After all the uncertainty over the city's bikes lanes — they were going to create more when they repaved; then they weren't; now they are again — and the controversy that created, local bicycle advocates are asking Memphis mayor A C Wharton and the City Council to ensure that all future paving projects using federal dollars include bicycle facilities.
In response to a public outcry, the city has decided install 55 miles of new bike lanes and facilities, much of it funded through the city engineer's budget.
Bicycle advocates, who plan to meet at City Hall Friday, July 16th, at 12:30 p.m., initially wanted Wharton to send plans for the 30 miles back to the city engineer's office and include the lanes.
"While the Shelby Farms Greenline, the Wolf River Greenway, and bike lanes on Shady Grove show some movement in the area of Green infrastructure in Memphis, our city remains ashamedly behind the curve in promoting human powered transportation options," says a letter addressed to Wharton and the council.
"Investing in such infrastructure is not merely an appeasement to cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts; it is an investment in our community and the public realm. Investing in infrastructure that promotes biking and walking has been shown to stimulate new business, attract talented workers, lower public health costs, stimulate tourism, increase property values, and raise tax revenues. In short, Memphis stands to gain an overall quality of life increase by investing in infrastructure that enables more bicycling and walking."
The Wharton administration says it isn't possible to revise the plans in time to get the federal funding, but they will pay for bicycle improvements — it may be lanes; it may just be signage — along those 30 miles. In addition, they've identified about 25 miles of road being repaved with either Surface Transportation Program money or the city engineer's operating budget.
“Even though bike lanes were regrettably omitted from the city’s recent stimulus fund application, I have directed our City Engineers to make any necessary adjustments to their operating budget plans so we can get these lanes and facilities in place,” Wharton says. “Initiating this program to create 55 new miles of bike lanes and facilities is critical to the livability and health of our city.
The first project will begin Monday, July 19th, with the striping of bike lanes on Horn Lake Road.
"The recent announcement from Mayor Wharton that 55 miles of Memphis roads will receive bicycle improvements is good news," says bicycle advocate Anthony Siracusa. "But bicycle riders in Memphis wonder what kind of improvements are slated for these Memphis roads: not all bike facilities are equal, and what Memphis needs are bike facilities that enable Mom and her two kids to feel comfortable using a bicycle in the roadway."
Siracusa hopes the City Council will pass a resolution that would require all new road projects funded with 80 percent federal money to include bicycle facilities.
"This is how Oregon made so much progress over the years, and it is the only way to ensure that quality bike facilities are developed with minimal municipal expense," Siracusa says.
Bicycle advocates are urging citizens to meet at 12:30 p.m. at the City Hall plaza Friday, July 16th, on bikes, skateboards, roller blades, or running shoes to show their support.