Category: Infrastructure

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hi everyone.  I’m going to keep it short today as I have quite a bit on my plate.  Here’s a few pages on facebook I discovered recently which made me happy.

By now you’ve heard of the young woman who was struck by a car as she was biking on Cooper Street this weekend.  I don’t have any information beyond what is in the linked article; if any of you have any information about her status, feel free to leave it in the comments.  Here’s hoping she has a speedy recovery and that the driver who hit her is brought to justice.

This guy is awesome.  I mean, he would complete pwn the next Tweed Ride.

We now have bike lanes on Chelsea Avenue!  I was going to ride them this weekend but was busy doing other things.  I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Lastly, I missed this year’s Tour de Bird, mostly due to bad planning.  I did see a few of the riders as I was heading home from downtown.  It looked like a good crowd.  You can read more about it here.

I got a comment/question on my “About” page from a reader who wants to bike from Memphis to New Orleans (hell yeah!) and is looking for more information about how to do that.  (Scroll to the bottom to his his comment – his name is Ryan.)  I really don’t have any information about how to do that, as cool as it sounds – please help out a fellow cyclist in the comments.

Alright Memphis, time to earn some $$$.  Have a good week.

Wednesday’s Night’s Meeting

I have to be honest here – I’m getting a little tired of writing about meetings about what to do with Madison Avenue.  I’m not going to pretend that I’m alone in this; I’m sure most of Midtown is sick to death of waiting for a decision to be made.

That said, I do think the meetings of the last three weeks were very helpful and much needed.  I wish we had had meetings like this back in February.  In that spirit, I have to give major props to the architects and planners at Looney Ricks Kiss, who moderated each of the meetings and did some fantastic analysis of the road bed and environs around Madison.  Over the course of the three meetings, the attendees were guided through and discussion and deliberation process, first to figure out what we wanted done with Madison Avenue, then to identify what was feasible, and finally to hear about the options we have (as LRK sees it) and to deal with some final issues.

What I appreciated most about the dialogue is how much of it was grounded in the language of economics.  The speaker at each of the meetings talked often about trade-offs (in my mind I could hear him take the next step and say “opportunity cost“) and about how, for most of the length of Madison Avenue, we only have 60 feet of road bed to work with – the very definition of scarcity.

I also appreciated how much the community around Madison was involved in the process of deciding what to do.  It seems that a feeling of a lack of prior notice was the source of the ill feelings on the part of business owners at the meeting back in February – more than once I’ve heard that the business owners felt the city was trying to “ram [the bike lanes] down our throats,” not inconspicuously borrowing a phrase from the Republican opposition to health care reform – although it’s worth noting that the opposition has not abated one bit.  The city has held a series of proper meetings, with numerous break-out groups, plus a website with a survey, but it doesn’t seem to have moved the needle much, at least as far as some business owners are concerned.

Of course, I am now as ever sympathetic to the concerns of the business owners.  It’s one thing when your favorite local store closes; no one likes to see that happen.  But it’s something else entirely when your livelihood shuts down.

So I’m really interested to see what happens in the wake of this week’s meeting, because it was then that we finally saw some estimates of actual traffic volumes on Madison.  Up to this week, all of the talk about the current capacity of Madison and what adding bike lanes would do to that capacity did nothing to quell anyone’s concern.  At the meeting on Wednesday it was revealed that even peak traffic on Madison is below the capacity the street could sustain, even with bike lanes.  That’s right: traffic volumes could grow by an estimated 36% before Madison would be “full” – and that’s with bike lanes, two lanes of traffic, and a turn lane.  At a growth rate of 2% per year – which is actually a pretty solid growth rate – it would take something like 15 years before Madison started to feel too crowded.  Considering that traffic on Madison has basically been flat for the past decade, after peaking in the mid-1990s, I’m not too concerned about capacity being reached any time soon.

Not that I don’t want Madison Avenue to improve – I desperately do.  And if we transform the street from an under-developed thoroughfare to a unique Memphis destination, one that will draw tourists (and their dollars) to Memphis, we could see that happen.  But sticking with the status quo will not.

