A pro-cycling website, peopleforbikes.org, has released their list of 2014's top 10 bike lanes, and Memphis' new lane on Riverside Drive ranked number-three.
Rather than reopen all of Riverside following the Memphis In May festivities, the city left two lanes between Beale and Georgia closed to vehicular traffic, creating a two-way bike path and walkway that is protected by a median.
The road diet is a part of a pilot project, and no permanent decisions will be made about whether or not to keep the lane until Riverside is repaved this coming summer. At a July public meeting about the lanes, some voiced support of the new lanes, and other claimed that squeezing vehicle traffic into two lanes was dangerous.
But peopleforbikes.org is all for the Riverside bike lane. Here's what they had to say:
In bike planning, Memphis is the anti-San Francisco. The city reasons that there's no better way to make its planning process public than to rapidly get a project on the ground, listen to the ways people react to it, and adjust as needed. "Ready, fire, aim," Memphis planner Kyle Wagenschutz says. Riverside Drive is a perfect example of that agile approach. Instead of reopening all four lanes to auto traffic after Riverside's annual closure for the Memphis in May festival, the city restriped half the street to create two lanes of car traffic, a bidirectional median-protected bike lane and a walkway. Soon, this route will be the best link between downtown Memphis and the Harahan Bridge crossing to Arkansas.
To see what other lanes around the country made the list, go here.
The Shelby Farms Greenline will be soon be extended a few more miles to the east.
A contract has been negotiated between the CSX railroad and the Shelby County Public Works Division to purchase the deserted right-of-way from Farm Road to the old Cordova train station, allowing the greenline to extend four more miles. Once the project is complete, the greenline will be 10 miles long.
Currently, the former rail line turned jogging and cycling path runs from Tillman on the west to Farm Road on the east. The total cost for the greenline so far has been $4.8 million, 75 percent of which has been covered by federal grants. The rest was allocated from Shelby County government or donated from the Shelby Farms Conservancy.
“This is another significant step to provide our community a first-class recreational route for walkers, joggers, and bikers. It will encourage physical fitness and provide a unique way to link our neighborhoods,” said Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr.
“We’re pleased Mayor Luttrell and his staff at Shelby County Government have successfully negotiated the contract with CSX, and we look forward to assuming the management of this section of the Shelby Farms Greenline. Indeed, this is another major development for the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. The Greenline extension through Cordova will bring even more people to the wonderful recreational assets we provide,” said Laura Morris, executive director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.
The Shelby County Commission must approve the railroad right-of-way contract before bids can go out for construction. That is expected to happen in early 2015, and construction should begin next spring.
The Vollintine Evergreen Community Association (VECA) pioneered the city's first rails-to-trails project with its 1.7-mile V&E Greenline back in 1996. At the time, the concept was so new, the neighborhood association couldn't even get the city's backing.
"The neighborhood was so far ahead of the curve on a rails-to-trails project, the city wouldn't even be part of it," said landscape architect Ritchie Smith of Ritchie Smith & Associates, who helped VECA with the greenline's master plan back then.
VECA instead took it upon themselves to transform an old, abandoned rail line set up to serve Sears Crosstown into a walking and biking path leading from Springdale near Rhodes College to Watkins across from the Sears building.
VECA has again called upon Smith to help improve the existing soft-surface path. Monday night at the VECA office on Jackson, Smith presented his plans to improve accessibility at the greenline's nine crossings with city streets. At Stonewall, Avalon, Belvedere, Evergreen, and Auburndale, Smith proposed wheelchair-accessible ramps leading from the path to the street, zebra-striped crosswalks in the street, and new steel bollards to keep cars out of the path.
The Tutwiler and the University/Jackson crossings would also need crosswalks, but because of the way the path connects across the streets at an angle, the striping would deviate from the path a little. The crossing at McLean already has zebra striping, which the city added about two years ago. But Smith is still proposing new bollards for McLean. At the path's end at Springdale, Smith said a ramp connecting the path to the existing sidewalk is needed. Smith also proposed new V&E Greenline signage along the trail to replace the path's aging wooden signs.
