Bike Lanes on Madison: Update

Hi everyone.  I’ve written recently about the need for action on the proposed bike lanes on Madison Avenue. Unfortunately, I don’t have any update beyond reporting that Mayor Wharton still hasn’t made a decision.  Apparently he’s received reports on the impact of bike lanes on Madison, and hopefully he’ll make a decision soon, but for now, all we can do is write letters and wait.

If you haven’t yet written one, please do so.  Here’s some information you should know about the proposed lanes and their impact.

1.  Facts about Re-Designing Madison Avenue

Memphis needs vibrant places for people to live, work, shop and recreate. The Madison Avenue corridor can be exactly that – if we build it right.

What truly drives economic activity? People are attracted to vibrant, lively public spaces. Study after study concludes that safe, walkable and bikable places are a high priority in attracting and retaining the desirable young professional class. Communities accessible to children, the elderly, families, pedestrians, cyclist, and automobiles are proven to be the kinds of places that attract more people. They have a bustling and welcoming street life and attract more visitors.

What is a “Road-Diet”? A road diet transforms an underutilized roadway into a more efficient roadway.  On Madison, the proposed road diet will convert two automobile lanes in each direction to one automobile in each direction, one bike lane in each direction and a center left hand turn lane.  The optimal average daily traffic (ADT) for successful road diet projects is between 9,000-20,000.

How will a road diet effect traffic counts on Madison? Currently Madison’s ADT is 12,000, which is 35-38% of its designed capacity. Traffic models indicate the proposed road diet will increase efficiency to 45-49% of its designed capacity.  The Road Diet will make increase the number of users, reduce collisions, and spawn economic development.

Collision deduction benefits of a road diet? Road diets benefit all users – specifically automobiles. Rear end crashes, left turn multiple-threat crashes, and sideswipe crashes are the most common crash types that are reduced by such a roadway treatment. A number of studies below show that the road diet scenario reduces vehicle collisions by more than 50%.

What about speeding? Road diets tend to bring traffic speeds down to their posted speed limits. This is safer for all users. An added benefit of slower traffic is economic development: People viewing the street at a slower pace (in cars, on bikes or on foot) are potential new customers for any business because they can really see and experience the street. True – you may not want to put your helmet on just after you got your hair done, but new potential clients will pass by your business on bike and come back later in a car. Madison becomes DESTINATION: MADISON.

Why striped bike lanes? Providing safe, clearly marked places for people to ride bikes brings new users to the streets. Bike lanes will increase Madison’s travel lanes to five: 2 for cars + 2 for bikes + 1 center turn lane. Bike lanes also further separate pedestrians from moving automobile traffic and create a more pleasant sidewalk experience. Striped bike lanes are used by cyclists who currently don’t feel welcome on the street: traditionally, these are women, children, new riders and intermediate riders. True, this stretch of bike lanes might not be most appealing to the fast, spandex-clad cyclists, but for Memphis’ growing cycling class in response to wildly successful facilities like the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway, bike lanes provide new access to the public streets.

Why not a shared route? In this scenario, Madison Ave would be essentially left as is with new signs to indicate that bikes might be there. Bicycles are currently allowed to use Madison and are required by law to share the right-most lane with cars.  However, the current traffic speed, traffic volumes and adjacent land uses make bicycle lanes the most context sensitive option for bike traffic along Madison Avenue.  Bike lanes have been proven to increase safety by removing cyclists from the same travel lanes as motor vehicles, and such safety factors encourage more people to use bicycles rather than motor vehicles. A “shared route” is appropriate application for other scenarios, but in a wide, commercial district like Madison, bike lanes are the only SAFE and APPROPRIATE option.

How will this stretch of Madison Ave connect? The Madison Ave lanes are planned to connect to a new bike route on McLean and provide safe bike access in to trails through Overton Park. Via McLean, Madison will also connect to lanes on Chelsea, Cooper and Southern – all in this next year! These stretches are part of a planned and growing connected network of bicycle facilities that are being designed and built to make our streets safe for bicyclists and pedestrians outlined Mayor Wharton’s 2010 Bicycle Facility Plan outlining 55 miles of routes. And there are plans for another 50+ miles to follows this initial set in the next few years as well!

What about parallel routes? Creating a single east/west route for cyclists to use is unrealistic. Parallel routes are being closely analyzed as additional east/west routes to Madison – not as alternatives. All of these routes are part of a 500 miles system of bike routes planned since 2005.  Different routes meet different needs. Madison Ave offers a unique opportunity to integrate new users into a commercial corridor while boosting economic development.

Where these routes properly announced? YES, the city has gone beyond the outlined protocol for announcing routine maintenance project like Madison. These routes were first announced publicly nearly one year ago. There have been multiple public meeting attended by hundreds of people, and various articles in all forms of new media.

