Skip to content.
Bike Month promo image.

Bike Month 2023 Recap

This May has been another successful Bike Month for us in Columbus, Georgia. This was my first time coordinating it with Bicycle Columbus, and here’s a quick recap of what we accomplished.

Ride With the Mayor

Ride With the Mayor is our big opening event for Bike Month. Having our mayor, Skip Henderson, support us by co-hosting a ride sends a great message to the public about how important bicycles are to our city. Skip and his staff were a pleasure to work with.

A photo of Mayor Skip Henderson at Ride With the Mayor.

Mayor Skip Henderson at Ride With the Mayor.

The ride itself had at least seventy participants. Its five-mile route began and ended downtown, and it led us through a few different districts along the way. This helped show off our new bicycle trail segment along with our city’s diverse neighborhoods.

Check out my GoPro montage of the ride here on TikTok.

Bike-to-work day

To promote our local Bike-to-work Day, we set up a station downtown at Iron Bank Coffee with information and refreshments for bike commuters. (Iron Bank Coffee was also featured in my last Coffeeneuring challenge.) We got a few visitors, but stormy weather kept most people away that day.

Ride of Silence

We joined the rest of the world on May 17 with the Ride of Silence, commemorating everyone who has lost their life while cycling. The weather worked against us again with thunderstorms and flash floods raging all afternoon. The sun finally came out about ten minutes before we were scheduled to start, but most potential riders had already made their decision against coming by that point.

We almost called it off, but a handful of dedicated people joined us at the last minute, so we officially had a group ride. The low turnout had one comical effect, which was that our police motorcade was at least twice as big as the group of riders themselves. Everyone on a bicycle that evening felt like royalty with their huge escort.

Midtown Bike Around

This was another family-friendly slow-roll that showed off our Midtown neighborhoods, including another new section of our bike trail. It had a few dozen riders (the kind of turnout we had hoped for Ride of Silence), and everyone had a great time.

Final thoughts

I like to think of our Bike Month events as our “greatest hits.” They all enjoy wide support from a diverse public, from dedicated cyclists to families with small children. The rides come with police escorts and, for one event, a partnership with our mayor himself. Most of them also include a sponsorship from a local restaurant where riders can gather.

There’s always room for improvement, though. I would love to see a few kinds of smaller events throughout the month to supplement our “hits.” Bike-to-work Day also always feels like challenge due to how sprawling our city is. But given that Bicycle Columbus has limited bandwidth, I believe that we used our resources quite effectively with the events we hosted.

It was a pleasure to organize and participate in each of these events this year, and I’m looking forward to help iterate on them for 2024!

Sharrows won't protect you from a swarm of bees, or cars

Sharrows, those ubiquitous and controversial arrows painted on our roads, continue drawing criticism. I recently saw a take from Momentum Magazine which compares their effectiveness to that against a swarm of angry bees.

Studies have shown that sharrows don’t actually provide any real safety benefits for cyclists. In fact, they may even make things worse by encouraging drivers to pass cyclists too closely. It’s like trying to protect yourself from a swarm of angry bees with a sign that says “Please don’t sting me.” It’s just not going to work.

Emphasis by me. Quoted from: Sharrows used to make sense in theory, but are now useless and possibly dangerous in practice.

I would like to take that analogy further. Imagine your government was funding those swarms of angry bees, and they even built your street specifically to accommodate a heavy flow of angry bee swarms. When you went to complain that these angry bees were stinging you, their solution was painting a “please don’t sting me” sign.

You may think that’s uncharitable, since bees obviously can’t read a sign. But, as I wrote in my last post about sharrows, most drivers don’t know what sharrows mean either. In fact, most bicycle riders and lawmakers don’t know.

Our streets are deadly by design, not by accident. Lawmakers shouldn’t endorse building dangerous streets and then try to offset that by adding signage, especially by signage that only confuses people.

Georgia Bikes launches a new crash data dashboard

Advocacy organization Georgia Bikes has launched a dashboard to explore bicycle and pedestrian crash data in the Peach State. It is freely available for the public to use on their website.

“Crashes and fatalities involving vulnerable road users (VRUs) are on the rise in recent years for several reasons, including distracted driving, increased vehicle size and speed, and poor road design that prioritizes speed over safety,” said Georgia Bikes in their announcement. “In order to help you understand bike and pedestrian crash trends in your community, Georgia Bikes has developed a new interactive data dashboard.”

