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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Memphis creates bike and pedestrian lanes on Riverside Drive

Memphis creates bike and pedestrian lanes on Riverside Drive
By:  Michael Lander

With the City of Memphis having created bike and pedestrian lanes on
Riverside Drive, Memphis area cyclists have a new way to safely ride
along the scenic riverfront.

People are literally taking to the streets in Memphis, or at least they are now on Riverside Drive.  One of the most scenic streets in all of Memphis, with a spectacular view of the Memphis skyline and the Mississippi River, recently received a make-over that is giving cyclists, runners, walkers, and everyone else the opportunity to have a portion of that roadway all to themselves. 

Anyone making their way down to Riverside Drive these days will find that the four lanes that had previously been designated only for cars and other vehicles has been reduced down to two (with one lane of traffic in each direction). 

The good news for cyclists and others who are traveling on foot is that, across the median strip, two of the lanes, adjacent to
Tom Lee Park, have now exclusively become dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes that run from Beale Street all the way up to West Georgia Ave.

The creation of these dedicated lanes is part of
Memphis' Open Streets Project that has the stated goal of opening streets to people and the June 15, 2014 grand opening of Riverside Drive was the very first of these events for our city.  With this, Memphis joins other cities from across the nation that have closed one or more of their streets (periodically or temporarily) to traffic and opened them up for people instead of for vehicles. 

The city will reassess the bike lanes on Riverside Drive in the next
12 to 18 months to determine what, if any, changes they will make
to them and they will be incorporating some of the ideas and input
that they receive from Memphis residents.

For now, the dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes on Riverside Drive are set up on a trial basis for the next 12 to 18 months.  This will give the city the time it needs to find a way to further extend the existing lanes to the pyramid, to determine the overall impact on all downtown city traffic, and to decide on the ultimate configuration of Riverside Drive. 

Eventually, the ultimate goal will be to tie this in with existing and planned bike lanes and trails and pedestrian walkways and that is expected to include a connection as well to the Harahan Bridge.

The idea of providing a permanent car-free corridor on Riverside Drive was initially proposed to Memphis City Director/Engineer, John E. Cameron, by urban planning consultant Jeff Speck with Speck & Associates, LLC.  After reviewing Speck's "Memphis Riverfront Analysis & Recommendations," Cameron agreed with findings that the city could function with the road reduced from four to two lanes, (as it does annually during the Memphis-in-May festivities) and that the city residents would greatly benefit with slower-moving traffic, and minimal expense incurred. 

Over time, cyclists like Barry Smith, of the Memphis Hightailers,
should see more connections between existing bike lanes and
trails and the new bike lanes on Riverside Drive.

With little more than some restriping, new pavement markings, and some plastic bollards, both tourists and Memphians alike now have a safer and more enjoyable means to move around along the riverfront of our great River City.

To read more on Memphis' inspiring new car-free corridor, click on the link to Michael Andersen's People for Bike's article and Toby Sell's article, "Riverside Drive Gets a Road Diet, Bike and Pedestrian Lane," in the Memphis Flyer.

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