If all we do is repave the street, nothing will change.  What we need to do is make Madison Avenue a destination that is safe and fun for all Memphians and visitors, however they choose to move around town.  Yes, drivers must have adequate lanes to use, but so must cyclists and pedestrians.  Improving sidewalks, adding plants, benches, and trash cans, repainting crosswalks – this is all good stuff.  But adding bike lanes will help to slow traffic, making the businesses and improvements on Madison more visible and the street safer.  This is what we need.

I understand that change is hard and sometimes scary.  I also understand that accepting such change when your very livelihood is on the line (or is perceived as such) is even more difficult.  Don’t take my word for it – read it for yourself in this article.  (The relevant part is at the end.)

But it’s clear that we need to do something to make Madison better.  Bike lanes can and should be a part of it.  There’s just no good reason to conclude now that bike lanes will harm businesses.  If anything, by being a part of an overall improvement to the street, they will help.

At the very least, we’ll know soon.  The Mayor’s has to decide on something by the end of the month or it risks losing the stimulus dollars needed to pay for the project.

(Slightly Delayed) Weekend Wrap-Up

Lately I find myself wanting to start every new blog entry by remarking how busy I’ve been this week, by way of explaining why I haven’t posted much recently.  In reality, I just haven’t been biking much lately.  My summer course ended the week before last, and other than a few errands here and there, I haven’t been on the old Gary Fisher much.  I guess that’s what happens when one is primarily a bike commuter; no commuting = no biking.

But I am really excited about what the guys over at Cycle Memphis are doing.  I know I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m really happy to see other Memphis cyclists organize events and generally promote the cause of biking in our fair city.  I missed the first Cycle Memphis group ride, but I will most definitely be at the next one, scheduled for Saturday, 6 August, at 8:00 PM. The meeting place is the gazebo at the intersection of Cooper and Young.  I really hope that even more people attend this event; apparently over 60 cyclists participated in the first ride.

In a recent blog post I wrote about this article and rightly took the author to task, as many other writers have.  In all fairness, here is a link to his response.  And another response from him. Overall, he does raise some interesting points in his responses, but I must to his defining biking advocacy as purely an interest-group driven activity.  Wanting to get from home to work (or anywhere else) is not specific to cyclists.  Everyone wants that.

For another perspective on this discussion, have a look here.

In more local news, it looks like the Greenline could actually get a proper link to Overton Park and Midtown.  I missed the meeting where this was discussed, but I’m really excited about it. Read more here.

Also, I’m happy to report that Memphis has been selected as one of six cities for a pilot project called “Strong Cities, Strong Communities.”  I don’t know what this could mean for biking in Memphis, but it’s good news nonetheless.

And, local bike shop Midtown Bikes posted this article about bike commuting.  I’m really glad to see more Memphis people writing about cycling as a means of transportation.

Did you ever wonder if you could wear a skirt and still comfortably ride a bike?  Have a look here for an answer.

Unfortunately, some people in Congress are not so friendly toward cycling.  Please take a moment and contact your local legislator about this issue.

That’s all I have for now.  I’m planning to bike to work at least three days this week, plus to the meeting about Madison Avenue on Wednesday.  Hope to see you all biking in Memphis.

Last Night’s Meeting

Hi everyone.  I had planned to attend last night’s meeting about the proposed improvements to Madison Avenue but decided not to; our six-year-old niece is visiting us this summer and this is her last week with us.  So we a nice family night at home instead, complete with sandwiches from Lenny’s and yogurt from Yo Lo.  Yum.

But Ty over at Living Loud in Midtown took some rather comprehensive notes which you can read here.  Some of the notes are rather cryptic but overall I like what I see.  It looks like 80-90% of respondents to last week’s survey want protected bike lanes.  I also see a reference to slowing the speed limit on Madison from the current 35 M.P.H. to 30.  Slowing traffic on Madison should allow for more cars on the road, perhaps alleviating concerns from the business owners about bike lanes.

Also interesting was the data about actual traffic levels – not capacity – on Madison.  It looks like total volume was 12,000 to 13,000 cars per day, well down from the early 1980s, when volume was nearly 28,000 per day.  Peak times were the evening, where 700 cars per hour traveled the road.  Installing bike lanes and turn lanes would reduce capacity to around 17,000.

