Tagged: McLean

” … my right.”

You might have read this article in today’s Commercial Appeal.  If you didn’t, or for some reason are unable to click on links, the article concerns the recent installation of bike lanes on McLean Boulevard and some conflicts that has created.  The conflicts stem from the loss of on-street parking, which was sacrificed to make way for the bike lanes, and are localized onto a roughly 2000-foot section of McLean between Poplar and Overton Park Avenue.  Here’s a map of that section.

Screen Shot 2012 07 18 at 11 09 00 PM

I’m not terribly familiar with that section of McLean, it not being in my normal patterns of travel.  But, as you can see, there are no cross streets, meaning that the loss of on-street parking is a legitimate grievance for the residents and businesses there.  A local resident received a parking ticket when she parked on the street, to make way for a construction crew doing work on her house.  A videography business is worried about losing clients, since access to its offices are now greatly limited.  No doubt other residents have similar complaints; again, all legitimate.

Two things struck me about the article and the concerns addressed therein.  First, big props to the city and, in particular, Kyle Wagenschutz, for getting in front of this issue and responding very quickly to emails from concerned citizens.  When I think about what effective local government means, rapid response to complaints or questions is tops on that list.  (To that point, my wife have been very impressed by the MPD’s program of watching over your house when you’re out of town.  We regularly call the MPD when we’re traveling and we feel safer as a result.  In fact, we’ve gotten to know at least one of the officers assigned to our beat.  Of course, bringing a tray of sandwiches to the local precinct will do that for you.  But I digress.  A lot.)

Second, the statement from one of the residents of McLean that it “is my right” to park on the street.  That’s the problem.  Because McLean is a public street, it is not only her right to park there, but every other resident of the city (and visitors to the city) also enjoys that same right.  Not only that, every other resident of the enjoys the right to bike along that street, drive on it, or otherwise use it for any lawful purpose.  Such are the difficulties of congestible public goods.

Economists have a phrase to describe this phenomenon: the Tragedy of the Commons.  The basic idea is that when individuals share access to the same common resource, the resource is often depleted, such that its value is lessened for all users.  Each user has the incentive to consume the resource as much as possible, to her/his own benefit, but in doing so, adversely affects other’s enjoyment.  In this case, we see that the road in question is shared by many users: drivers, cyclists, residents, pedestrians, and so on.  When all users attempt to use the same road for each of their own ends, the road becomes congested to the point that the overall benefit is reduced.

But there are ways of dealing with this tragedy, one of which the article (and the city) addresses: the assigning of property rights.  If the various users of the common have limits on what they can consume, then the good can be protected for the benefit of all.  The city initially did this by allowing unfettered access to drivers and parkers.  Fine, unless you’re a cyclist.  Then, the city reallocated property rights, creating bike lanes and greatly reducing the property rights of parkers.  Fine, unless you’re a parker.  But now, we have a proposed compromise, which is to allow parking in the bike lanes between certain hours; dusk to dawn, for example.

While I am generally more in favorable of compromises, as opposed to all-or-nothing solutions, and while I do think that allowing night-time parking in bike lanes would be acceptable, I do have some concerns about that solution.  First, I’m concerned that others would seek to apply this solution to other lengths of road where bike lanes have been recently installed.  The loss of parking space is a legitimate concern, as we have seen expressed in the discussion over bike lanes on Madison Avenue and Cooper Street.  But if  this solution were applied more broadly, the integrity of those bike lanes, and the protection they afford cyclists, would be compromised.  While I recognize that some such compromise is acceptable, I’d like to minimize it.  To be sure, no one has suggested such additional compromises, and hopefully that won’t come to pass.

My other concern is that, while perhaps Pareto-improving (sorry for the overuse of economics jargon, by the way), compromises can be confusing.  Parkers and cyclists would have an entirely new paradigm to adjust to, one that might not be as easily understood as one all-or-nothing solution or another, to say nothing of the difficulties in enforcing this solution.  This is not to say that an amenable solution does not exist; indeed, the city, to its credit, is looking into that as well.  In fact, I’m really curious to find out what other cities have done in similar situations.

One last point, before sleep overtakes me: part of me is utterly overjoyed when I read articles like this.  Why, you might ask?  Because when cities march (or pedal) down the path toward being truly bike-friendly, they inevitably encountered such issues.  While some might take this story as being evidence of the intransigence of the non-biking public, I take it as meaning that we, as a city, are doing the right thing.  Memphis is truly becoming a bike-friendly community, and these intermittent skirmishes are evidence of that.  As long as we all keep our heads (and helmets) about us and focus on the long run, we’ll be fine.  Just imagine what Memphis will be like in 10 years, or even next year, and these short-term concerns become less of a headache.  (Unless you live on McLean between Poplar and Overton Park Avenue, that is.)

