questions. Here are their responses.

Kelly Walsh
K_W.

1. The City of Decatur has a long been supportive of bicycle transportation initiatives. However, the results of the survey component of the 2016 Decatur 360 Comprehensive Plan showed that “A total of 56% of respondents did not believe that Decatur has adequate bicycle and pedestrian connectivity between its residential neighborhoods and its commercial districts.” (22) The Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan, adopted by the City Commission in December 2016, provides an actionable plan to connect neighborhoods and commercial districts. The Connectivity and Implementation Plan also connects Decatur to regional bike paths and the Atlanta Beltline. Do you support the Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan? If so, what steps will you take to move forward with it?

I am wholeheartedly in favor of the recently adopted Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan. I believe such plans and initiatives writ large can increase ridership and get more people on bikes. I support biking as a leisure and social activity and also as an important way to commute to work, and as an alternative to using a car as often as possible. My husband is an avid road cyclist for fitness and fun and our whole family enjoys riding together. My kids have been riding bikes since well before they could spell the word “bike”. I just counted 7 bikes (for a family of four) in our garage. Our longest ride together was to Stone Mountain and back from Decatur.

You may know that I have served on the Decatur Active Living Citizens Advisory board for five years (I chaired it for two of those) and have enthusiastically supported efforts to expand trails, to teach young and old how to ride, and I have promoted health through bicycling as part of the Safe Routes to School program.

The plan appeals to me in several ways:
1. Creating less dependency on cars and expanded roads (shift us toward acceptance of road diets and all forms of traffic calming measures vs feeling like it is a zero sum game between cars and bikes every time something like the Commerce Cycle track is proposed. Let’s see this as a win-win.)

2. Promotes social dignity for all citizens. This speaks to me as I think many people, particularly those of lower income, could get to work and to recreate via bike if they felt safe biking a couple of miles to the destination if they do not have a car.

3. Advocating for getting more people on bikes (because they would have safe routes) means a healthier population. We are the product of our built environment and if it mostly accommodates cars then folks will stay in their cars vs opting into cycling.

As a new city commissioner for District 1 of the City of Decatur I would support the implementation of it in the following ways:

    • Set a tone through personal example that biking is safe, fun, and a healthy choice for all of our residents. Example – we bike to school with our kids, to the farmer’s market, and to festivals and concerts around town. I would be a visible presence in a leadership role being active both by myself and with my family.
    • Champion decisions to fund bike path development within the city limits as outlined in the plan (Agnes Scott Connector, Oakview Road Greenway, and the East Decatur Greenway).
    • Propose trails and routes that have better connectivity between the north and south sides of our city making Oakhurst and Winnona Park residents, for example, more likely to bike to downtown to shop and eat and socialize.
  • 2. With the nearly complete McDonough Street protected bike lanes and the forthcoming Commerce Drive and Church Street protected bike lanes, current and past city officials have demonstrated that they value alternative transportation options and are willing to invest in safe bicycling infrastructure. What do you plan to do as commissioner to champion and implement safe bicycle infrastructure?

  • I am of the opinion that a culture shift amongst our residents has to happen so that we are more and more likely to unwed from our cars and opt into riding a bike. Reaching out deeper into the community and creating events that support ridership would be an important way for me to support the current and expanding bicycle infrastructure.

    I would support a bike share program in our city. I believe there are some ideas for doing that but it has not been finalized and prepared for roll out. I would prioritize making this a reality so bikes and bike usage is more and more visible and commonplace all around the city of Decatur.

    A top priority of mine would be to have an annual Decatur “Streets Alive” type event. This would further anchor our culture of pedestrian and bicycling activity and create community around riding.

    Finally, I would champion allocation of new revenue streams coming from things like impact fees and/or splost funds that are new incremental revenue that will be in play for earmarking. I would advocate for use of such new revenue toward trails, regional connectivity projects, and expanding our bicycle infrastructure.

    3. For decades, elected City of Decatur officials as well as City of Decatur staff have worked to implement policies that have made Decatur a pedestrian- and bike-friendly place. These long-term efforts have helped make Decatur a model for the region and even the nation. As city planning analyst Christopher B. Leinberger has noted in the The WalkUp Wake-Up Call: Atlanta, “Decatur has been a leader in suburban walkable urbanism in the region for decades. Supportive land use policies and investments in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure have paid off for Downtown Decatur, with housing values that are among the highest in the region on a square foot-basis.” (41) What actions do you plan to take to ensure that Decatur remains a leader in walkability and bicycle-friendliness?