I’m really optimistic for the future of Madison Avenue, and very hopeful that bike lanes are part of that.  You can read more about last night’s meeting here.  Please take a moment to fill out this week’s survey once it is posted, and I’ll see you at next week’s meeting.

P.S.  Forgot to mention this before – if you were at the meeting last night and have any information to share, please do so in the comments.  Thanks!

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hi everyone.  It’s been yet another busy week here at Biking in Memphis.  My summer semester ended on Friday, a week earlier than the rest of the university, as I’ve been teaching an economics course at the Governor’s School for International Studies.  GSIS is one of the dozen or so Governor’s School programs across the state and, in my opinion, is the best.  Some of you might have attended a GS when you were in high school; if so, you know how much fun they are.  I count myself as very lucky that I’m able to teach there every summer.  My students this year were exceptionally smart and funny.  (CORN!!!)

OK.  Onto the weekend wrap-up.  I’ve already written about the meeting last week about Madison Avenue.  Here’s an article about the same from the Memphis Business Journal and, hot off the presses, an editorial from the CA in support of bike lanes and other improvements.  I’m really excited for the second of the three meetings this week on Wednesday, 6 July, at 5:30 PM at Minglewood Hall.  Don’t forget to complete this survey about the future of Madison Avenue.

To get an idea of what bike and pedestrian lanes can mean to a city – one in Tennessee no less – have a look at this picture of Chattanooga’s amazing river walk.  I really hope that planners in Memphis use this as inspiration for what our river front can look like.

I heard that the inaugural Cycle Memphis group ride was very well attended – apparently over 60 cyclists rode from Cooper Young to downtown and back.  Here’s a map of the route they followed.  I had really wanted to attend the ride, but given the fact that I’ve been at work late several times over the past few weeks (for the aforementioned GSIS) and that my six-year-old niece is visiting from Atlanta, I decided that having some family time at home was more important.  But next month I will most definitely be there.

I’ve long suspected that cycling is not any slower than driving, especially over relatively short distances or in urban traffic, and can even be faster in some circumstances, and this article about Congressman Earl Blumenauer lends some credence to that conclusion.  Of course, an sample size of one does not make for good predictions – the article really should not have claimed that Mr. Blumenauer’s experiment proved anything; it does however strongly suggest that cycling can be faster than driving – but my 3.25-mile commute to campus takes about 15 minutes by bike and about 10 minutes in a car (not accounting for time spent driving around my parking deck looking for a parking space), further suggesting that cycling car be just as fast as driving.  I’ve also noticed when driving around town that cyclists riding along with traffic keep pace with cars for surprising.  Also, the Portland NPR affiliate replicated Mr. Blumenauer’s experiment and – drumroll please – bikes won.  At least one participating cyclist was not surprised.

This does make me wonder about the expected trip length over which cycling is as fast or faster than driving.  Is it one mile?  Two?  Are we talking about point-to-point travel, or would this include time spent looking for parking?  If one included that, I imagine that the maximum trip length could be quite a bit longer than expected.

Whatever the case, it looks like bike commuting is becoming more popular and that middle-aged men are leading the way.  Hooray for my demographic!

Not surprisingly, as more bikes are on the road, we’re seeing more conflicts between cyclists and drivers.  My hope is that these episodes are evidence of a maturing cycling movement and that they’ll soon level off if not decrease.  Better education for drivers, cyclists, and police officers can only help.

Hey, need an inexpensive bike trailer?  Have a look at this kludge.

It looks like building bike infrastructure actually creates more jobs per dollar spent than mixed-use or car-only projects.  Have a look at this article for more discussion.

Need something to read at the beach this summer?  Here’s some recommendations from Bike Portland.  I’ve just started reading The Lost Cyclist and I’m really enjoying it so far.  Or, you could always grab some Ludwig Von Mises like Rep. Michelle Bachman claims to do.

[pause for loud, snorting, derisive laughter]

Anyway, have a good week biking, Memphians.  Since I’m off work this week, I’m probably going to hit the Greenline at least once.  Hope to see you there.