VECA received a $40,000 planning grant from the Mid-South Regional Greenprint for the design phase of the entrance improvements, but that grant does not cover the cost of construction. Smith estimated improvements at all nine crossings would cost about $250,000.
Mike Kirby, a VECA volunteer, said the organization expects to have to raise some of that amount, but they're hoping the city will fund part of the construction cost.
"This is a starting point, but I think it's a really important starting point," said Kirby of the design phase.
Operating 24 hours a day, the Shelby County Correctional Facility is currently the largest energy user of all the county government buildings. But this is slated to change thanks to a new $250,000 grant awarded to the Shelby County Division of Corrections (SCDOC) to make its facility more eco-friendly.
Late last month, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation awarded the SCDOC with a $250,000 “Clean Tennessee Energy Grant.” With the funding, a roof-mounted solar thermal hot water system and an ozone laundry system will be installed at the facility to reduce domestic hot water usage. Inmates will be trained to install the systems.
“Corrections has installed its first roof-mounted solar collector and is heating water for one housing unit,” said SCDOC’s David Barber. “The device is on inmate housing building P, with a capacity of about 160 beds. It is working as advertised, providing a continuous heat source through a circulating closed circuit providing 350 degree Fahrenheit to the heat exchanger feeding a 1,000-gallon domestic hot water storage tank. It works on ultraviolet radiation, so it performs in any weather conditions.”
Utilizing the grant from TDEC along with additional funds from their budget, SCDOC plans to install at least six more solar systems as well as LED lighting retrofits in office and housing areas.
LED outdoor lighting in the front yard of the main compound will also be installed at the facility. Barber said this would cut the facility’s wattage use by about half while providing more lumens and a pure blue/white light on its grounds. There will also be more LED fixtures installed around the remaining perimeter to increase security at night.
“We are retrofitting high security fluorescent fixtures in housing areas with LED tubes, usually reducing the number of bulbs from four to two in each fixture while providing more light,” Barber said. “These housing and office area retrofits will be accomplished in the course of normal bulb replacement, and should be completed by June 30, 2015. In addition to the wattage decrease with attendant lower electrical costs, the reduced labor cost for bulb replacement will be substantial over the 40,000 average life of LED bulbs.”
SCDOC has also implemented recycling of cardboard, paper, plastic, and metals in its facility, which has reduced trash hauling fees by nearly $1,500 per month so far.
“More savings will be achieved as housing areas begin to recycle inmate commissary waste plastic and paper,” Barber said. “We have shipped one load of recycled material, with a payment of $1,275.00. A second load is scheduled next week. Additionally, we recycle wooden pallets through a local entrepreneur at $1.00 per re-useable pallet.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is considering replacing the Allen Fossil Plant on Presidents Island, which produces power through three coal-fired units, with a new natural-gas fired plant in the same area. Memphis Light Gas & Water purchases power for the area through the TVA. The Allen Fossil Plant was completed in 1959 by Memphis Light, Gas and Water and purchased by TVA in 1984. It produces 4.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to supply 340,000 homes.
The TVA outlined their plans in a draft environmental assessment looking at ways to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at its Allen Fossil Plant. In April 2011, the TVA entered into agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several states and environmental groups to reduce coal emissions.
The agency is considering either installing flue gas desulfurization systems (better known as scrubbers) at the Allen Fossil Plant to reduce emissions or just retiring it altogether by December 2018.
In a 2010 Memphis Flyer story on Shelby County's worst polluters, TVA's Allen Fossil Plant topped the list with emissions of more than 1.3 million pounds of pollutants in 2008, the most recent data available at that time. Data from 2013 shows that the Allen plant emitted over 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that year, and the facility is also home to coal ash impoundments that contain over 417 million gallons of toxic coal ash.
Scott Banbury, the Sierra Club conservation programs coordinator for the Tennessee chapter, wishes the TVA would look into solar and wind power rather than replacing the Allen plant with a natural gas plant.
