Bicycle Facilities Meeting: 23 March 2011

After skipping the second in the series of meetings about plans for biking and pedestrian facilities in Memphis – the one that actually focussed on bike lanes, no less – I attended the third and final meeting this week.  Like the first two it was hosted by the Church Health Center and took place on Wednesday, 23 March.

The meeting was sparsely attended compared to the first one; mostly it was the “true believers” (people who already bike around town) and several representatives from the Memphis MPO, including the inimitable Kyle Wagenschutz, the city’s bike/pedestrian coordinator.  There was no presentation, just a large number of colorful and informative maps showing the proposed and scheduled bike facilities around the area.

I was heartened to see many such facilities in Midtown, where I live, as well as in north and south Memphis, areas long held in the grips of poverty and underemployment.  While I most certainly want every major road in Midtown to be blanketed in bike lanes (especially Madison Avenue!), I don’t want these plans to be a Midtown-only effort.  Considering the extent to which poverty correlates with negative health outcomes, the low-income neighborhoods in Memphis should very much be the beneficiaries of any and all facilities which encourage exercise.

What remains to be seen is what will actually happen.  From looking at the maps, at least some of the proposed facilities appear to be somewhat “pie in the sky” in ambition.  Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see some sort of trail system running along Nonconnah Creek south of Memphis and connecting with the Germantown bike facilities, the Wolf River trail system, and indirectly to the Shelby Farms Greenline, but where the funding (and political muscle) comes from is unknown at this time.  Whatever the case, I am overjoyed to see so many proposed biking and walking facilities in and around Memphis.  It’s really heartening to see how quickly this city has turned around.  I can only imagine what it has been like for the dozens of people who’ve been advocating for better facilities (hell, any facilities) for walkers and bikers in Memphis for years.

One piece of good news to share: after originally coming out against the proposed bike lanes on Madison Avenue, Molly’s La Casita has switched teams and is now supporting bike lanes!  Yay Molly’s!!  Now if only Huey’s and Mercury Valet Cleaners would end their senseless opposition.

2 comments

  1. Bob

    The ‘plan’ truly is a wish list of all possible routes and lanes. In the transportation planning world, there are many reasons to heavily load the plan. Thanks to Livable Memphis pointing out serious flaws in the City’s work, AC Wharton came up with his 55 mile plan. The truth is, most of these 55 miles should have already been included for bicycle facilities under Federal law because they were scheduled for repaving (‘reconstruction’ under the law). The City has been ignoring this for many years. Except for the CSX Greenline (a County project) and a few others – it’s all related to repaving schedules.

    This first bit will result in a patchwork quilt of unconnected segments. The next step is to start making connections so we end up with an interconnected network of true transportation routes. If we wait on repaving schedules, it’ll take maybe 30 years.

    It’s budget time for the City now, and it will be ugly. Watch it, and let your City Council representatives know you want to see progress beyond scheduled repaving projects – and tell all of your friends!

    • Doug

      Agreed 100%, Bob. I appreciate the level of political support behind the new bike lanes – in the Mayor’s office at least – but clearly more voices are needed.

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