Last Night’s Meeting

I attended last night’s meeting about bike lanes on Madison Avenue re-imagining the Madison Avenue corridor and surrounding areas and was very pleased and impressed with how it turned out. The meeting began with some introductory comments by a member of some the architecture firm Looney Ricks Kiss. But unlike the first meeting, back in February, the introduction set a generally positive tone for the meeting and even elicited a few laughs. The speaker made a few points I really appreciated, among them that:

  1. Regardless of what happens to Madison Avenue, not everyone is going to get everything that they want.  Hopefully though, 80% of us will get most of what we want.
  2. Everyone has a stake in the future of Madison Avenue, even people who use it only as a commuting corridor.
  3. The issue of the evening is not bike lanes per se – that one has been talked about enough already – but how to improve Madison Avenue.

At one point in his introductory comments, the gentleman from LRK asked how many people lived or worked within 1/2 mile of Madison Avenue.  About half the crowd raised their hands.  Then he increased that distance to one mile, then two.  By that point, almost the entire crowd had its hands in the air.  He then pointed out that 1/2 mile is a reasonable walking distance, one mile is an easy bike ride, and two miles is a short car trip.  I really appreciated how he asked us to self-identify based on how close we lived to Madison, not whether we were business owners, cyclists, residents, and/or commuters.

He then asked how often and fast we drove down Madison.  Again, the idea appeared to be to recognize that we all had a stake in the future of Madison, regardless of what brought us to the meeting.

After talking a bit about the history of recent developments on Madison – turns out the bike lanes have been in the works since last summer, but whatever – and reviewing the four basic sections of Madison, the LRK representative presented some options for what could be done with the street surface itself.  The first option presented was to do nothing, but every option after that included bike lanes.  The number of lanes and amount of on-street parking varied across the several options, but it was good to see options presented other than bike-lanes-or-no-bike-lanes.

After the initial comments, we split up into focus groups and began to discuss our answers to three questions the architects had posed.  Paraphrased slightly, they were:

  1. What changes would you like to see on Madison?
  2. How will you know when those changes are complete and successful?
  3. What is your greatest concern?

I was really happy with the answers my group (GROUP 3 RULEZ!!) came up with.  They covered everything from crime and safety to accessibility to appearance and identity.  Everyone agreed that we wanted more businesses on Madison and an end to the vacant lots.  Several great ideas were tossed out about bike lanes, but those were by no means the only matters we discussed.

I was particularly happy that a Madison Avenue business owner was in our group.  I really wanted to hear his concerns and thoughts on how to better Madison.  It turns out that everyone agreed on the main points about how to do this, with no acrimony.  Such a nice change.

I’ll blog more about this later – busy week you know – but here’s a few pictures I took at the event.  Cheers, and thanks for reading.

Also, check out this website for more information and to voice your opinion.

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Arriving at the meeting, my little caravan found a number of bikes already there.  Awesome!

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The crowd awaits.

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Our break-out group.  I was very happy with the number of voices we heard and the ideas we discussed.

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One of the other groups.  I think there were five total.

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Leaving the meeting, I saw even more bikes.  Minglewood Hall – where’s your bike rack?

Madison Avenue Bike Lanes Meetings

I’m happy to report that the City of Memphis is sponsoring three meetings about the proposed bike lanes on Madison Avenue.  The first meeting is Wednesday, 29 June, from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM.  The remaining two meetings are on subsequent Wednesdays, 6 and 13 July.  The topics discussed at the meetings will be different, so plan to attend all three.  All meetings are at Minglewood Hall.  You can sign up for the meetings on Facebook here, here, and here.

Given how badly the first round of discussions about these bike lanes began, I’m hopeful that all interested parties – cyclists, current and future, business owners on Madison, residents, and drivers – can make sincere efforts to wipe clean the slate and start over.

There is reason to believe that this is possible.  In this article from the CA, Wight Boggs, the owner of Huey’s on Madison, indicates that she would support bike lanes on Madison if they are part of an overall renovation of the street and its environs.  I wholeheartedly support this position, and not just because it might make the bike lanes slightly more likely to happen.  The stretch of Madison Avenue in Midtown is dominated by restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.  The street itself, though, as well as the sidewalks, is in need of some sprucing up.  I think we could significantly increase foot (and bike) traffic on Madison if the street we just a little more pleasing to look at.  I’m really glad to hear of a Madison Avenue business owner (and prominent Memphian) support making bike lanes part of Madison’s future.