    I will first and foremost support and elevate the work of the Active Living advisory board where the knowledge and will exist to ensure that we remain a leader in walkability and bicycle-friendliness. This is where the information and work around this topic resides and is supported by staff. Further, I think having more personnel capacity in Active Living and creating a role for a bicycle advocate on the staff could help to make sure this approach and outcome is a permanent part of the work done at the city. All residents should have access to training in how to ride and then have access to a bicycle they can use for the type of use that best suits their needs. Partnerships between the city and our schools and neighborhood groups are where we need to focus energies to get more people comfortable on a bicycle and then out riding.

    The downtown zone of the city of Decatur needs to be friendly to bicycles with ample places to park bikes and safely transit through this dense part of town. More bike racks, shared lanes, and bike share opportunities centered in downtown will make Decatur a leader in bicycle-friendliness too.

    Finally, I have been part of meetings at which an event like a criterium race for bikes was proposed and would showcase downtown Decatur and the close neighborhoods too. This would provide opportunities for visitors from all around to come participate and spectate, and offer an economic development opportunity that really represents the healthy lifestyle we have here in our city. I would be in favor of the city hosting such an event and leveraging it to demonstrate our commitment to being a haven for bicycling enthusiasts of all kinds.

    Tim Martin
    Tim picture

    1. The City of Decatur has a long been supportive of bicycle transportation initiatives. However, the results of the survey component of the 2016 Decatur 360 Comprehensive Plan showed that “A total of 56% of respondents did not believe that Decatur has adequate bicycle and pedestrian connectivity between its residential neighborhoods and its commercial districts.” (22) The Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan, adopted by the City Commission in December 2016, provides an actionable plan to connect neighborhoods and commercial districts. The Connectivity and Implementation Plan also connects Decatur to regional bike paths and the Atlanta Beltline. Do you support the Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan? If so, what steps will you take to move forward with it?

    I support the Plan because it increases options for how people get around, better connecting us and our children to each other and to the city we share. But I also support it because every person walking or rolling rather than driving is a car off the road. That means many residents can benefit from cycling (and related) infrastructure even if they don’t personally ride. Those are the kinds of solutions I like.

    The caveat, which I think most people agree on, is that a single bike lane or path doesn’t make much of a dent in congestion. It’s only when you achieve a cohesive network of trails, tracks and lanes that you really realize the benefits. One connecting not just our neighborhoods and downtown but plugging into the broader region as well. Decatur’s PATH Connectivity Plan is our blueprint to get to that point and it’s my intention to help make it happen. I see those efforts taking the form of a) ongoing assessment of our “order of operations,” making sure we’re continually exploring partners and available funding opportunities to fast-track easier segments; and b) demonstrating commitment in the form of funding allocation.

    2. With the nearly complete McDonough Street protected bike lanes and the forthcoming Commerce Drive and Church Street protected bike lanes, current and past city officials have demonstrated that they value alternative transportation options and are willing to invest in safe bicycling infrastructure. What do you plan to do as commissioner to champion and implement safe bicycle infrastructure?

    As stated above, the Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan is our adopted blueprint guiding these efforts. It details how we’re making a safer, more bike-able, more walkable community. My support for its implementation will be the primary means by which I support our broader mobility goals, but I’ll also be making sure it’s properly integrated with the city’s Community Transportation Plan Update taking place in the coming months. We need to think of mobility and transportation as one big integrated puzzle. Not a series of standalone efforts and upgrades.

    3. For decades, elected City of Decatur officials as well as City of Decatur staff have worked to implement policies that have made Decatur a pedestrian- and bike-friendly place. These long-term efforts have helped make Decatur a model for the region and even the nation. As city planning analyst Christopher B. Leinberger has noted in the The WalkUp Wake-Up Call: Atlanta, “Decatur has been a leader in suburban walkable urbanism in the region for decades. Supportive land use policies and investments in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure have paid off for Downtown Decatur, with housing values that are among the highest in the region on a square foot-basis.” (41) What actions do you plan to take to ensure that Decatur remains a leader in walkability and bicycle-friendliness?

    By keeping our momentum in all the ways previously stated. To me, safer and more diverse mobility options benefit all of us. Even if you drive, you still benefit if others don’t. Getting people off the road by giving them safe and convenient options is a win-win.