"[In the environmental assessment], they totally leave out putting solar, like the project Bioworks is working on with the city to try and put solar panels on our buildings and all of the potential for putting solar power into the brownfield sites that we have around town, where we have empty lots, many already paved and equipped with drainage. They’re missing out on that," Banbury said. "And they’re missing that this could be an economic boon to Memphis if we were to make decisions now about getting our power from renewable alternative sources."
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy applauded TVA's proposal to retire the 55-year-old coal plant, but they would also like to see TVA put more focus on alternative and renewable power rather than natural gas.
“We welcome TVA’s decision to retire the old and inefficient Allen coal plant,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Moving away from coal is the right decision for both public health and the environment. TVA has options on how to replace this coal plant, and we understand that natural gas is one of those options. However, we believe that TVA should take a broader perspective on replacement and look at both renewable and energy efficiency opportunities that could further reduce the use of fossil fuels in the greater Memphis area.”
There's a 30-day public comment period on the proposal. Comments can be submitted online, mailed, or emailed by August 5th. There will be a public comment meeting on Tuesday, July 8th at Amtrak Central Station downtown from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.
It's not uncommon to see cyclists risking their lives in heavy Poplar Avenue traffic to access Overton Park since, currently, there is no paved pathway along the south side of the park.
But that will change by late 2015 or early 2016. Plans for a paved pathway that would encircle most of the park were on display last night at one of two Overton Park Conservancy meetings to address the need for improved walkways and park entrances.
Ritchie Smith & Associates presented plans to install a five to eight foot walkway that would begin at Tucker and Poplar, head east down Poplar, and wrap around the Old Forest along East Parkway. The pathway would veer into the Old Forest near the new bike gate, and it would connect with the paved forest loop. But near the East Parkway/North Parkway corner, pedestrians would have the option of continuing on the existing loop or taking a new path that hugs the edge of North Parkway and heads west. Currently, there are no sidewalks along North Parkway through the park, but a well-worn foot path in the dirt proves that many runners and walkers use that route anyway.
Also planned is a new paved path circling the greensward. It would connect with the path around Rainbow Lake and extend out around the greensward in a loop. At the meeting last night, architect Ritchie Smith told those attending that when the zoo parking situation is resolved, the greensward "can be one of the first improvements" they'll make.
"We think people would love a path around the greensward, because we know more and more people are using the park for walking and jogging," said Overton Park Conservancy director Tina Sullivan. "A loop around the greensward would provide more space and more greenery for people to see as they walk around."
Improved access points are also planned for several park entrances. Currently, pedestrians and cyclists entering the park from Cooper and Poplar are greeted with a standard MATA bus stop and green space. But a new stone balustrade and some benches will mark that entrance, and a small paved "gathering area" will be added. It will connect with the new paved perimeter path.
"Maybe we can add a new bus shelter to replace that standard MATA shelter with its unsightly advertisements," Smith said.
A pedestrian path is planned the Tucker and Poplar entrance as well since, right now, park users must compete with cars and enter the park through the roadway. Better crosswalks will be added at Poplar and East Parkway, and steps or a ramp will lead park users up the hill into the park. At East Parkway and North Parkway, a 10-foot shared use path will connect with the existing Old Forest loop. And a better crossing is planned for pedestrians entering the park from Rhodes College across North Parkway.
"We already have funding for the Poplar/Cooper connection, so we'll see movement on that early next year," Sullivan said. "The perimeter trail will be done in late 2015 or early 2016, and we have funding for that as well."
The Overton Park Conservancy is hosting another public meeting on Saturday, May 31st at 10 a.m. in the Playhouse on the Square Cafe.
Mayor A C Wharton's office is urging residents to give up their cars in favor of buses, bicycles, and other forms of alternative transportation for the month of April.
The 30-Day Car-Free Challenge begins today, and residents can pledge to take the challenge on CarFreeMemphis.wordpress.com. Although the challenge lasts all month, those who sign up can aim for just one day or the full 30 days. Weekly prize drawings will be made for those who have signed up. The site contains tips and resources to help residents go car-free.