Also, Cort over at Fix Memphis posts this picture of the menu at Huey’s.  I don’t know how I never noticed this before, but you can clearly see a caricature of Ms. Boggs riding a penny farthing.  Is this an omen of good things to come?  Let’s hope so.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Welp, I have a crap-ton of links to share with you all this week.  I’m still not yet caught up on my blogging – it’s been a busy few weeks – but here’s a few items that grabbed my attention this week.

First, this guy is a tool.  So much of what he says is typical of the not-cycling-friendly crowd.  First, he portrays us as humorless and arrogant.  Then, he claims to be not only bike-friendly, but a former cyclist himself.  (GAWD if I had a dollar for every time I had heard that I … well, I’d have a few bucks.  But still.)  Finally, he portrays cyclists as being entitled and privileged (and “faddist”).  He then goes to discuss his automobile driving habits for several paragraphs and makes the claim that because he spent untold hours driving slowly around Manhattan looking for parking, that his driving is somehow equivalent to cycling.  Right.  Because most drivers I know drive really effing slow.  But what is most appalling is his claim that cyclists want to “poach on our territory.”  As though the roads belonged only to the drivers and their cars.  Wow, you can’t drive from home to Manhattan and find dozens of empty parking spaces waiting for your gilded steel-belted tires to grace them?  And that’s the fault of cyclists and our bike lanes?  Perhaps population growth has something to do with that?  Also, because he doesn’t see cyclists, they don’t exist.  And when he does notice them, they are doing bad things.  Asshole.

(To get a different read on biking in New York, read this.)

But this guy is completely awesome.  This is my favorite type of cycling activism, or any type of activism really.  One person with a really cool idea who’s working to make it happen.  Kudos to you, my friend.

Also, this guy rocks.  I should use him as an example in my intro-level economics courses about how changes in prices (here, the price of gasoline) can cause people to change their behavior.  It’s all about incentives, baby.

Hats off to the city of Minneapolis for constructing the nation’s first “bicycle freeway.” I can’t wait until that bike facility connects to other bike facilities in nearby parts of the U.S.

Speaking of, did you know that there was once a planned highway system for cyclists?  I didn’t, but I am super excited to know that progress is being made to revive this wonderful idea.  And that Memphis is on the map.  Hooray!

Here’s another cyclist who rocks.  I just started following his blog, but I love his summary of the first year he became carless.

Also, Memphis needs one of these.  Or several of them.  All over town.  Maybe some shaped like forks installed outside restaurants.  Anyone have a wood shop?

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading.

Update on my recent post

I’m giving a shout out to Cort from Fix Memphis for updating my recent post and posting an incredibly awesome picture of me to his blog.  (Bonus points for flawlessly copying the Memphian of the Day entries from I Love Memphis.)  It seems that the bike facilities planned for Tillman will be a separated bike path on the western side of the street, not unlike the Greenline.  I believe that this will be the first such facility in Memphis to run alongside a major road, and I’m very excited about the possibility.  I have no idea what is the next stage in the design or approval process, but I have my fingers crossed.

New Bike/Pedestrian Crossing Signals for the Greenline

Check out this video describing the new bike/pedestrian crossing signals on the Shelby Farms Greenline.

This is really great news for the Greenline.  The signals will be installed at Highland St. and Graham and should improve cyclist and pedestrian safety.

I do hope that the city rolls out a serious public education campaign about how these signals work.  Some aspects of the signals are familiar enough to drivers – the use of yellow to indicate caution or the need to slow down and red to indicate stopping – but the difference between the flashing yellow and solid yellow lights and especially the flashing red and solid red lights will no doubt cause some confusion.  At the very least, the lights will draw more attention to the intersections and the cyclists and walkers using them.

By the way, did you hear that funky ass, honkin’ sax solo at the end of the video?  I’m not at liberty to reveal who played that solo, except that his first name rhymes with “tile” and his last with “cragenshutz.”