By: Michael Lander
The Memphis Metropolitan area has seen a lot of positive developments and growth over the last decade, which to the excitement of cyclists, has also included hundreds of miles of bike lanes and trails with even more planned in the years ahead.
Even though the growth of these have rapidly spread throughout most our area, our neighbors to the south of us in cities like Southaven, Olive Branch, and Horn Lake in DeSoto County have not quite yet benefited as much from this, but that may soon begin to change.
While it may be slow in coming, some DeSoto County residents should begin to see some of the bike lanes and trails that the Memphis Metropolitan area already has, and will soon have even more of, in the next few years.
In the not-to-distant-future, there will be bike lanes and trails throughout many parts of the city of Memphis and into surrounding areas from downtown Memphis, east to Germantown, Collierville, and Cordova, north to Tipton County, and even over the Harahan Bridge to West Memphis, Ark.
For the time-being, DeSoto County residents may not have any bike lanes or trails that run through or directly connect with the network of these in the Memphis Metropolitan area, but they should not lose hope for this in the future.
“There aren’t any active projects connecting Memphis to DeSoto County. The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) does have a number of corridors prioritized in their long-term plan, but no short-term implementation planned,” Kyle Wagenschutz said.
Wagenschutz is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager in Memphis.
This is not to say that DeSoto County is not beginning to see the first steps toward eventually having that or in establishing their own network of bike lanes and trails themselves.
“I am aware of three current projects, under construction now or within the next six months in DeSoto County involving bike lanes or greenways. That’s not to say that there aren’t more, but I only track those that are receiving federal funds” Nick Oyler said.
Oyler is the Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Planner/Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator.
|A network of bike lanes in urban areas, like those in the Cooper-|
Young neighborhood in Memphis, provide a means for cyclists
to more safely navigate on city streets and it offers a more
healthy and fun alternative for getting around town.
These three projects, according to Oyler, include the Delta View Bike Trail and Park Overlook in Walls, the Nesbit Fire Station Trail and Connector, and the Church Road Bike Lanes.
The Overlook in Walls is a “design and construction of a new shared-use trail and bike lane along the existing Delta View Road/Nail Road/Old 61 right-of-way from Johnson Creek on the south to the town of Walls in the north. The trail is included in the proposed DeSoto County greenway network. The trail will connect to the Johnson Creek Greenway,” Oyler said.
“The Nesbit Fire Station Trail and Connector is also a portion of the proposed DeSoto County greenway network. This project is the design and construction of a new shared-use trail along McIngvale/Swinnea Rd connecting Southaven to Hernando. The project limits are from Green T Lake Rd to Bankston Rd,” he said.
“Church Rd Bike Lanes will be standard bike lanes to be installed on Church from Craft Rd in the west to Cockrum Rd/MS-305 in the east,” he added.
The Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan recommends 788 projects, totaling 1,500 miles of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the Southaven area alone.
In the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Jurisdiction Report, the MPO identified 33 bicycle corridor improvement priorities for Southaven. Twenty-three of these are for on-street facilities (or bike lanes) and ten that have shared use path that are designed to accommodate both cyclists and motorists alike.
“I support having bike lanes and bike and pedestrian trails in Southaven,” Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite said.
“I would like to see Southaven become a more connected city with pedestrian and bicycle routes. It adds a quality of life for our citizens and promotes a healthier lifestyle for them,” he said.
“The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) Multi-use trails connecting Snowden and Central Park is in the process now and I hope to see construction begin in 2016. With that, I hope to begin to see a more pedestrian-friendly community in general as we move forward,” he added.
Beyond that, Southaven residents should also expect to see other long-term plans to unify their city with other bike and pedestrian facilities in neighboring communities.
“We have officially adopted the Greenprint 2040 for the Metro-Memphis area to connect any bike lanes or trails to Memphis and to adjacent municipalities. We will also continue to seek federal and state funds or grants through the MPO as well,” Musselwhite said.
Long-time Southaven resident, John Tucker, spoke before the city’s Board of Alderman on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Tucker was originally from California, but has lived in Southaven since 1975.
At the Board of Alderman meeting he addressed concerns that he had about motorists driving too fast through Central Park and his desire to see bike lanes within the city park, itself, and beyond.
“The city touts itself as being a retirement community. It’s on the signs so it needs to be more people-friendly for the walker, runner, and the cyclist,” Tucker said.
“I have been riding a bike, off-and-on for 66 years. I mainly just do it for fun and for the pure joy of it. I just love the feel of the wind on my face and I usually ride 10 miles a day. If there’s a health benefit from doing it, that’s great, too,” he said.
“Being a bike rider, I would like to see dedicated bike paths and trails that connect to ones in Memphis and I hope for the day when Southaven will have what Memphis has now. I’m afraid that I won’t live to see this and the greenspaces, but I still remain hopeful that I will,” he added.
Perhaps, with the support of DeSoto County residents, and the active involvement of elected officials and business leaders, a day will come, sooner than later, when Tucker, and others like him, will have bike lanes and trails, some of which will connect to others in the greater Memphis Metropolitan area.
One need only ask if there is any reason that our neighbors in our nearby northern Mississippi communities should not have the bicycle lanes and trails like what we already in the other Memphis area communities and the answer is simple…… they should.