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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

City of Memphis hosts public meeting, presents design plans for 10 bike lanes, including one for Riverside Drive

City of Memphis hosts public meeting, presents design plans for 10 bike lanes, including one for Riverside Drive
By:  Michael Lander

There were hundreds of people who streamed in and out of the
March 27, 2017 public meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the
Central Library.  The meeting was one of the largest meetings
in recent history due, in part, to the number of city streets
involved and the fact that bike lanes would be added to all of
them, if approved.

Nearly two hundred Memphis area residents, some who walked, rode their bikes, or drove their cars, attended an open-house style public meeting on 10 proposed repavement projects, that include bike lanes, on Monday, March 27, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

The meeting was hosted by the City of Memphis, which had city engineers, consultants, contractors, and volunteers from Bike/Walk Tennessee available to talk with and to answer any questions that people had.

Some of the cyclists who attended the Monday night meeting rode together with the Memphis Hightailers and the Revolutions Co-op.

The higher-than-normal attendance of this public meeting was due, in part, to the number of bike lane projects being presented by the city’s Division of Engineering, with the one for Riverside Drive being of particular interest to those who came.

Dozens of those who attended the March 27, 2017 public meeting
came to it via a bicycle.

The repaving projects, which the city is looking to have bike lanes added to, include:

- N. Highland St.
from Summer Ave. to Walnut Grove Rd.,
Riverside Dr. from Jefferson Ave. to Beale St.,
- N. Perkins St.
from Summer Ave. to Walnut Grove,
- Hickory Hill Rd.
from Mt. Moriah Rd. to Winchester Rd.,
- Knight Arnold Rd. from Hickory Hill Rd. to Ridgeway Rd.,
- Riverdale Rd. from Winchester Rd. to Shelby Dr.,
- Cooper St.
from Central Ave. to Washington Ave.,
- Getwell Rd.
from Park Ave. to I-240,
- Airways Blvd.
from Shelby Dr. to TN/MS State Line, and
- Mendenhall Rd. from Knight Arnold Rd. to Mt. Moriah Rd.

Click here to view the proposed street layout design poster displays presented at this public meeting.

With each of their repaving proposals, city engineers were able to add bike lanes by narrowing one or more lanes on the streets to accommodate them.  Several of these vehicle lanes were decreased to either 10 or 12 feet, with 10 being the minimum amount that is allowed.

As the Bikeway and Pedestrian Program
Manager in Memphis, Nicholas Oyler is
the point man on all issues that might
impact cyclists and pedestrians.  He has
been in that position since Sept. 6, 2015.

The impetus behind making accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists is driven by a concept known as “complete streets.”  This is a transportation policy and design approach that requires that our streets be designed to facilitate safety and accessibility for everyone, regardless of their mode of transportation, whether it is by a motor vehicle, a bicycle, or on foot.

Many see this as a truly democratic concept, and it has been embraced by many city leaders and city planners because it not only provides viable alternatives in transportation, but the data has shown that it also greatly enhances safety (by encouraging slower moving vehicular traffic), and it helps to relieve the chronic problems that come from traffic congestion.

Projects like this are also important since they can help to improve the health and fitness of Memphis area residents, they can provide recreational opportunities, and they can even generate more business opportunities and promote tourism.

The March 27, 2017 public meeting provided an open forum for
people to look at the proposed layout designs for ten city streets,
to talk and ask questions of city representatives, engineers, and
contractors, and to fill out questionnaires so that the city can
evaluate some of the ideas that people have.

The proposal for Riverside Drive also makes the riverfront and Tom Lee Park much more accessible for people who will only have to cross two lanes instead of four and, because of the slower moving traffic, they will be able to do so with less risk of being hit.

By making Riverside Drive easier for people to cross, it will, in turn, make it much easier for them to get to the parks and to other amenities that we have along the river. 

Improving accessibility to our riverfront is
something that several city leaders, including both the previous and current Memphis City Mayor, have reportedly expressed an interest in seeing.

Of the ten bike lanes that the city is currently proposing, the ones on Riverside Drive, (running from Jefferson Ave. to Beale St.), drew the greatest amount of attention and discussion at this most recent public meeting.

