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Monday, March 16, 2015

Memphis area is being transformed by a vision in transportation and enhancement to bike lanes and more

Memphis area is being transformed by a vision in transportation and enhancements to bike lanes and more
By:  Michael Lander

Delineators, like these for pedestrians on Riverside Drive, have been recently
begun being installed on Danny Thomas Blvd.  More are expected to be put
down as Memphis and other nearby cities add more bike lanes in the area.

In case you haven’t already noticed it,
Memphis is experiencing a major transformation and it is something that you may not have even been paying close attention to, unless of course, you are a cyclist.

Over the last decade, the
city of Memphis and its surrounding communities have begun to change and to transform how we think of transportation. 

Working together, the local municipalities have begun to deliver on an ambitious plan that will ultimately benefit everyone.

Until now, we really have not had many options in how we move and get around, but we are slowly beginning to see the genesis and coalescing of a transportation network that will provide us with a greater number of options than what we have long been accustomed to.

Some of the beginning stages of a greater transportation network for area residents have been to make the roads more accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists. 

For cyclists this has meant the creation of bike lanes that has, for the most part, only required the restriping of existing road surfaces or finding a new purpose for shoulders.

Along with some of the changes to the roadways, there has also been a development and expansion of bike trails and, when combined with what has been done on the roads, it provides more of an opportunity for people to be able to commute by bicycle instead of by automobile.

Riverside Drive was one of the first roads to have temporary delineators installed
in Memphis.  A stretch of this scenic road has also become a protected bike lane,
which may be extended even further in the future.

Recently, the city of Memphis has installed some flexible stakes or posts, known as
delineators, to about 2.5 miles on Danny Thomas Blvd from E.H. Crump on the south to Alabama Ave. to the north. 

These delineators are like
bollards or traffic cones/pylons that stand about three feet tall and, along with the street striping, help to further accentuate and distinguish the 6-foot wide bike lane from the road for motorists.

These delineators help to provide a more noticeable, visual (horizontal) barrier than just having a line painted on to the road, which motorists might not see and could easily cross over.

For cyclists, the obvious upside to these is that they are better than just having road markings and they provide a horizontal delineation for motorists of where the road ends and where the bike lanes begin.

Everything that is being done is part of a more comprehensive plan that will ultimately tie bike lanes and trails to one another into a larger network that will allow cyclists to ride in a loop around the downtown area and from one part of the city to the other and beyond the metropolitan Memphis area, itself.

The work that is currently being done on Danny Thomas is particularly important since it will be a crucial part of the northern route leading to the Mississippi River bike and pedestrian
crossing over the Harahan Bridge.

The bike trails, like the Shelby Farms Greenline, offer an opportunity
for cyclists to ride and to enjoy the scenery.  It is also a great option
for those who are not comfortable with riding on busy city streets.

The delineators being installed in places like Danny Thomas are flexible and can bend at the base of it.  If a driver of a vehicle were to run over them, they would simply be pushed toward the ground, but the base would remain were it is attached to the road.  It would then pop right back up afterward.

For some, the downside to these devices is that they can give a false sense of security to cyclists.  As happy as cyclists might be to see them on some of the city’s roads, they are only in place to differentiate between the road and the bike lanes and they offer no real protection for a cyclist against a 3,000 or more pound vehicle who might run over a delineator. 

At best, the delineators are a visual reminder for motorists who may not observe or know of the minimum
3-foot distance that they are required by law to maintain between them the cyclist.

Ideally, the best solution for most cyclists would be protected bike lanes and wider shoulders on most, if not all, roads.

Protected bike lanes have often been described as being like sidewalks for bicycles.  They provide an actual physical separation and a buffer for cyclists, that keeps them safe from being hit by motor vehicles and they offer the best protection for cyclists.

Instead of having devices like delineators, which vehicles can simply run over,
protected bike lanes have solid, immovable stationary objects, like planters, jersey barriers, and curbs that can physically separate automobiles from cyclists.

Families usually find Shelby Farms and its greenline, along with others, as a
much safer and slower alternative for them to ride together.

Because of the dangers that cyclists often face, any investment that is made, and anything that is done, (whether it is protected bike lanes or something that is as simple as delineators), is always well worth it to them.

As more is done to make cycling an even more attractive alternative to getting around, everything should be done to avoid collisions and any potential loss of life.

When it comes to the lives of cyclists, we really can’t be safe enough and since cyclists can’t reasonably be expected to wrap themselves up in bubble wrap whenever they ride, the rest of us should do what we can to help ensure their safety.

Cycling may have its dangers, like almost everything else in life, but there is always a measured and calculated risk in anything that we do, and cycling is no exception.

Cyclists are especially vulnerable, though, when they, or when motorists, fail to do or not do what they should.

If Memphis and the surrounding communities continue to do what it can to provide a safe way for cyclists to ride, and if cyclists and motorists do what they should on the roads that they share with one another, we can begin to see a transportation network that’ll be the envy of others.

We stand on the precipice today and what we do now will determine whether or not we continue to live in the past, and do what we’ve always done, or we can take a bold step into the future and begin to realize all the limitless possibilities. 

In this case, here’s hoping that we do the right thing.

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