Bicycles make Savannah better. That's the Savannah Bicycle Campaign's slogan. What does it mean? It's a concise way of getting at the fact that increased bicycle use can help solve some of our community's pressing problems.
When people travel by bike instead of car we realize benefits in the form of improved public health and public safety, and an energized local economy. Bicycling reduces traffic congestion, demand for parking, wear and tear on infrastructure, and dependence on foreign oil (and dependence on domestic fossil fuels).
When people of all ages can safely get around by bike, we'll free young people and senior citizens alike from dependence on others for rides.
When we have a network of bicycle friendly streets to help people get to jobs and other destinations, they can choose to forgo the financial burden of car ownership.
Increased bicycle use can do all these things.
It can also help you win a Connect Savannah Best of Savannah Award.
Take City of Savannah Chief of Management Services Bureau Sean Brandon, this year's selection of Best City Employee. Brandon won the Savannah Bicycle Campaign's Pedal Medal Award in 2012 for his pioneering efforts to make Savannah more bicycle friendly (Jim Morekis, editor in chief of this publication, received the award this year).
Not only does he demonstrate the viability of bicycling by riding pretty much everywhere, Brandon also spearheaded the most significant expansions of our bike lane network in decades during his time in the Mobility and Parking Services Dept.
Speaking of parking, once you reach your destination you're more likely to find a place to park your bike thanks to an initiative launched by Brandon. Looking at the list of Best of Savannah winners and runners-up, I notice plenty that offer convenient bike parking in prominent locations, not hidden on the periphery.
The Sentient Bean, Green Truck Pub, Brighter Day Natural Foods, Half Moon Outfitters, The Jepson Center, Foxy Loxy, Al Salaam Deli, Blick Art Materials — their customers can park their bikes right outside the front doors.
Some of the restaurants on this year's Best of List, including the Bean and Jimmy John's, even deliver by bike. Of course, Best Pizzeria and Best Pizza Delivery winner Vinnie Van Go-Go's has been delivering by bicycle forever.
Delivering people via people-powered vehicles is the specialty of Savannah Pedicab. Think about it. Savannah's Best Taxi Service operates a fleet of bicycles. That should tell you something.
It's no surprise that so many successful and popular businesses have made bicycling part of their business plans. Encouraging employees to ride to their jobs or ride bikes as part of their jobs has helped companies across the country control healthcare costs and boost productivity.
One company, Minnesota-based Quality Bike Products, saw a 4.4 percent decline in healthcare costs from 2009-2011, thanks to several measures including a Bike to Work Program. Average health care costs for American companies rose nearly 25 percent during the same time period.
Considering the needs of customers who arrive by bike has also paid off for businesses that make the effort to welcome bicyclists. The economic impact of people who ride their bikes to shopping, dining and entertainment destinations is so important that many communities are developing Bicycle Friendly Business Districts in which bicycling is at the center of the district's events and marketing.
A November 2012 study by the New York Department of Transportation revealed a 49 percent increase in retails sales for businesses after protected bike lanes were installed on 8th and 9th avenues in Manhattan. The area also saw declines in injuries.
Bicycles are clearly good for business and good for people.
At the groundbreaking for Jamestown Properties' One West Victory development on May 23, bicycles were mentioned numerous times. The 124,000-square foot infill redevelopment project will include 114 apartments and "transform two late-19th century buildings into a thriving restaurant location with a rooftop space."
It's billed as a bike-friendly community. Scheduled for completion next summer, I expect One West Victory will be a contender for Best Apartment Community in future Best of Savannah competitions.