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Friday, January 10, 2014

Memphians, and Others, Find Another Thing to Love About Memphis

Memphians, and Others, Find Another Thing to Love About Memphis
 By:  Michael G. Lander
In less than a decade, Memphis has seen a proliferation of bike lanes, trails, and paths,
like this one that runs parallel to Humphreys Blvd., that people in and around the city
of Memphis have been quick to take advantage of.

Throughout each season, and through countless fields, along small creeks, and surrounded by tree-lined trails and pathways, they come.  Some are walking, others running, and still others are riding their bikes. 

Many cities around the country, for many years now, have led the way in creating bike and pedestrian trails and paths, offering an amenity to those within their communities that many have increasingly taken advantage of.

Whether for exercise, or just for fun, those who venture out to these places get to experience the wonderment and beauty of nature, often within, or around, the confines of the urban jungle that surrounds them.

For years, dozens of cities around the country were leading the way in creating bike and pedestrian trails and paths like Boulder, Colo., Chicago, Ill., Minneapolis, Minn., Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, among others.  In some cases, they converted former railroad lines for this new and welcomed use in what is known as rails-to-trails. 

Realizing the value and benefits of it, and with foresight and a vision, other city leaders paved the way as Memphis seemed to make no move in that direction and lagged far behind these other progressive-minded trailblazers.

While Memphis successfully promoted other venues for attracting tourists and visitors to the city, there was very little evidence that city leaders were willing or able to invest the necessary resources in developing bike and pedestrian facilities or in an infrastructure dedicated purely for recreational purposes that would benefit the health and well-being of its residents.  With no elected officials articulating a vision, or any obvious support for this, there was nothing much to instill any hope or confidence that this would ever come about in Memphis.

With little room for optimism, the negative voices who always seem to find fault, and something wrong with their city, and its leaders, once again seemed to prevail.

Fortunately, for Memphis and its residents, this was not the end of the story.  Within the last six years, the city's mayor, A.C. Wharton, appointed the first bike and pedestrian coordinator, Kyle Wagenschutz, and through a public and private partnership, and the combined efforts of many, Memphis and the surrounding areas have created new trails, paths, and bike lanes at an unprecedented pace.  The first segment of the Memphis Greenline opened in 2010 with a handful of others that soon followed.  

Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Wolf River
and the Germantown Greenways as Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy looks on.

Aside from the recreational aspect of cycling, the city has also helped to lay the groundwork for making bikes an alternative form of transportation for some Memphians with long range plans to make it a more viable option in the future.

Since it recently begun its efforts, Memphis been recognized as one of the most improved cities for cycling, which has helped to shine a favorable light on the city and giving us all something to be very proud of.  With further extensions planned on several existing trails and paths, and an eventual one on the Harahan Bridge, and over the Mississippi River to West Memphis, Ark., it is sure to attract even more attention and visitors to our city and giving everyone just another positive thing to love about Memphis. 

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