This is the city’s second attempt of installing bike lanes on Riverside Drive.  The first came in a pilot program that was launched in 2014 when the city reconfigured it, taking two of the four lanes away for vehicular traffic and making them accessible only for pedestrians and cyclists.

There was great interest in the proposed changes by the city
of ten of its streets, but the greatest focus of many was on
Riverside Drive that could have a more bike and pedestrian-
friendly makeover, if the general public supports the new
design concept.

The program ended the following year, and returned to its previous configuration, after there was mounting opposition to it by a handful of businesses, downtown residents, and some motorists, many of whom complained about traffic jams, delays, and concerns over their own personal safety.

Most of those who spoke, publicly, against the bike lanes on Riverside Drive offered up various other alternatives, suggesting, for instance, that bike paths be put in right up next to the river or installed adjacent to the existing sidewalk in Tom Lee Park. 

These ideas, however, would be much more costly and would mean the removal of trees, shrubs, and grass and would require putting down even more pavement, which would detract even more from the natural beauty of the riverfront. 

More than that, though, one of the biggest problems with these, or any other alternatives that people might come up with, bike lane advocates say, is that it fails to recognize the fact that the streets do not just belong to those who are in cars, but to everyone, and to all people.

This is the existing and proposed layout configuration for
Riverside Drive that once again includes bike lanes.  It is
one of ten projects that the city is seeking public input for
and, if it receives a favorable response from the public,
work could begin on this, and the other streets, as soon
as the late summer or early fall.

Aside from benefiting the cyclists, the bike lanes also help to open up Riverside Drive and, by their mere existence, they help to make the streets safer for everyone by slowing down the high-speed vehicular traffic, which can sometimes look more like an interstate than a city street

Unlike the time of the pilot project on Riverside Drive, the Memphis Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager, Nicholas Oyler, believes that circumstances have changed since then, like the opening of the Big River Crossing on the Harahan Bridge, which provides even more reasons to have bike lanes on this iconic roadway.

The Big River Crossing has already had over 160,000 visitors either walking, running, or riding their bikes on it from the time it opened in October 2016

This is a proposed rendering of what Riverside Drive would
look like with the bike lanes on the outer edges of it, if the
public input is positive and in favor of it.

"Nearly two years since the pilot project was conducted, demand for access to the riverfront has increased via the Harahan Bridge and other new attractions. Yet, drivers on average are still traveling at 10 or more miles per hour greater than the posted speed limit along Riverside Drive. We’re confident that this new proposal effectively addresses the concerns voiced during the pilot project, while still achieving the overall priority of safety for everyone who uses the street – whether in a car, on foot or by bike,” Oyler said.

Memphis area residents can provide their thoughts and comments by completing an online surveyYou will have until 11:59 p.m. on April 17 to do this.

Click here to complete the online survey.

Individuals can also
submit written comments to Chee Chew, Civil Design engineer by mail at Project Comments, Civil Design & Administration, 125 North Main Street, Suite 677, Memphis, TN, 38103, or by email at

Depending on feedback that is received, the city will either begin repaving projects by this fall or it may, if needed, decide to alter a proposed project’s design or conduct additional public outreach.   

The re-pavement project, known as the Surface Transportation Program Repaving Group 5 and 6 has an estimated cost of $14.2 million with 80 percent ($11.3 million) federally funded and the city picking up the remaining tab of 20 percent ($2.84 million).

This, and other public meetings, not only provide an
opportunity for Memphis area residents to look over and
examine the city's proposed plans, but to also meet and
discuss the details and potential impact of a project, to
offer suggestions, to ask questions, and to offer feedback,
which helps the city to better meet the needs of everyone.

Federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funding will cover the cost for the segment of Riverside Drive from Jefferson Ave. to Beale St., according to Oyler.

Since the city does not want to have the bike lanes to abruptly end there; however, he and others support a proposal to have in-house city crews continue the new striping configuration south from Beale to Carolina Ave.

The southern portion, Oyler said, would be covered by city engineering operating funds.

The southern segment of Riverside Drive, he added, was repaved less than two years ago and would only need to be re-striped. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ten things Memphis area cyclists should put on their wish lists

Ten things Memphis area cyclists should put on their wish lists
By:  Michael Lander

Having more places to ride a bike has given people that much more
to love about Memphis.  This popular cycling mural is located
along the 10.85 mile long Shelby Farms Greenline trail near
N. Mendenhall Rd.  The trail currently runs from Tillman to the
former Cordova Train Depot near Dexter Lane.  A further 2.3
mile extension of the trail to Lenow Rd. is expected to get
underway before 2019.