You can view the Georgia Bikes crash data dashboard here.

A screenshot of the Georgia Bikes crash data dashboard.

The dashboard uses data from 2013 to 2021, which is the most recent year available. It displays geographic locations of each crash, whether there was a fatality or an injury, and the light conditions at the time of the crash. Users can filter the data by county, switch between bicycle and pedestrian data, and view a year-to-date summary.

On the state level, this reveals that Georgia is roughly following the national trend of rising crashes. Additionally, the majority of crashes happen in the daylight, not at night. (74% of bicycle crashes and 52% of pedestrian crashes are in daylight.) Individual counties can differ, though, so this tool can help anyone who needs to view the exact data in their local area, or identify specific roads that are more dangerous.

This launch comes just after the NHTSA released their data showing that nationwide bicycle and pedestrian fatalities have hit a 40-year high. It’s a grim reality that we have so much crash data that we need more sophisticated tools to analyze it, but hopefully dashboards like this can help empower us to make our streets safer for everyone.

New NHTSA report shows pedestrian and bicycle fatalities hit a 40-year high

After a 15 month wait, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finally released its crash data for 2021. It shows that pedestrian and bicycle fatalities rose once again. This continues a decade-long trend and has now reached a 40-year high.

You can view the NHTSA report directly here.

The League of American Bicyclists has updated their data platform with the numbers from this latest report. Below are a couple of the charts showing the trends since the 70s:

A chart showing the number of annual bicyclist fatalities with a 40 year high.

A chart showing the number of annual pedestrian fatalities with a 40 year high.

Smart Growth America, the organization behind the Dangerous By Design report, has a reaction to the data here. They explain how the extreme delays in the report are hurting efforts to improve safety, and they don’t mince words when it comes to the severity of these numbers:

Whatever constitutes our approach to safety in this country, it is a total failure. We are failing the victims, we are failing their friends and loved ones who have to press on after these traumatic incidents, and we are failing our communities who have to bear the financial and non-financial costs of these crashes and deaths—to say nothing of all the near misses.


States still use outdated design guidance (with the blessing of or sometimes even through USDOT requirements). They are the ones using decades-old models and measures that prioritize speed over safety, even when “safety is always the top priority.”

A lot of this confirms what we already know, that our streets are dangerous by design. The nationwide trend of building bigger roads and driving bigger vehicles comes at the cost of human life. Unless we are able to correct those underlying issues, then this high fatality rate is unlikely to reverse course.

NPR reports on America's deadly roads, but blames under-policing instead of street design

No one can deny that deaths on American roads are higher than ever, but commentators are still free to get creative when deciding who to blame for it. NPR just published a report arguing that rising traffic deaths are mainly caused by law enforcement policies. Nowhere do they mention the ways in which our streets are engineered to be deadly by design.

You can read their report here: “America’s roads are more dangerous, as police pull over fewer drivers.” They assert that there’s a correlation between decreased policing and increased traffic deaths, citing statistical data and quotes from experts. There may be truth to this, but it misses the forest for the trees.

If a transportation system requires a police force to prevent itself from killing people, then it’s a bad transportation system. We’re not talking about stopping violent criminals, but rather ordinary citizens who are using the system as its designed. That is not how you would discuss a system which works well.

The belief that we need to get the “bad drivers” off the streets and let the rest of us “good drivers” stay does not align with reality, as if none of us have ever driven above the speed limit or taken our eyes off the road. We do indeed need to decrease the number of cars on our streets, but we can’t do that while we keep investing more and more public money into a car-centric system. In most of our towns, the transportation system makes driving almost mandatory for everyone regardless of their ability. Governments have continuously expanded our streets for more cars to drive faster, and this comes at the expense of every other mobility option. Using law enforcement to remove drivers treats a symptom rather than the illness.

The NPR article notes that the rate of traffic deaths was lower in 2019 than it is today, as if 2019’s rate was something to aspire to. It was still unacceptably high then, and it has been trending upwards for decades. Bringing deaths down from a disastrous amount to a slightly-less disastrous amount isn’t the solution we need.

The antidote to our deadly roads is a medicine that seems too hard to swallow for most of our leaders. We need to divest from car-centric transportation and invest in walkable and bikeable communities instead. We need to make our cars smaller and slower, make our streets narrower, and remove “free” parking. Unless we can move in that direction, then traffic deaths will continue to stay high.

