Local leaders are looking across the Atlantic Ocean for ideas on how to fix Macon’s infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.
Copenhagen, Denmark was named the first “Bike City” in the world last year. The city is known for traffic lanes that accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.
The Knight Foundation sent Macon leaders to Copenhagen to ride bikes for a week as part of the Knight Cities Challenge Grant. Macon won the grant in March through a national competition.
The trip allowed the group to learn about the culture of a community that allows pedestrians and cyclists to better co-exist with motorists safely, said Josh Rogers, president of Newtown Macon.
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“They use bicycles the way we use cars,” Rogers said.
After returning, the leaders wanted Macon residents to experience the atmosphere that Copenhagen has created. However, they realized they could not take all 100,000 Maconites to Denmark, Rogers said.
The goal now is to bring the pedestrian-friendly environment to Macon and allow residents to experience the bike-friendly atmosphere.
“One of the things we found through the research in doing the Macon Action Plan is that a lot of folks feel like they cannot walk or bike or get adequate transportation in and out of the downtown area,” said Alex Morrison, executive director of Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.
The hope is to connect all residents to adequate and safe forms of transportation, Morrison said.
Locals will get a taste of the pedestrian and cyclist friendly plan through the Macon Connects street makeover event Sept. 16 and 17.
Temporary painted bike lanes will be added to the downtown area for two days so residents can get a feel for the concept. The grant will cover the cost of the lanes.
“Our thought was, what if we just put what they have on the streets in Copenhagen here and let people try it out?” Rogers said.
The project is set to kick off next week with leaders from NewTown Macon, 8 80 Cities, the Knight Foundation and Bike Macon, teaming up in a Macon Connects Ideas Festival.
The festival will run next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and will feature guest speakers from the various organizations.
One of the festival’s goals is to help Macon be “fully immersed” in the idea of of creating a “vibrant city and healthy communities” said Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit that focuses on making cities more vibrant.
The festival will include a launch event at the Armory Ballroom at 6 p.m. Tuesday, where the plan for the Macon Connects project and other related topics will be discussed. A screening of “Back to the Future” at Just Tap’D is set to follow the discussion at 8 p.m.
Other highlights of the festival include a Bike Tour of Macon’s Secret Parks hosted by Bike Macon at Tattnall Square Park at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
A community cookout is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday, the festival’s final day. A barbecue dinner will be offered to participants at 905 Main St. near Emery Highway.
A full listing of festival events can be found at www.newtownmacon.com/macon-connects, and all events on the schedule are open to the public.
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