    Melissa Manrow
    M_M

    1. The City of Decatur has a long been supportive of bicycle transportation initiatives. However, the results of the survey component of the 2016 Decatur 360 Comprehensive Plan showed that “A total of 56% of respondents did not believe that Decatur has adequate bicycle and pedestrian connectivity between its residential neighborhoods and its commercial districts.” (22) The Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan, adopted by the City Commission in December 2016, provides an actionable plan to connect neighborhoods and commercial districts. The Connectivity and Implementation Plan also connects Decatur to regional bike paths and the Atlanta Beltline. Do you support the Decatur PATH Connectivity and Implementation Plan? If so, what steps will you take to move forward with it?

    I do support the Decatur PATH Connectivity Plan, and will work with city staff to look for funding opportunities and commonsense ways to implement the plan.

    2. With the nearly complete McDonough Street protected bike lanes and the forthcoming Commerce Drive and Church Street protected bike lanes, current and past city officials have demonstrated that they value alternative transportation options and are willing to invest in safe bicycling infrastructure. What do you plan to do as commissioner to champion and implement safe bicycle infrastructure?

    I will continue to support multiple safe ways to access all parts of the city, including on foot, cycling, transit, and by vehicle, as I have while on the Planning Commission, and prior to that as a private citizen.

    3. For decades, elected City of Decatur officials as well as City of Decatur staff have worked to implement policies that have made Decatur a pedestrian- and bike-friendly place. These long-term efforts have helped make Decatur a model for the region and even the nation. As city planning analyst Christopher B. Leinberger has noted in the The WalkUp Wake-Up Call: Atlanta, “Decatur has been a leader in suburban walkable urbanism in the region for decades. Supportive land use policies and investments in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure have paid off for Downtown Decatur, with housing values that are among the highest in the region on a square foot-basis.” (41) What actions do you plan to take to ensure that Decatur remains a leader in walkability and bicycle-friendliness?

    I plan to follow best practices for walkable and bicycle-friendly communities, and to continue building upon the strong foundation already in place. In addition, while I continue to support the Decatur PATH Plan, I would like to explore further use of ideas such as those currently under consideration for the Reimagine West Howard proposal: low-cost initiatives like restriping and planter boxes to set aside bike lanes and walking paths. These low-cost initiatives not only allow quicker, cheaper remedies to dangerous traffic-cycling-pedestrian interactions, but would also allow for citizens to experience the changes without the massive expense and construction delays involved in hardscaping.

Betty Blondeau
Ms. Blondeau did not respond to our questions.

A Victory for Safe Cycling

Thanks to everyone who came out last night (May 1st) to the meeting at Decatur City Hall. The bike racks were jammed full. It was standing room only, and it was so inspiring to hear one bike rider after another come forward and speak in support of protected bicycle infrastructure: old, young, men, women, even a kid with her bike helmet on. The Decatur City Commission denied the petitioners’ demands to delay or reexamine the Commerce Street Cycle Track plans. A victory for safe cycling!

 

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Commission Adopts Decatur PATH Foundation Connectivity and Implementation Plan

We’d like to share some exciting news.  On December 19, the Decatur City Commission adopted the Decatur PATH Foundation Connectivity and Implementation Plan.  This plan will provide a network of protected bike and pedestrian paths throughout Decatur and will also connect to several Atlanta planned and existing paths.  The entire plan can be viewed here.

Decatur/PATH Bike Master Plan Public Meeting, Oct. 19th 6-8pm

The Decatur Bicycle Coalition has been working with the PATH Foundation and the City of Decatur to look into ways to build safe bicycle infrastructure for people of all ages. On 19 October there will be a public meeting where the PATH Foundation will present a proposal for a Decatur pedestrian and bike master plan. We’ve seen the initial draft and it is outstanding. For example, one proposed route would connect Decatur to Kirkwood and the Beltline, thus providing many neighborhoods (downtown Decatur, Oakhurst, Kirkwood, Edgewood, Reynoldstown, and the Beltline neighborhoods) with a protected, multi-use trail system. If you can, please come to the public meeting and show how much support there is for safe infrastructure: Wednesday, October 19th from 6 to 8 pm in the Decatur Recreation Center, located at 231 Sycamore St.

And joining DBC is free, so please sign up to become a member.

Join the Decatur Bicycle Coalition!

Join the Decatur Bicycle Coalition and help make Decatur a place where our children, our parents, and our grandparents can safely get around by bike.  Membership is free. Members will receive information about events, initiatives, and opportunities to help improve bicycle infrastructure in Decatur and neighboring areas. To join, click here or just fill in the form below.