Category: Infrastructure

Connecting the Greenline to Overton Park

Sadly I was not able to bike to work today.  I know, I know … I had a large box of books to carry to a teacher training session I led this morning, after which I quickly drove (groan) to school for lunch and then my afternoon class.  I guess it’s a measure of how committed I am to bike commuting that the act of driving feels like a let down.  Alas, until I buy a bike trailer, this is what I will occasionally have to do.

But I did manage to attend the open house tonight at West Memorials (perhaps the only combination tombstone showcase/art gallery/meeting space I’ve ever visited) about the Overton Park to Broad Street connecter.  This connector will serve as a bridge between the western end of the Greenline and Overton Park, which will then feed into the proposed bike lanes on North Parkway.  Very exciting to say the least.

Anyway, here’s a few pictures from the event.

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This is the scene that greeted me on arrival.  It’s always good to see so many bikes piled up outside.

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Upon entering the gallery, I spotted this bike.  Nice grip-tape, yo.

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Here’s a somewhat blurry picture of the plans for connecting the Greenline to Overton Park.  Apparently I need a better camera.

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And here’s an equally blurry picture of what appears to be a master plan for connecting the Greenline to Overton Park.

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And here’s a picture of Anthony vamping for Cort.  Cort’s fiance Emily ducks as to not impede this wonderful moment of local cyclist silliness.

But seriously, biking in Memphis is on a roll.  Apparently there are over 20 miles of bike lanes in the city, far more than the 2+ miles I bike almost every day on Southern (and far more than there were even one year ago).  Perhaps I’ll take some time in the next few weeks to visit these new lanes.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hi everyone.  I’m about three blog posts behind where I want to be right now – it’s been a busy week for this cyclist – so I’m taking a moment here to wrap up a few random thoughts before I move on to meatier matters.

First, here’s an amazing article about the economic development-implications of bike facilities like the Shelby Farms Greenline.  When I first heard about the plans for the Greenline, years ago, I suspected that we would eventually see new businesses open and existing businesses grow as a result of the increased walking and biking traffic nearby.  It’s good to see my economist instincts confirmed.  I don’t have any empirical evidence behind this assertion, but it seems reasonable to claim that, in terms of local business location and expansion decisions, supply tends to follow demand.  In other words, businesses locate where the people are, and not vice versa.  To anyone who has any concerns about the impact of cyclists on local businesses, this article should put those concerns fully to rest.

Second, if you want more information about what bikes mean for business, check out my friend Matt’s website.  I mean, what a perfect URL.  I can’t believe someone hadn’t already snatched it up.

Speaking of the Greenline, there is both good news and bad news about our beloved rails-to-trails project.  The good news is that the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Commission has applied for $5.5 million worth of federal grants for bike projects.  If awarded, most of the money ($3.3 million) would go to extending the Greenline east to Cordova, a much needed extension which will bring many more suburban residents to Shelby Farms and points west on foot and bike, not in a car.  An additional $1.4 million would go toward bike lanes and facilities in Memphis.  This would create an additional 50 miles of bike lanes, on top of the 55 miles already planned.  (For liberal arts majors, that adds up to 105 miles.  Har har.)  These new lanes would serve to connect the lanes already in the works.  Plus, there’s around $800,000 in the budget to connect the Greenline to Overton Park via Tillman and Braod.  This makes me so happy I can barely stand it.

(Speaking of, there is a design workshop about that connection on Tuesday, 21 June, from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM, at West Memorials, 2481 Broad Street.  I’ll be there, and I hope you will be too.)

The bad news about the Greenline is that County Commissioner Terry Roland has proposed cutting the $576,000 budget earmark for Shelby Farms.  That’s right – he wants to defund the park at the local level, which would mean a 22% decrease in its budget.  I understand that times are tough budget-wise, but cutting money from one of the shining examples of the best of Memphis and Shelby County is downright ludicrous.  Please take a moment and contact your local commissioner and encourage them to vote against this proposal.  The vote happens tomorrow, so don’t delay.

In happier news, my friend Cort over at Fix Memphis has been doing an amazing job of surveying and writing about the bike racks in Memphis.  Maybe some ambitious cyclist with a GPS device could create a Google Map of the bike racks Cort has written about.  Any takers?

Also, I was supposed to go on a bike ride last week with Ty from Living Loud in Midtown.  I discovered Ty’s blog through a comment he left on my blog and I really like it.  He does a really great job of writing about his adventures in Midtown, both on and off the bike.  And apparently he loves his iced coffee.  I hope to be able to ride with him soon.

