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Northeast Georgia Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Program

Date:
February 17, 2015
Topics:
2014, Bicycle& Pedestrian, Excellence Awards, Health

The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC) is recognized throughout the state as an innovative leader in bicycle and pedestrian planning. The Northeast Georgia Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Program, funded in part by the Georgia Department of Transportation, focuses on three core areas: local planning, regional planning, and outreach and education. Recent program successes include promoting and supporting safe cycling and active living through Project Road Share, developing a regional rails-to-trails project, and hosting the inaugural Georgia Trail Summit.

The NEGRC partnered with the nonprofit community health organization, Walton Wellness, to facilitate a new approach to local planning for safer cycling. Project Road Share’s tagline, “Happy to Share Our Roads,” conveys the core focus of this venture. Unlike typical local government bike/ped plans that focus on new facilities and policies, PRS takes advantage of existing roads that are well-suited to supporting safe cycling.

Based on the “rails-to-trails” principle of converting abandoned rail corridors into safe and attractive facilities for walking and bicycling, the Firefly Trail concept envisions reusing the 39-mile historic “Athens Branch” rail line as a new multi-use trail. Over the past several years, NEGRC and the trail’s nonprofit advocacy group have worked together to assist the three counties and six cities along the corridor promote the trail and assemble property ownership information that is essential to the trail’s development. This collaborative process is a paragon of regionalism, innovation in economic and community development, and creative use of partnerships.

In April 2014, the NEGRC planned and hosted the inaugural Georgia Trail Summit (GTS) drawing over 150 decision makers, planners, programmers, and advocates to Athens for two days to share their expertise in planning, constructing, and maintaining trails for bicycling, walking, paddling, and equestrian use. One highlight of the GTS was the “un-conference” segment, an emerging trend during which attendees participate in facilitated break-out discussions that focus on timely, registrant-proposed topics. Another popular offering, a full host of mobile workshops, provided onsite educational opportunities on some of Athens’ trails. These included bicycle rides on paved and off-road trails, hikes, a tour of Athens’ music history, a paddling trip, and a horseback ride.

The Northeast Georgia Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Program was awarded a 2014 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award.  View descriptions of other award winning projects here.