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Monday, May 8, 2017

Memphis area cyclists can celebrate over survey results for 10 repaving projects and a whole lot more

Memphis area cyclists can celebrate over survey results for 10 repaving projects and a whole lot more
By:  Michael Lander

Broad Ave. is just one of the many Memphis City streets that
have bike lanes.  By the fall of this year, work will begin on
10 more.

The results are in and it’s great news for
Memphis area cyclists.

After unveiling the proposed design plans for repaving 10 Memphis City streets at a
public meeting on March 27, the Memphis Bike/Ped Manager, Nicholas Oyler, published a summary of the results of an online survey and other feedback that the city received throughout a three week period that ended on April 17.

The overall responses to each of the design plans, that included bike lanes for 10 Memphis City streets, were overwhelmingly positive to include one of Memphis’ most scenic roadways -
Riverside Drive.

Click here to view the results.

With these results, the
City of Memphis will take these responses, along with other related factors, into consideration before making a final decision in the weeks ahead.  If all goes according to plan, the city should proceed with the repaving road work projects on the following Memphis City Streets by the fall:

- 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.

Most of the
opposition to the bike lanes on Riverside was mounted by several downtown homeowners, some of whom publicly voiced their dissent and who sought to have other options pursued, instead.  They seem to have preferred having bike lanes placed on other streets or having them placed inside Tom Lee Park, itself.

Cooper Ave. is one of the many streets in Memphis that has a
significant number of cyclists riding on it and this is only
expected to increase with the extension of the bike lane
from Central to Washington Ave.

One of the more compelling arguments for having bike lanes on Riverside, however, as well as on the other nine Memphis City streets, is that it would, ultimately, help to slow traffic, and thereby increase safety for everyone to include not only those who are driving, but also those who want to ride a bike or who wish to try to walk across any of these streets.

For Oyler, the bike lanes are more than just about accommodating the needs and wishes of cyclists.  He has said on a number of occasions that it is more about creating safer streets for everyone and the current design plan for Riverside should do just that.

Oyler and others believe that the current plan remedies some of the problems that arose from the previous design plan that failed in 2015 by creating turn lanes and emergency pull-off areas.

In addition to that, there may also be one other benefit that might come for having bike lanes installed on Riverside Drive.

The
Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) and the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) have been looking for ways to reduce crime and to increase safety around Riverside Drive with ideas like decreasing the speed limit, reducing it to two (2) lanes, (to control excessive cruising), and even possibly temporarily closing it on weekends. 

With bike lanes put in on Riverside Drive, it would do all this without ever having to close it except for the
Memphis in May festivities.

According to Oyler, the RDC has been supportive of city engineer’s proposals to slow down traffic and improve access along Riverside Drive for all users.

The creation of bicycle lanes in Memphis over the last decade
have had a significant impact on the growing popularity of
cycling with an added side benefit of helping to slow traffic
down, which has greatly contributed to the safety of
motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.

Oyler believes that the latest proposal for bike lanes should help accomplish some of what the DMC and RDC have been looking to do to reduce crime, without having to close the street on weekends.

Even though there has been a lot of attention given to this latest set of bike lanes, the city also has other big bike lane projects coming in the future.

Among some of the future projects is an enhancement of the
Hampline, (connecting the Shelby Farms Greenline and Overton Park), which will also include the first traffic bicycle lights in our city.

A future half a mile expansion of the greenline from Tillman to the north end of Flicker (near
Tobey Park) is also being planned that will also include an eye-catching bridge with the work expected to be completed in four to five years.

Another one is a three year effort, known as “
The Big Jump Project,” which will add bike lanes in South Memphis.  This project be especially beneficial to individuals from communities in this part of Memphis who have lower incomes and who are more dependent on walking and cycling.

The Big Jump Project is funded by
PeopleforBikes and Memphis is one of 10 cities that were chosen among hundreds throughout the U.S.

Some of the bike lanes in South Memphis will open up areas like
Martin Luther King Riverside Park, which has an old forest like Overton Park and was designed by the same pioneer urban planner and landscape architect of Overton, George Kessler.

One other exciting project that should get the adrenaline pumping for Memphis area cyclists is a “
Great Streets Pilot Project,” unveiled at a public meeting on Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Bike lanes, like this one on Southern Ave., have helped to
create corridors for cyclists to travel on.  More of these in
the years ahead, with connections to other bike lanes,
should make cycling much safer and a more viable
option for transportation and commuting purposes.

This project will provide a mostly protected two-way, east-west bike route from the
river to Midtown Memphis, (from Riverside Drive, along Front, Peabody Place and Fourth to Dr. M.L. King Jr. Ave., while steering clear of the Beale Street entertainment district), with a couple of protected (Dutch-style) intersections or bike roundabouts along the way.

A continuation of this bike route on to Dr. M.L. King Jr. Ave. will feature a one-way protected bike lane on either side of the street and the work on this separate project should be completed by the fall.

The Great Streets Pilot Project, itself, will offer areas with interactive public art elements, eating, drinking, and various other activities, and it will give Memphians an opportunity to enjoy public space amenities that have been created through the transformation of some of our public streets.

Through the combined efforts of the
UrbanArt Commission and others, the Great Streets project will help Memphians to see, experience, and to re-imagine our city streets in a radically different, in a more aesthetic, and more people-friendly way.

The work is set to begin in June and should be finished by the end of that month.  After that, there will be a one year trial period and the city will then request federal funding, which will be augmented with private funding.

With all of these bike lanes (which will total 331 miles by the end of 2017), an improved bicycle infrastructure, an effort to connect existing
bike lanes with one another, and more funding expected to come from Governor Haslam’s Improve Act (SB 1221 gas tax bill), Memphis area cyclists will have much to celebrate and to look forward to in the future.

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