All of us have wishes and sometimes we even go as far as making wishes on shooting stars, when we blow out birthday candles, after we pull apart wishbones, when we cast money into a fountain or a wishing well, or in so many other different ways. 

As much fun as it might be to imagine that all of our wishes could possibly come true in any of these fantastical ways, most of us are sensible enough to know that this doesn’t really happen, at least not in real life.

This is not to say, however, that there is anything wrong with making wishes because every great accomplishment or achievement that we have in our lives begins with a simple wish.

The legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan, once said, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen,” and so there is nothing wrong with having wishes so long as you are willing to try and make those wishes come true.

It is with this in mind that Memphis area cyclists should consider coming up with some wishes of their own of what they would like to see happen to make Memphis, and the surrounding communities even better for cycling.

Even though the Memphis area has really come a long way in less than a decade, (having come from absolutely nothing to now having hundreds of miles of bike lanes, trails, and other cycling-related amenities that we have today), we should not rely on others to look out for our interests, but we should be proactive and to have a wish list that will help to ensure that we get whatever will make things even better for us as a community.

This wall art is located on Cooper Ave. near Central Ave in Midtown
Memphis.  In 2012, the Cooper-Young neighborhood was chosen as
one of the best neighborhoods to live in within the U.S. and it may
have one of the larger concentrations of cyclists in Memphis.

Here, then, is a list of ten (10) things that we, as a community of cyclists, should consider having on our wish lists.

(1)  More protected bike lanes

We’ve seen hundreds of miles of bike lanes put down in and around Memphis, beginning in 2008, and as welcoming a sight that this has been, we have yet to see but one protected bike lane installed thus far.  Having more of these, especially on roads with heavier vehicular traffic should definitely make the wish lists of Memphis area cyclists.

(2)  Finding ways to provide more space and separation for cyclists

Bike lanes, protected or otherwise, are not only something that most cyclists would like to see, because it helps to provide a space for cyclists to navigate on, but they can also help to entice some to ride who might not otherwise feel safe riding on our city streets.  If bike lanes cannot be put in, cyclists should have other options made available to them which can provide more space and separation between them and motor vehicles and this might, at the very least, include wider shoulders.  Having city engineers come up with possible solutions in these cases is something that we can hope for and should have on our wish lists. 

(3)  A vastly expanded network of bike lanes and trails

The Memphis Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager, Nick Oyler, recently said that one of his main goals is to help connect some of the existing bike lanes that we already have with one another.  While this is absolutely great news for those who ride around in Memphis, we can only hope that this will eventually lead to a much more ambitious plan of connecting our bike lanes and trails, not only to nearby communities, but branching out well beyond that in all directions.  Such a vast network as that would make a nice addition to any wish list that we could come up with.

The City of Memphis opened two of four lanes of Riverside
Drive, exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists from June
2014 to April 2016.  Even though this testing period did
not end as some had hoped, there is still a chance that
Memphis may still see another chance for protected
bike lanes on this scenic roadway.  If it ever does, it
will show the city's commitment to the cycling
community, to the health and welfare of its
residents, and will provide greater economic
benefits with an increase in tourism.

(4)  Protected bike lanes on Riverside Drive

One of the best places to see and visit is downtown Memphis and the area along the Mississippi River and so it is disappointing that it isn’t exactly easily or possible to get around on a bike, especially on Riverside Drive.  No wish list could possibly be created that did not include having protected bike lanes on this iconic roadway, which would, ideally, connect The Big River Crossing over the Mississippi River with the Wolf River Greenway.

(5)  Lighted bike trails

Being able to ride a bike on trails at night may seem like something that would only appeal to a small, fringe group of cyclists, but people would probably be surprised by just how many cyclists (including those who want to commute by bike) would jump at the chance to do this if they were allowed to hit the trails at night and, if the trails, themselves, had adequate lighting on them.  Having trails that are lit, perhaps even like the solar-powered glow in the dark ones in the Netherlands, would be wildly popular and would make a nice item to have on a wish list for Memphis area cyclists.

