Macon Connects (led by NewTown Macon and Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority, Main Street Macon, and the Department of Parks and Beautification) was a bold initiative that set out to change the way Macon residents get around their city. This initiative wanted to find out how Macon, GA, residents could better connect to one another. The main goal of the initiative was to answer the following question: How can they test out residents' ideas for improving connectivity in Macon?
In 2016, residents were invited to attend the Macon Connects Street Makeover to enhance connectivity and mobility through street activation and pop-up bike lanes/network. Macon Connects organized a three-day Ideas Festival in June 2016. The event consisted of 19 diverse events which attracted over 1,100 attendees who contributed 430 creative ideas to improve connectivity and mobility in the area. The organization used the results from the engagement process to plan a bike network that connects Maconites to the places they want to go.
This initiative builds on the data that emerged from the 2015 Macon Action Plan (MAP), funded by the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. With the support from Bike Walk Macon, and prototyping and community engagement services provided by Better Block Foundation and 8 80 Cities, the project was selected from a pool of more than 4,500 entries into a nationwide competition.
The temporary bike lanes were installed using white athletic field striping paint and plastic delineators. The Macon Connects team and 90 local volunteers constructed a temporary, 5 mile (8 kilometer) bicycle grid that encompassed the entire downtown. The bike network was left up for one week so that Macon residents, cyclists, and non-cyclists alike, could experience the impact that a bike network would have on Macon's downtown.
Four bike counters were installed along the bike network to count the number of cyclists on Macon's streets.
In a city that normally sees only 24 bikes a day on its downtown streets, the pop-up bike network increased average daily bike counts by nearly tenfold (854%) during the seven days it was available for public use. This experiment was encouraging for MAcon-Bibb County and proved that if you build it (a bike network), the people of Macon will in fact ride.
After the pop-up event, road users were surveyed about their experience with the pop-up bike network. Feedback was captured and results of this experiment generated a report, which will be used to guide and finetune the development of permanent bike infrastructure in Macon. As of July of 2017, the 3-mile unprotected bike lane still does not connect to a larger network of trails; however, the event held the fall before resulted in carving spaces for bikes and implementing a permanent bike lane downtown in a city with essentially no bike lanes.
"I think both bike lanes and bike infrastructure are important. But also, the event just reinforced the need for proper planning when you do make permanent improvements."
- David Fortson, Bibb County Engineer
This case study and other bike-related case studies can be found in our Shift Into Gear® guidebook.