21 Sep The Power of Pop-Up
Last week, thanks to funding from the Knight Foundation and the help of over 80 volunteers, the Macon Connects team (NewTown Macon, Macon-Bibb County, Main Street Macon, Bike Walk Macon, Better Block, 8 80 Cities) succeeded in building the world’s largest pop-up bike lane network. If you’re in or around Macon, you have until Saturday September 23rd to ride the 5+ mile route and provide us with feedback on what worked, what didn’t, and how Macon can permanently improve its bike facilities.
What typically takes years of planning took our team four months of preparation and four days of execution. The infrastructure is not perfect.
Dazed volunteers who had spent hours in the sun wavered in the 90+ degree heat and so did some of their paint lines. But pop-up is not meant to be perfect.
The pop-up approach is quick and dirty, but it packs a powerful punch. In the few days that the pop-up lanes have been open to the public, the experiment has already accomplished the following:
1. Carved out space for cyclists on Macon’s streets that never existed before.
- Even though drivers have expressed surprise about the sudden appearance of bike infrastructure, the vast majority of them have been respecting the lanes. The presence of bike lanes has calmed vehicular traffic, providing a safer street experience for all users.
2. Educated Macon residents about different types of on-street bike infrastructure.
- We tested out five types of bike infrastructure on Macon’s streets so that we can gather feedback about the user-friendliness of each type of facility. Many of these facilities are completely new to Macon, and many Maconites on bikes are experiencing them for the first time. Informational signage along the route educates all passersby about the benefits of each type of facility.
3. Ignited community dialogue about the role of bikes in Macon.
- 95% of Macon residents commute to work/school by car. The second most common mode of commuting is telecommuting. With the new pop-up network, we are giving people something to talk about. Whether it’s debating the role of cycling in Macon’s future, providing feedback about bike lane designs, or expressing opposition or support for a permanent bike lane network in Macon, there’s a new buzz in the air.
4. Lured new cyclists onto Macon’s streets.
- On the first day the pop up lanes were open, I rode next to a woman who admitted that she hadn’t ridden a bike in 20 years. She was not the only one. The pop up infrastructure invited new cyclists on to the street and gave them a new sense of confidence. A woman in a scooter-style mobility device came out to volunteer with the striping of bike lanes because she felt like bike infrastructure could double as safe infrastructure for people in personal scooters. These are all signs that if you build it, they will come.
5. Got people wanting more.
- Recognizing the benefits of a downtown bike lane network, Mayor Reichert announced at the ribbon cutting ceremony that the bike lanes should stay up for a week, rather than the initially-allotted two days. Beyond getting people thinking about the future of biking in Macon, we also got people wanting more out of Macon’s public spaces. To launch the pop up network, the team hosted a block party on 3rd Street where we tested out new types of street furniture and built a pop-up beach (by far the most popular attraction), and more. Residents who were previously accustomed to the 3rd Street median park as just a place to pass through came to see it in a new light, with new potential uses.
The pop-up bike lanes are just the early stages of a long-term, permanent strategy to improve mobility for all Macon residents. Stay tuned next month when we release the final Macon Connects report, containing evaluation and feedback from the pop up bike lane!