And, I got another shout-out from the Memphis Blog about my search for local cyclists to interview.  Thanks!  I’m happy to report that I already have three cyclists lined up for interviews with more responses coming in almost daily.  Thanks to everyone for your willingness to talk with me about biking in Memphis.

News and Views

I wanted to share a few news bits related to the proposed bike lanes on North Parkway, the subject of last night’s meeting at Rhodes College (and this blog post).

First, here’s a great article from the Commercial Appeal about the meeting.  As the article mentions, the meeting was packed, with many people standing in the aisles.  I forgot to mention this in my post yesterday, but at one point a representative from St. Jude’s Hospital indicated that her employer supports the bike lanes on North Parkway.  Her comments were greeted with applause.

Second, here’s an editorial from a gentleman who works locally at Merck and who is also a regular bike commuter (with a 24-mile round-trip commute no less).  He and I share the opinion that the city needs to regain the momentum that grew last summer when the first round of bike lanes (on Southern Avenue) were announced.

Third, here’s another editorial, from the editors of the CA, about the need for more bike facilities in Memphis.  As many other writers have noted, bike lanes are an amenity that improves the quality of life in a city and draw in young professionals, the very demographic that Memphis is lamentably known for losing.

Lastly, here’s a link to a .pdf file of the slides Kyle Wagenschutz presented last night.  It contains many well-rendered maps of exactly where the bike lanes would lie and, in particular, the current ideas on how to circumvent the rather difficult Watkins overpass.

On a related note, apparently the city is currently striping bike lanes on McLemore Avenue and South Parkway.  How awesome is this!  Does anyone know of an up-to-date map of the current and in-process bike lanes?  Leave me a comment if you do.

Happy riding, my people.  Things are looking up for Memphis.

P.S.  Almost forgot to mention this: thanks to both the Memphis Blog and Fix Memphis for giving a shout-out to my blog.  I always appreciate the good vibes.

Night and Day

I attended the meeting tonight at Rhodes College about the proposed bike lanes on North Parkway and all I have to say is, what a contrast there was between this meeting and the bike lane meeting at Snowden School in February. The crowd tonight was almost uniformly positive about the proposal.  Several people spoke up about the importance of bike lanes in Memphis, in terms of making our city more accessible to non-automobile commuters, healthier, and more appealing to young, college-educated residents.  Numerous comments and questions were greeted with vigorous rounds of applause.

Here’s a picture of the attendees at the event, easily the largest crowd I’ve seen attending a bike lane meeting, courtesy Scott Newstok (photo credit!).

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I have to give props to Kyle Wagenschutz (seen at the podium in this picture), the city’s bike pedestrian coordinator, for his continued support of more bike facilities in Memphis and his leadership at the meeting tonight.  Granted, tonight’s crowd was considerably more friendly than the meeting in February, but still, Kyle did a great job.

Also, City Councilman Reid Hedgepeth was in attendance and deserves credit himself.  Apparently his house abuts the Greenline and in the days before the Greenline was completed, he was very concerned about what the path would mean to his family and property.  He openly admitted that he was wrong in his initial concerns and that his family uses the Greenline frequently.  I always respect someone, particularly a politician, who can admit being wrong in a public forum.

But the award for the most entertaining (and informative) appearance tonight goes to Mr. Charles McVean.  Mr. McVean is a Memphis businessman known for starting a very successful commodity trading business.  He’s also the principal in a firm that manufactures plug-in electric bikes.  Mr. McVean spoke for several minutes on the Harahan Bridge project and absolutely had everyone in stitches.  He is very confident that the bridge will soon have bike lanes added to it, meaning that one could easily bike from Shelby Farms to Arkansas on dedicated bike facilities.  This makes me so happy I don’t even know what to say.

I really hope that the energy and excitement at the meeting tonight carry forward and help to propel Memphis into being the bike-friendly town that it should be.  It is rare to hear an economist say this, but I am optimistic.

Bike Lanes on North Parkway

Hi everyone.  There was a great article in today’s Commercial Appeal about the possibility of bike lanes being installed on North Parkway.  The lanes would run the distance of the road, also known as State Route 1, from East Parkway to Danny Thomas Boulevard.  (West of Danny Thomas, North Parkway turns into A. W. Willis and drops from six lanes to four, too few to allow for bike lanes, apparently.)  If installed, the bike lanes would reduce the number of lanes in either direction to two from the current three.