How will this compare to other construction projects on Madison? This is routine maintenance. Madison is in dire need of repaving and has been in the repaving line-up for a while. Repaving is the most efficient time to alter the street design because stripping can be altered. The construction process for repaving and restriping the roadway is not comparable -in any way- to the construction process for the trolley. Temporary lane closures may limit turning movements, availability of on-street parking, and loading zones, but traffic will continue to flow during the construction process. Construction will be completed in a matter of months.

What are some useful resources and data that make the case for a road diet? These resources support road diets for safety, livability, operational efficiency, and transportation equity benefits, all of which are vital elements to healthy, active and vibrant community.

Crash Modification Reduction Factor Clearinghouse – Road Diets. http://www.cmfclearinghouse.org/detail.cfm?facid=2841

Road Diets: Fixing the Big Roads. Dan Burden and Peter Lagerwey’s report on the use of road diets to create more livable streets.  While nearly 11 years old now, it’s still a vital resource for advocates, planners, engineers, etc. http://www.walkable.org/assets/downloads/roaddiets.pdf

Presentation: Road Diets Handbook: Setting Trends for Livable Streets.  Jennifer Rosales’ presentation on the basics of her manual of the same name.  Very useful facts and background information on why road diets are key building blocks of livable communities.

http://lcmpoweb.las-cruces.org/Training/Road%20Diet/Road%20Diet%20Presentation.pdf

APBP Road Diets Webinar – Peter Lagerwey.  Peter Lagerwey managed dozens of road diets and the implementation of miles of bike lanes while with the City.  A great presentation from just a few months ago on the benefits of road diets, along with a few useful case studies.

http://www.walkinginfo.org/training/pbic/dps_webinar_11-03-2010.cfm

2.  Madison Avenue Re-paving Fact Sheet

The Impact of Re-paving

The construction process for repaving and restriping the roadway is not comparable – in any way-  to the construction process for the trolley. Temporary lane closures may limit turning movements, availability of on-street parking, and loading zones, but traffic will continue to flow during the construction process. Construction will be completed in a matter of months.

The Impact of a Road Diet

Madison vehicular traffic is currently operating at 35-38% of its designed capacity.

Traffic models indicate that the proposed road diet will change the capacity to 45-49%.  On a Road Diet, Madison will still be able to handle twice as many cars as currently use the street.[1]

Other Potential Bike Routes

Creating a single east/west route for cyclists to use is unrealistic.  Parallel routes are being closely analyzed as additional east/west routes to Madison – not as alternatives. These routes are part of a 500 miles system of bike routes planned since 2005.  A city’s traffic system is only as good as the ability to move a variety of mode shares (bikes, cars, pedestrians, and trucks) equitably, efficiently, and safely throughout the entire city, and Broad Avenue is a great local example of how bikeable/walkable infrastructure results in increased sales, new businesses, and renewed investment.[2]

Sharing the Road

Bicycles are currently allowed to use Madison and are required by law to share the right-most lane with cars.  However, the current traffic speed, traffic volumes and adjacent land uses make bicycle lanes the most context sensitive option for bike traffic along Madison Avenue.  Bike lanes have been proven to increase safety by removing cyclists from the same travel lanes as motor vehicles, and such safety factors encourage more people to use bicycles rather than motor vehicles.

We should not “gamble” on the backs of business owners with this “experiment”.

Since the 1970’s, cities have been converting four-lane undivided roadways to a three-lane road with a two-way left turn lane.  The practices, techniques, and results are well documented in numerous studies. Madison Avenue meets many of the criteria of a roadway that should be considered for “road diet.”[3]

For more information, please contact Anthony Siracusa 901-843-3401 or Sarah Newstok sarah@livablememphis.org

[1] Case studies from Kirkland, WA, Lewistown, PA, East Lansing, MI, Toronto, ON, Bellevue, WA, Santa Monica, CA, Long Beach, CA, Del Ray Beach, FL and Seattle, WA, indicate no loss in traffic volumes; In some cases the research shows increases in traffic volumes as economic activity increases.

[2] Research from San Francisco, CA, Toronto, ON, London, UK, Baltimore, MD, Outer Banks, NC, Lodi, CA, , indicate that higher levels of bicycle and pedestrian activity generate positive economic outcomes along the stretch of roadway where changes were made to promote more bike/ped activity and calm motor vehicle speeds.

[3] Criteria include: Moderate traffic volumes (8-15,000 ADT), Transit Corridor, Popular or essential bicycle route/link, Commercial investment zones, Economic enterprise zones, Entertainment district, Main street

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