Nothing may symbolize the growing popularity of cycling more
than the bicycle arch at the entrance to Overton Park on East
Parkway in Memphis.  The ribbon-cutting ceremony took for
it took place on April 19, 2014.  In this photo, taken on June
25, 2015, is the former Bikeway and Pedestrian Program
Manager, Kyle Wagenschutz who was participating in one
of seven Bikes on Broad events from May to November
2015.  Bikes on Broad was part of a national competition
by PeopleforBikes, which Memphis participated in and
came in second, just behind Tucson.

(6)  The need for more people to get involved in support of cycling

When it comes to cycling, the Memphis area has really made a lot of progress thanks to cycling advocates, non-profit organizations, businesses, philanthropists, and city leaders who have turned a vision and a dream into a reality.  In order to make even greater strides in the years ahead, more cyclists need to get involved with any issues (political or otherwise) that might impact cycling.  There is strength in numbers and the cycling community could become an even greater force by coming together and supporting one another for the greater good of cycling in and around Memphis.  Anyone who has interest in cycling should definitely have this goal on their wish list.

(7)  Finding ways to get more people out riding bikes

One of the ways that the cycling community could exert an even greater influence, (and benefit from the allocation of funding and other resources), would be by increasing the number of those who ride.  The challenge for Memphis, and for other cities, is to come up with new and innovative ways to get more people out on bikes and to help make the number of cyclists grow, which will not only provide an economic boost, but, more importantly, will also provide health and fitness benefits for more of those in our community and for that reason alone it is well worth having this on our wish lists.

The Shelby Farms Greenline is one of Memphis' first paved trails
and it will eventually intersect with the Wolf River Greenway,
which will be the largest paved city trail in Memphis when it is
completed in 2018.  Having these trails and the city bike lanes
extend well beyond Memphis to all of our nearby communities
is something that all cyclists should hope and wish for.

(8)  Making streets even safer for pedestrians and cyclists

Pedestrians and cyclists are especially vulnerable to the threat that is posed by distracted, impaired, reckless, impatient, or angry drivers.  Because of the dangers that these types of drivers present, more can and should be done, which can include greater awareness, education, and enforcement.  It might also help to also have a database, which could help to identify the circumstances of any incidents involving cyclists and pedestrians and what if any actions were done to help prevent this from happening again.  Safety on our city streets is one of the main goals for Memphis’ Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager and this should absolutely be on each and everyone’s wish lists.

(9)  Addressing the needs of those who commute on a bike

The percentage of those who actually commute by bicycle in the Memphis area is relatively low, but for cycling to grow, this is something that will need to change.  In order to accomplish that, there needs to be a bigger and better network of bike lanes with more support of businesses and amenities aimed at those who wish to commute on bicycle.  Having more people commuting on their bikes will provide a more economical option for those on a limited income, it could help ease traffic congestion, and it can lay the necessary groundwork for those who wish to ride for other purposes.   For these reasons, this should be a “must have” on our wish lists.

(10)  Making Memphis one of the best cities in the U.S. for cycling

The last thing on our wish list is to see Memphis become one of the best cities in the country for riding a bike and a top destination spot for cycling.  Seeing how far that we’ve already come, it isn’t unreasonable to imagine just how far we may be able to go over the next decade.

Memphis has put down over 500 miles of bike lanes since 2008
and there are plans to connect some of the existing ones with
one another in the years ahead.  Having even more bike lanes,
or other options, is and should be on all local area cyclists wish
The future of cycling in Memphis is limited only by that which we wish for it to be today.  It is for this reason that we can never underestimate the value of wishing and dreaming for anything.

There is really nothing wrong with wishing…… There is only something wrong with not doing anything about it.

Jonas Salk once said that “There is hope in dreams, imagination, and in the courage of those who wish to make dreams a reality,” and what we need is to have the strength and courage to do just that.

For those who love to ride a bike, we must do what we can to make cycling not only good for ourselves, but to make it more feasible and appealing for everyone else.

We can make this happen if we take these wishes that we have and try to make them a reality.

T.S. Eliot once said that, “Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.”

We should have enough of the determination and resolve to one day make all of our wishes and dreams come true and to help create an even better place for cycling in and around Memphis.