The benefits of installing bike lanes on North Parkway are clear.  The road runs through or past several neighborhoods, including Vollintine-Evergreen, Snowden-Claybrook, and Rhodes College.  Moreover, installing bike lanes on this route would provide a vital and direct connection between Midtown and downtown.  While the lanes wouldn’t run all the way to Front Street (as I understand it, although I could be wrong on this), the length of A. W. Willis between Danny Thomas and the river is relatively short and not too difficult to bike. Further, the bike lanes would end at the western edge of the St. Jude campus and would connect easily to the Overton Park/Broad Avenue/Greenline system of bike lanes and paths.  Imagine the suburban employees of St. Jude parking their cars at Shelby Farms, hopping on their bikes and pedaling the twelve or so miles to work.  This could be huge for biking in Memphis.

What’s most impressive about this proposal is the fact that many of the neighborhood associations and businesses along North Parkway are very much in favor of the lanes.  This is in marked contrast to the (still unresolved) controversy about the proposed bike lanes on Madison Avenue, just a mile or so to the south.  I don’t think I’m alone in wanting that situation to be put to bed, and soon.

If you’d like to learn more about the proposed bike lanes on North Parkway, there’s a meeting on Tuesday, 24 May, at 5:30 PM, in the Blount Auditorium in Buckman Hall at Rhodes College.  Here’s a flier with more information.

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What a difference a day makes

Hi everyone.  Thanks so much for visiting my site over the past two days.  I knew that my blog (and me) being featured on I Love Memphis Blog would increase traffic, but I never imagined it would make such a huge difference.

Here’s a screen shot of my Google stats for Thursday morning, just before my profile was posted.

Before

Notice the numbers on the y-axis.  My site visits peaked at just over 120 twice in the last week, both times when I wrote something about the bike lanes on Madison.  There was a smaller peak in early April, I think when the Hightailers promoted my blog in an email.  (Thanks!)

After

But look at my stats as of this morning. Continue reading

One person’s opinion

I ran across a link to this blog entry on the Memphis Flyer’s website.  The post generated a fair amount of chatter – at least on the facebook link where it was originally posted – and I wanted to weigh on it myself, given that I am a frequent bike commuter in Memphis.

(To give you an idea of how frequently I bike around town, I have driven my car in Memphis only twice since early February, when that particularly nasty snow storm rendered the bike lanes and road shoulders basically unusable for a few days.  In the months since the snow melted, I’ve driven only once when I should have biked.  What can I say?  It was a rainy Saturday morning, I had an early meeting and I got lazy.  [And why do I feel like I'm attending confession when I write that?  I'm not even Catholic!]  The other time I drove was when thunderstorms were threatening the area, and I just don’t mess with them.   But I digress.) Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Wow

Today was rather remarkable here at Biking in Memphis.  Not only did we (read: I) shatter our (read: my) previous record for most number of visitors, but for the first time ever, I broke the 100-visitor mark.  In fact (accounting for some weirdness in how/when Google records visitors), today this blog crested 120 unique readers.  Truly remarkable, given that only a few months ago, I was barely in the low teens.  Of course, that was before I started publicizing my blog on my facebook profile, and before I became friends on facebook with many luminaries in the local biking scene.  But regardless, I’m happy for the traffic.

What makes me most happy about the increased page-views is raising awareness of what it means to be a bike commuter in Memphis.  As I said in my “About” page, that’s the primary goal of this blog.  But of course, it’s difficult to separate being a bike commuter in Memphis from all of the controversy surrounding the extension of bicycle facilities throughout Memphis.

I understand that Mayor Wharton will soon make a decision about whether or not to install bike lanes on Madison Avenue.  Obviously, I very much hope that he decides to do so.  While I respect the concerns of the businesses on Madison who are opposed to the bike lanes, it does appear that their concerns are unfounded.  For example, some have argued that installing bike lanes on Madison Avenue will result in a “bottle-neck” of traffic on that road.  Given that the road is currently operating at around 1/3 of capacity and that, even with bike lanes, the road will still be at less than 50% of capacity, that seems unlikely.  Plus, installing bike lanes on Madison will result in no loss of parking. Not one space.

If you’d like to read more about this, please click here or here.  I do ask that you maintain the highest level of respect, without compromising your passion about promoting sustainable transportation in Memphis, when approaching this issue.

And as always, thanks for reading.