Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bike Lanes Touch a Nerve at City Council

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 12:14 PM

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The Memphis City Council is taking up the controversial bike lanes and repaving of Madison Avenue Tuesday. Members weighed in at a committee meeting this morning that featured lots of television cameras and dozens of bike-supporters sitting on the floor (due to lack of space) and a couple of mild outbursts met with "you're out of order" warnings from the committee.

The repaving of Madison got underway last week, and the bike lanes appeared to be a done deal. But businesses opposed to the dedicated lanes have a champion in councilwoman Janis Fullilove and other supporters on the council as well. Fullilove said a compromise involving shared lines for bikes and cars is still possible, but the bikers in attendance don't like that idea.

"The full council needs to have their say," said Fullilove, who tends to oppose projects backed by Mayor A C Wharton, who supported another candidate running against her in the recent election. Getting the issue "downstairs" in front of the full council will, if nothing else, provide more media opportunities even if, as council attorney Allan Wade has opined, the deal is done and Fullilove is sticking her nose into administrative business as opposed to legislative business. Moreover, Wade said, "the horse is so far out of the barn" anyway.

Why such a fuss about bike lanes? Well, this is Memphis, and just as "Footloose" is about more than line dancing and "Memphis" the musical is about more than the blues, bike lanes are about more than white lines on asphalt.

Chief administrative officer George Little, himself an occasional bike commuter, said the administration fully vetted the issue in public hearings. He estimated that the bike lanes only slow traffic on Madison by about 20 seconds.

Councilwoman Wanda Halbert countered that more hearings were held and attention given to bike lanes on Madison than to bike lanes in "our community."

"We woke up one morning and found bike lanes in our neighborhood like it or not," she said.

Councilman Joe Brown, another Wharton foe, questioned the expenditure of city funds for bike lanes instead of paving streets in other neighborhoods.

"How much revenue have you spent on the bike lanes to this point?" he asked Little, who said he would find out.

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