Yesterday’s rides

Hi everyone.  I’m pleased to report that Fall Semester 2011 is 99.99% finished.  (I’m still waiting for one small assignment from a student so that he can pass the class.)  This is my last semester teaching three courses; in the spring, my teaching load drops to two courses and should stay that way for quite some time.  I have my new job, as the Director of the Center for Economic Education, to thank for that.

For years I taught at least three, if not four, courses per semester.  It’s hard to describe how much more work that third or fourth course adds to my day.  More emails, more grading, more questions, plus more hours spent in the classroom.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older – 40 is less than one year away – but teaching that third course has become increasingly taxing and, honestly, distracting from what else I want/need to do, like publish papers and work on outside projects.  My heart will always be in the classroom, but fortunately my body will be there less from now on.

Now that the semester is over, I should have more time to write and perhaps even get in a few recreational rides.  I will be commuting to school at least a day or two this week, but after that I won’t be doing much bike commuting until the new year.  But I will keep writing; I have a large backlog of articles I’ve been wanting to share, and my blog is coming up on its one-year birthday.  I already have numerous ideas about what I want to write for that post.

Yesterday was a good day to be biking in Memphis, and by “good” I mean windy and cold.  (At least the sun was out.)  I spent the first part of the day grading papers and doing housework, but around 1:30 PM I geared up and headed north to a graduation party for a former student.  The student is one of the most exceptional I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching, so I definitely wanted to be there to help her celebrate and to meet her family.  The party was at a colleague’s house on Jackson Avenue, just east of McLean, which gave me the opportunity to check out the new bike lanes on McLean.  Here’s a shot of them taken on the north side of North Parkway.

Mclean

Yes, that is my finger in the shot.  I blame my gloves.

The party was a lot of fun, and after about an hour and a half, I headed home.  The ride home was quite a bit easier than the ride to the party; there’s definitely a net elevation decline heading south.  I really loved having the bike lanes, especially on Madison.  Traffic seems much more calm since they’ve been installed.

After getting a bit more work done at home, I headed out to another party, this time at a friends house in Midtown.  Traffic wasn’t too bad, so I biked north on Cooper to Harbert, then headed west, ultimately ending up on that short section of Linden between McLean and Lemaster.  After getting my party on for a while, I biked home – sober, I promise you – and sacked out for the night.

Here’s a map of my rides that day.

Screen shot 2011 12 18 at 5 15 50 PM

And here’s a clickable link if you’d like more detail.

I’m signing off for now.  My wife and I are going Cat Caroling tonight.  What is Cat Caroling, you might ask?  It’s basically regular caroling, only you substitute “meow” for the words in the carols.  Try it with Jingle Bells.  It’s quite fun.

What a difference a day (and some shameless self-promotion) makes

I’ve been writing this blog for almost two months now.  For the first month at least, I was very reluctant to publicize this blog, for a few reasons.

  1. I am notoriously bad at self-promotion.  Something in my nature greatly resists running around and trumpeting my latest endeavor.  Why?  Who knows.
  2. I really wanted people to discover my blog “organically,” which means via internet searches and so on.  And for a while, that worked OK.  But the payoff was pretty low.
  3. Let’s face it; announcing to one’s friends and acquaintances that “hey, I’ve started a blog!” is kind of like being excited about joining MySpace.  It’s just a little dated.  But given my lack of interest in signing up for a Twitter account on top of this blog, here I am.

That said, welcome to my new readers.  To give you all an idea of what a brief mention of my blog in the comment section of a post I made on my facebook page meant, have a look at this graph.

Guess which I day I chose to publicize my blog.  Go on … take a minute.  Give up?

Whatever the case, I appreciate all my new readers.  I try to post about every 2-3 days, depending on what’s happened in my life as a bike commuter in Memphis.  I realize that there is only so much interest in posts titled “Today’s commute,” so I try to intersperse those posts with other posts concerning the larger picture of what it means to bike in Memphis.

And aside from my commute today, which was rather uneventful, except for some unwelcome rain showers this morning, that’s the point of this post.

I haven’t had a chance to write about a meeting I attended last week at the Snowden School.  The meeting was about the proposed bike lanes in Midtown, including routes on McLean and Madison.  But it was the lanes on Madison that provoked the most controversy.

You can ride about the meeting here.  I’ll add my own thoughts in a few days, as soon as I get a chance.  But what I really want to publicize is this event.

After all, what better way is there to show our support for bike lanes in Midtown than to support the very businesses that might be affected by the lanes?  While I believe the net affect will be positive, I understand that these businesses are concerned about their bottom lines.  So let’s show them that bike lanes need not mean a decline in revenues.

I hope you will join me in this effort. Thanks again for reading.