Additionally, the mayor's office has asked 18 Memphians to act as ambassadors for the Car-Free Challenge. They were given "car-free survival kits" with bus passes, bicycles, and other items, and they have been asked to blog about their experiences — good and bad — living without a car. Flyer associate editor Bianca Phillips and editorial intern Alexandra Pusateri are among those 18 Memphians. You can follow our stories and others here throughout the month.
“We know that an increasing number of residents are choosing to live in Memphis and get to the store, to work, to school, and to other places without a car.” said Wharton. “We also know that reduced automobile use leads to improved air quality, reduced traffic congestion, and a reduction in the public costs of road infrastructure, parking, and health care. This challenge will helps us to showcase these possibilities in a fun and safe way.”
Memphis was named "Most Improved City for Cycling" in 2012 by Bicycling magazine. In 2013, Memphis became the 500th city to pass a Complete Streets policy, which means future street projects must be designed with alternative transit in mind. Memphis bike and pedestrian coordinator Kyle Wagenschutz, who organized the Car-Free Challenge, has pledged that the city will focus more on protected bike lanes, or "green lanes," for future projects.
The ground-breaking for the two-mile bike path that leads from Overton Park to the Shelby Farms Greenline is scheduled for Monday, February 24th at noon.
Mayor A C Wharton will be on-hand at the ceremony for the Hampline, named for the nickname of Binghampton, the neighborhood the lane will run through. The path will be the first two-way bicycle track (one lane in each direction on the same side of the street and a buffer from traffic) in the city.
The ceremony will take place on the green space between Broad Avenue at Hollywood Street and the new bicycle plaza and entrance to Overton Park. The first section of the Hampline will cost $80,000, which is being paid for by FedEx.
The entire project will cost $3.6 million, all of which has been raised. About $78,000 of that cost was raised on the crowd-source funding website, ioby.com. The city is contributing $2.3 million through a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality transportation grant. Other local and national grants are funding $839,000, and local foundations, corporations and other private donors have contributed $383,000.
The other portions of the Hampline will be constructed in the late summer and fall of this year.
Indie Memphis festival-goers can leave their cars at home this year. Indie Memphis is launching IndieBikes, a bike share program that loans free bikes to festival participants traveling between film venues.
The loaner bikes are available for three hours at a time, and users will be given maps that showcase bike lanes and trails, parks, and nearby restaurants. The program is co-sponsored by Revolutions Memphis. Bike locks and night lights are also provided. Those who wish to borrow a bike for the duration of the festival may do so at the Peddler Bike Shop, which is offering long-term rentals.
To check out a bike through IndieBikes, stop by the Indie Memphis Central Box Office at 49 S. Cooper (next to the Circuit Playhouse).
IndieBikes will kick off today (Wednesday) with a bike parade leaving Revolutions Bike Co-op (at First Congregational Church, 1000 S. Cooper) at 4:30 p.m. The bikes featured in the parade were decorated by Memphis College of Art students. The parade will move down Cooper and end at Circuit Playhouse.
The IndieBikes hours of operation are as follows:
Thursday, Oct 31st
5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by 11 p.m.
Friday, Nov 1st
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by midnight
Saturday, Nov. 2nd
Noon to 10 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by midnight
Sunday, Nov. 3rd
Noon to 7 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by 9 p.m.
With Memphis on the coattails of being named last year’s Most Improved Bike City by Bicycling Magazine, the city's first two-way cycle track bike lane is seeking financial help from a crowdsourced fund-raising campaign.
The two-mile Hampline will connect bicyclists from Overton Park to the Shelby Farms Greenline, running through Binghampton. The project, which has been in the works since 2010, will have a lane in both directions and will be separated from the main road by a barrier to increase safety for cyclists. The line will have two miles of murals and sculptures, as well as art galleries and an amphitheater.
The development needs $75,000 from the public, but the additional $175,000 needed to break ground will come from private contributions and organization donations. In total, the Hampline is estimated to cost $4.5 million.
