Augusta’s push to become more bicycle-friendly is expected to get a boost when it plays host to the Georgia Bike Summit in October.
The fall event, which brings together about 200 state transportation officials and cycling advocates, will also include members of South Carolina bicycle groups for the first time.
The summit is just one feature of a yearlong education campaign planned by Wheel Movement, which was formed in Augusta last May with seed money from the Athens-based nonprofit Georgia Bikes! Randy DuTeau, the board president, said the nonprofit took its time in 2011 forming a mission statement and establishing a board of directors to maximize its impact in 2012.
A membership drive in December was the forerunner of what DuTeau calls an “intensive” education campaign that starts in the spring. The idea is to bridge the misunderstandings between motorists and cyclists.
“Not only do we share the concerns (of motorists), but we are proactively trying to do something about it,” DuTeau said.
Two cyclists – Matt Burke and Dan Dickinson, both doctors at Fort Gordon’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center – died in 2011 after they were hit from behind by a vehicle. A third cyclist, Ernest Tanner, is recovering from brain injuries after he was hit in August on Tobacco Road.
Christian Lentz, the board’s vice president, said cycling education is the main effort of Wheel Movement. The goal is to not only ensure that motorists know how to legally pass a cyclist, but also make sure cyclists are demonstrating proper etiquette and following the law.
Cyclists breaking the law “is one of the criticisms we often hear, so we’re taking responsibility for ourselves. We’re going to do our part to make sure they’re obeying the rules of the road,” Lentz said.
One of the greatest challenges faced by Wheel Movement is finding the cyclists who aren’t riding for sport. DuTeau said Wheel Movement isn’t intended to be just for the clique of cyclists who gather at pro shops, but all cyclists. Their safety is just as important, DuTeau said.
“That’s going to be a tough job,” he said.
Brent Buice, the executive director of Georgia Bikes!, said he is excited about the progress and initiative shown by Augusta’s Wheel Movement. Between the steps Wheel Movement is making in Augusta and the city’s proximity to South Carolina, “it makes a lot of sense to have (the summit) in Augusta,” he said.