Framing our deadly transportation system as a policing issue might be fine for an attention-grabbing headline, but it’s not the conversation we should be having. The public needs to hear more about the underlying problems that cause our roads to be deadly in the first place. As I wrote recently, our transportation system is a disaster to human life, and no one cares. Responsible news organizations should draw attention to these fundamental issues rather than reframe them around more sensational topics.

A photo from a parade with a person dressed as a Jedi on a bicycle.
Photo credit: Strut the Hooch.

In case you missed it: some 2023 April Fools Day fun

The Sheldon Brown website apparently offers a new AI service. Fed up with ChatGPT giving them wrong information about bicycles, they have decided to start a business reviewing its machine-generated output.

Like it or not, human-AI partnership is key to a livable future. As of April 1, 2023, ShelBroCo is revising our business model to include review of AI-generated articles and imagery.

You can check out the whole page for the April Fools joke here.

In other news: bicycles appear in Strut the Hooch

Also falling on April first, Columbus Georgia had its annual Strut the Hooch parade for all things “weird, wacky, and wild.” It’s an excuse for people to dress up and have fun. It has costumes, bands, and general silliness.

(For non-locals, the “Hooch” refers to the Chattahoochee river, which is a block away from where the parade takes place.)

This year, I and a few other people represented Bicycle Columbus. We dressed up and biked along with the parade. It was a lot of fun! One of our riders even won a trophy for her costume. I hope we can continue organizing this for upcoming years.

A photo of people biking in Covington.
Photo credit: Southern Living and Kevin Garrett for

How do you show off your favorite towns? With images of people biking and walking

Have you noticed that when someone wants to depict a happy, idyllic lifestyle, they often use photos of people on bicycles? I couldn’t help but observe this when I saw the latest Southern Living magazine cover.

The cover of Southern Living magazine.

(Photo credit: Southern Living.)

The cover story for their April issue is “The 50 Best Small Towns In The South 2023.” Their number-one pick is St. Augustine, Florida. To show it off, they used a photo of a woman walking with a bicycle, alone on an empty street.

As I read through the rest of their list, which you can view here for yourself, I quickly noticed a similar theme with their other photos.

A photo of people biking in Covington.

(Photo credit: Southern Living and Kevin Garrett.)

About twenty-one of them depict a public street or a sidewalk. Of these, eight show people walking, three show people biking, and one shows a horse-drawn carriage. While several of them also contain a minimal number of parked cars, only three show any cars driving on the street.

With this unscientific analysis, I believe it’s safe to say that we, or at least the editors of Southern Living, strongly associate the concept of “best town” with people biking and walking. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have picked those as the subjects for over half of their downtown photos.

A photo of a woman with a bicycle in St. Augustine.

(Photo credit: Southern Living and Robbie Caponetto.)

This couldn’t be more at odds with the reality of what real-life “southern living” has become for most of us. Southern towns experienced most of their growth in the post-war era when growth was driven by increased car ownership and highway expansion. We’re living in the fallout of that today. Our communities are choked full of oversized roads and parking lots that are overflowing with SUVs. Living that kind of idyllic, magazine-cover lifestyle is simply impossible for most of us now.

But this isn’t just about aesthetics. Our transition to a car-centric society has had deadly consequences. As we saw in the Dangerous by Design 2022 report, the Sun Belt is home to the most deadly car traffic in the United States, and it’s been growing worse every year.

But, no matter how much we choose to rely on cars for our daily lives, we still intuitively know that happiness is linked to a life of mostly walking and biking. And we shouldn’t let that only exist in a land of magazine photography. If car traffic is what’s holding your community back from being the best town it can be, then now is a great time to start fixing that.

Bicycles now outnumber personal cars in London

In 2022, cycles were the largest category of daytime traffic in London, according to the City of London Corporation’s transportation committee. They have been increasing since 1999, while personal vehicle use has decreased.

Bicycles don’t outnumber other vehicles overall. London hosts a diverse mixture of vehicles, including bicycles, motorcycles, busses, lorries, vans, taxis, and personal cars. Of those categories, bicycles are now the largest. Walking, without a vehicle, is still the primary way most people travel.

A graph showing the proportion of vehicles at 30 locations in the city.

Image credit: Planning and Transportation Committee agenda.

Forbes also has a report on this on this story here.

Cyclist wins $1 million in case against TxDOT

Mike Bagg was riding his bicycle in a bike lane in El Paso when he hit an eroded area of concrete and crashed. Faced with $70K of medical bills, he and his family decided to hold the Texas Department of Transportation responsible. Against all odds, they won.

Lawyers from Bike Law represented Mike during the legal proceedings. You can read the whole story on their blog here.

This case is remarkable for a few reasons. First, it’s almost impossible for citizens to successfully sue their state for dangerous roads. When we previously wrote about the “most dangerous road in America,” we saw that families had tried to sue New York for the deaths of their children, but they would only have a case if they could prove there’s a specific flaw in the road’s design. Regular deaths are not considered a flaw.

Mike’s case was different. There was a distinct flaw in the section of road where he crashed. Part of the concrete had developed a gap which could catch bicycle tires. This was well-known and documented by other locals, and he was not the first person to complain about it.

Yet, the TxDOT did everything they could to fight the lawsuit. They were so confident that they would win that they refused to settle, and they denied having any knowledge of the road’s flaw even when faced with evidence to the contrary.

But their confidence eventually met its comeuppance. The jury unanimously voted in Mike’s favor, and the judge awarded him just over one million dollars in damages.

This case proves that it’s possible to win against the state, but it also demonstrates how herculean of a challenge it is. The TxDOT is clearly accustomed to operating outside of ordinary forms of accountability. Even when Mike played by their rules and held them to their own standards, he faced an uphill battle.

Another takeaway is the difference that ordinary citizens can make. Mike’s lawyers found that a lot of people knew about the pavement’s defects, and some them had also crashed. However, most had never complained about it. One person who had previously complained ended up serving as a valuable witness in the case. The lesson is that even if your complaint doesn’t seem to make a difference right now, it can always have an impact down the road.

Childhood independence bills, and why they matter for biking and walking

Why don’t kids play outside anymore? One big reason is that it’s often illegal. Childhood Independence is a growing movement across the United States which aims to change that. Several states have passed, and more are considering, bills to support it. These can improve our communities not just for children, but for all of us.

LetGrow is one organization that advocates for what they call “reasonable childhood independence” laws. Their goal is to permit children to do normal childhood activities on their own, such as play outside and walk to school. You can read about LetGrow’s recent legislative efforts and how you can get involved here.

Although this isn’t an issue I usually focus on with this blog, building a child-friendly community and building a walkable and bikeable community share a lot of overlap. You can’t have a child-friendly neighborhood without also making it walkable. As we saw in our recent article “How Japan won the ‘traffic war’ that the US is losing,” designing for independent children is a critical strategy to end deadly traffic.

Legislation is never a silver bullet. Once law books change, most of our public spaces will still suffer from dangerous car-centric roads, which limits how reasonably independent our children (or car-free adults) can be. Nonetheless, these bills are important to pave the way for further progress.

PeopleForBikes 2022 City Ratings

The PeopleForBikes 2022 City Ratings are here. Every year, the organization PeopleForBikes aggregates data and collects stories to rate how bikeable cities across the world are.

You can check out how your city ranks and how you can help improve it for next year here.

This kind of data can provide insight into what your community can improve and what it’s doing well already. I don’t particularly find the overall rating useful (I don’t like how it’s framed as a competition), but the details and stories behind it can be.

For example, Columbus Georgia has a very low score for some factors like access to retail, but a very high score for others like how much ridership we have. This isn’t surprising to me as a resident, but now I have data to back up what was originally just my impression.

Whether good or bad, these numbers can be a starting point for a conversation on what your community can do next.

A personal story about how biking is "survival" for low-income families

The Philadelphia Inquirer has published a story about the importance of bicycling for low-income people. Sarahi Franco-Morales, the author, describes how her whole family depends on bicycles to go about their daily lives.

You can read the story here: “For my low-income family, biking is not recreation. ‘It’s survival.’” (Archived link without a paywall.)

After all, if it were not for my bike, I would have no way of delivering on the big promises I made to my community, and I would have never been admitted last month to the University of Pennsylvania. […] But even though all three of us are bike enthusiasts, biking is not recreation for us. It’s survival.

I have written before about how low-income bicycle riders are usually “invisible” to the rest of the world, which you can read here. Very little of our transportation infrastructure caters to riders like them (even our bike infrastructure), but once you spend time in public, either on a bicycle or on foot, you start noticing these once-invisible riders everywhere.

Stories like Franco-Morales’ are a great way to bring visibility to this often-ignored segment of our population, and to call attention to the importance of safe biking and walking infrastructure for everyone.