COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Columbus has once again been named a bike-friendly city. This year, the Fountain City renewed its bronze-level designation as a bike-friendly community, named by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB). This is the eighth consecutive year Columbus has been awarded this status, having first earned the title in 2015.
The LAB designation is based off statistics on the city’s Bicycle Friendly Community Report Card, considering factors like engineering, education, encouragement, evaluation and planning, as well as equity and accessibility. Data is collected based on survey responses by locals.
“It’s a good program to gauge what our current infrastructure is like,” said Bicycle Columbus President Brian Lackey. He added Columbus’ infrastructure for safe cycling and pedestrian access is compared to the standards set by other communities across the country.
Although Lackey revealed he hoped the city would upgrade to silver status this year, he felt the survey provided specific instruction for next steps.
Lackey said, “One thing we learned from this application process is, you don’t attain the next level higher by building more bike trails, by building more bike lanes. It’s a more holistic approach.”
He explained, in order to level-up, the city needs to consider pedestrian safety including maintaining functional crosswalks, in addition to increased bike detection box presence. The idea is to make sure those without access to cars have infrastructure to get to- and from- work safely, Lackey said.
According to survey from the report card, 23.4% of respondents said they would like more bike paths in Columbus. Another 18.2% wanted more bike lanes. Over half of respondents, 57.1%, said “it depends” when asked whether it was safe or dangerous to ride a bike in their neighborhood.
These answers reflect the necessity of connectivity between bike paths and bike lanes and neighborhoods, Lackey said. He called this “final mile connectivity” throughout the city.
Piedmont Columbus Regional Associate Director of Family Medicine Residency Dr. Gregory Foster said the reestablishment of Columbus’ bronze status is “wonderful.”
He said, “It’s just kind of a testament to Columbus’ commitment to try to be more friendly for folks that like to be outdoors and like to get exercise and like to have a safe place to do that.”
The doctor explained cycling is accessible for many, including for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. It can increase lung capacity, lower heart rate and blood pressure, provide mental clarity, and improve strength and balance, said Foster.
During the hotter months of the year, Foster advised cycling early in the morning or later in the evening. He also recommended wearing breathable clothing and a helmet, as well as maintaining hydration by stopping for water breaks every 20-30 minutes.
Lackey encouraged community members to attend this week’s Aug. 28-31 City Planning Department meetings to give feedback on what changes they would like to see in Columbus over the next five years. All meetings are from 6 to 7:30 p.m., although location varies by day.
Monday’s meeting is at Northside Recreation Center, Tuesday’s is at the City Services Center Community Room and Wednesday’s is at Shirley Winston Recreation Center.
“If you want more bike lanes, let them know that; If you want more connectivity into your neighborhoods, they need to hear that,” said Lackey. “This plan is what guides the funding for our community moving forward.”