To donate, visit the project's fundraising page.
Marketing and advertising agency archer>malmo added an indoor bicycle parking "garage" for employees as part of a larger renovation project on its fourth floor at the Cotton Exchange Building. The new design is a response to the rapid growth of bike and pedestrian infrastructure in Memphis, according to archer>malmo account manager Sarah Baker.
The garage space has hooks on the wall for lighter bikes and a parking area on the floor for heavier cruiser models. It can accommodate up to 12 bikes.
"The people who work in that space helped design it, and many of them live in Midtown or downtown and ride their bikes to work everyday," said Russ Williams, CEO of archer>malmo. "We thought it was a totally fantastic way to use that space."
Additionally, the company purchased a communal cruiser bike for employees to share for downtown errands. It's been available for employee use for about one week.
"I haven't used it yet, but next time I need to go north on Main, I will," Williams said.
Memphis ranked 42 out of 50 in the latest ranking of most park-friendly cities by the Trust for Public Land.
The Trust uses a ParkScore system giving each city from one to five "park benches" based on park size, accessibility, the number of playgrounds, and park investment. Memphis earned one-and-a-half park benches.
Memphis actually scored well in the park size category (in the top 10 out of 50 cities) with a median park size of 10 acres. But the city's score was hurt by a lack of accessibility into city parks. It was determined that only 40 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
“The Trust for Public Land will be working with Memphis’ leaders to find the best way to use the park space they have and to develop a stronger park system,” said Rick Wood, area director in Tennessee for The Trust for Public Land. “Memphis is already working to provide greater park access in places like Fletcher Creek Park. Fletcher Creek currently has only one entrance, but soon it will be accessible from multiple locations and will have a walking trail right beside it.”
Memphis ranked at 31 last year, but the Trust for Public Land only ranked 40 cities last year instead of 50. So the ranking actually didn't change much.
Minneapolis was the only city to score a perfect five park benches this year. New York City came in second, and Boston, Sacramento, and San Francisco tied for third place. Nashville came in at number 38.
Shelby County is opening a Christmas tree recycling center beginning December 22nd (just in case you get sick of Christmas early) and running through January 11th in the south parking lot of the Shelby County Showplace Arena (105 Germantown Rd.).
Natural trees, wreaths, and other greenery must be free of lights and decorations. The greenery will be turned into mulch that citizens can pick up in the spring during county Earth Day events.
“We want citizens to take advantage of this free service. It will help prevent many of these trees and other items from being dumped along the roadsides,” said Tom Needham, Director of Shelby County Public Works.
This is the 14th year for the recycling program.
Twelve electric vehicle charging stations have been installed and are now operating in downtown parking garages.
ECOtality, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in energy-efficiency, and its partner, Blink Network, paid for the equipment and installation. Blink offers discounted access to charging stations to its members.
Costs for non-Blink members is $2 per hour or $1 to $1.50 per hour for members. Users must also pay parking garage fees.
Charging stations are location on the first and second floors of the following Downtown Parking Authority garages:
• The Justice Center Garage (245 Washington Avenue)
• Front Street Garage (85 North Front, between Adams and Jefferson)
• Riverfront Garage (Front Street at Monroe)
• Peabody Place Office Tower Garage (110 Peabody Place between Main and Second)
• Gayoso Parking Garage (Gayoso between Main and Second ).
• 250 Peabody Place Garage (250 Peabody Place between Third and Fourth).
A 13-member committee has been appointed by Mayor Mark Luttrell to explore new ways the county can improve its air quality and meet ozone pollution standards.
The committee met informally for the first time on Tuesday, and it's charged with examining air pollution from cars, industry, and other sources. The group will be required to submit its plans to Luttrell in a few months.
“We were notified months ago that Shelby County’s air quality did not meet federal standards. That finding and the recent decision by the City of Memphis to stop vehicle emissions testing led to my decision to form this committee. We need to take a comprehensive look at this issue to ensure corrective measures are taken,” