By: Michael Lander
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 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.
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.
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.
Memphis area residents can provide their thoughts and comments by completing an online survey. You 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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).
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.