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New biking map eases the ride around Athens

Alan Flurry

Athens residents looking for a new way to pedal around the city will soon have a new way to plan their trip. An online mapping application created by UGA’s Community Mapping Lab will provide a fresh look at the most bike-friendly streets to get around the city. Created through a collaboration with local nonprofit BikeAthens, the map highlights the strengths of local biking infrastructure, such as multi-use paths and dedicated bike lanes. But it also shows that much work still remains to be done.

The idea for this map originated with a conversation between Scott Long, the executive director of BikeAthens, and Jerry Shannon, associate professor in the departments of geography and financial planning, housing, and consumer economics, in August 2019. BikeAthens had created several previous biking maps of the city, but all were created as paper maps, and the most recent one was 11 years old.

Since that initial conversation, four undergraduates in Shannon’s Community Mapping Lab have worked on the project: Regina Nasrallah, Emilie Castillo, Olivia Gilliam and Sam Shuster. Their jobs included obtaining initial public feedback on the factors most important for bikers in planning a route, running thousands of simulated routes through online mapping software, and designing a web interface that works across multiple platforms.

The original plan was to solicit feedback on proposed routes at the many events hosted by BikeAthens. COVID has made that difficult, but the working group is gathering feedback through an online survey with the map’s release. Other contributors to the effort include Alison Smith and Doug Pardue, faculty in the College of Environment and Design, BikeAthens board President Jason Perry and ACC Bike Pedestrian Coordinator Daniel Sizemore.

“This map is an important step forward in advancing inclusive micromobility in Athens, particularly in its blending of community and data inputs, its inclusion of topography in route selection, and its open online accessibility,” said Douglas Pardue, associate professor in the College of Environment and Design. “It’s an exciting and potentially transformative tool that will help Athenians to safely explore and use Athens’ small but rapidly growing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructures.”

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