Biking coalition enriches lives and communities

Q: We are new to Atlanta and given the pandemic we have returned to biking. Would you tell us about the Atlanta Bike Coalition?

A: The Atlanta Bike Coalition was founded in 1991 as an advocate for bikers. Their plan was broadened to become a bike-walk transit organization last fall.

A meeting of bicyclists was called to address bicycle improvements in the spring of 1991. The thought was if the city had better places to ride, more would join in, said co-founder Henry Slack in an email to the AJC.

“Atlanta had some fixable problems,” said Slack. “Dennis Hoffarth and I saw the problems of a cars-only mentality (expense, air pollution, health) and so we created the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to promote bicycling and fight on those issues.”

Programs include Atlanta Streets Alive, Shifting Gears, Atlanta Bike Champions and Bike Family.

Atlanta Streets Alive was born from Executive Director Rebecca Serna’s experience while living in Bogota, Colombia.

“I got to experience what a beautiful and yet completely normal thing it was that streets were open on Sundays and everyone in their grandma was out just walking, biking, enjoying car-free streets – something that really changed the culture in an impactful way,” she said.

The Atlanta Bike Champions program is designed to engage more community involvement around bike share and in particular those living in communities of color who felt they had no ownership in, Serna said.

“As a way to build more of a community sense around biking, our Bike Family program provides bikes and education for families who don’t have them,” she said.

Through community voices and with community evolution, Serna said they felt the next step was timely. The bike club is working on identifying and removing institutional racism from transportation systems.

“There were a lot of decisions made about, for example, the placement of highways that were very clearly based on racist ideas,” she said.

Beyond advocacy and programs, the coalition offers a number of resources and virtual classes.

“I really want the generation of kids growing up today to have a different experience with walking, biking and public transportation in the city. I want them to feel like they can make the choice; that it’s not predetermined and they are going to be safe in whatever path they choose,” Serna said.

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