I ran across a link to this blog entry on the Memphis Flyer’s website. Â 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. Â In the months since the snow melted, I’ve driven only once when I should have biked. Â What can I say? Â It was a rainy Saturday morning, I had an early meeting and I got lazy. Â [And why do I feel like I'm attending confession when I write that? Â I'm not even Catholic!] Â The other time I drove was when thunderstorms were threatening the area, and I just don’t mess with them. Â But I digress.) Continue reading
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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â From looking at the maps, at least some of the proposed facilities appear to be somewhat “pie in the sky” in ambition. Â 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. Â Whatever the case, I am overjoyed to see so many proposed biking and walking facilities in and around Memphis. Â It’s really heartening to see how quickly this city has turned around. Â 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! Â Yay Molly’s!! Â Now if only Huey’s and Mercury Valet Cleaners would end their senseless opposition.
I’ve been a bit delinquent in posting my thoughts on the meeting two weeks ago about proposed bike lanes (or other bike facilities) on Madison Avenue and other roads around town. Â I have been extraordinarily busy lately and haven’t had much time for long-form posts. Â Plus, some of the opinions expressed in the meeting were quite shocking in their tenor such that I really wanted some time to process the events and write something thoughtful about it.
I teach economics at the University of Memphis at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Â I’ve been teaching economics for around 13 years, going to back my days as a graduate student at Georgia State University. Â In those years of teaching I’ve developed many pedagogical tools to help my students better understand economics, which believe me, can be quite a challenge for many undergraduates, if not graduate students. Â One of the tools I’ve developed is emphasizing how cause-and-effect relationships can describe what motivates people to change their behavior. Â For example, an increase in the price of some good should motivate consumers to buy less of that good. Â In this example, the direction of causation is one way: the change in price causes people to change how much they purchase, not vice versa. Â Of course, I am implicitly relying on the ceteris paribus assumption: that all other relevant factors, including income, tastes and preferences, the price of related goods, are held constant. Â In other words, we consider only the relationship between the price of the good and the quantity of that good that consumers wish to purchase at that price. All other factors are held constant.
Of course, in reality it is most difficult to hold all other factors constant. Â We economists have many tools at our disposal for dealing with these challenges, among them regression analysis, but we fully recognize that reality is far messier than our models allow.
What brings all this to mind is something my wife said the other night. Â I don’t remember what we were talking about, probably something about my cycling advocacy efforts, but what she said really made me pause for a moment. Â What she said was this: “You live the life you advocate.” Continue reading
On Wednesday of this week I drove [sigh] over to the Church Health Center for a community meeting sponsored by the Memphis MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). Â The meeting was about implementing Phase II of the redesign of walking and biking facilities in and around Memphis. Â (Phase I involved a survey about what people in the community want in the way of facilities.) Â It’s the first of three meetings; the next two are planned for 9 February and 2 March, both Wednesdays.
This week’s meeting focused on multi-use trails, like the Shelby Farms Greenline. Â We have a small handful of these paths in Memphis and apparently more are to be planned, which was the main point of the meeting. Â After a brief introduction by Kyle Wagenschutz, we divided up into groups and clustered around huge maps taped to the walls of the room.
The maps were of Memphis and Shelby County and had existing walking and biking facilities labeled. Â Our task was to use stickers to indicate our points of origin, destination, and where we thought new facilities should go. Â It was pretty interesting. Â Here’s a picture of our map.
That’s Kyle’s arm on the right. Â I know it’s not a huge image, but look at the clusters of blue and orange dots in the center. Â The blue dots represent points of origin (i.e. where people live) and the orange ones are destinations. Â Most of the dots are clustered around Midtown, downtown, and east Memphis. Â You can see smaller dots surrounding the area; those represent where people would like to see walking/biking facilities, like bathrooms, water fountains, and bike racks.
The planners at the MPO will take our map and combine it with the maps from the other groups and use that to identify where people want trails and facilities. Â A pretty neat idea, I think. Â I don’t know what sort of barriers the MPO will face in putting our wants into action, but let’s hope they are few.