The Knight Cities Challenge just gave out $5 million to winning ideas from civic innovators to help 26 particular American cities, from Detroit to Macon, Georgia. But there's no reason these ideas can't be used elsewhere. Here are six of the 37 winning projects that other cities might want to steal.
Turning a highway into a bicycle park
In a couple of years, the last mile of the Innerbelt highway in Akron will be shut down. The road divided the city's downtown, and was unpopular almost as soon as construction started in 1970. When the cars are finally out of the way, one section of the former highway will be turned over to bikes, in a new mountain biking park connected both to the downtown and a nearby bike trail.
"It's a way for people who don't typically ride bikes to start doing it, and get excited about it," says Jonathan Morschl, who is leading the project.
Pop-up minimum grid
It isn't easy to bike around downtown Macon, Georgia, right now, but the city will soon get to experience what it's like to have better infrastructure. In a variation on Better Block—the project that temporarily turns a block into a walkable, bikeable, active place—a local nonprofit will be temporarily converting an entire neighborhood. "People will be able to come out and ride it, and see what it's actually like to ride on good infrastructure," says Josh Rogers, president and CEO of NewTown Macon, the organization leading the project.
Over a Friday and Saturday, neighbors will be able to try out protected bike lanes, bike boulevards, and new pedestrian infrastructure connecting the heart of downtown with surrounding neighborhoods, a university campus, and parks. "All that stuff's really close, but totally disconnected right now," he says. "That's the idea of this route." Some of the new infrastructure will stay in place, and Rogers is hoping that residents will like the rest so much that they demand that it become permanent.
Front lawn placemaking platform
"We're trying to transform the most ubiquitous and underused space in America—the front lawn," says Max Musicant, founder and principal of the Musicant Group, a placemaking firm based in Minneapolis. Inspired to do something about the fact that people keep becoming more isolated from their neighbors, the group is designing a toolkit that homeowners can use to make their front lawns social. That might mean moving furniture and a grill into the front lawn, planting a garden, or adding a Little Free Library.
"It's really about people getting in touch with the things that matter to them, and putting it on their front lawns," he says. "They're going to be present in their front lawns again, and by doing that—instead of being in the backyard, or just inside—they're going to have serendipitous interactions with neighbors in a way that was never possible." The designers plan to test the project with 15-20 people in a couple of typical neighborhoods in St. Paul, release a beta kit online, and build a final kit that will come out in 2017.
By Adele Peters, Fast Company
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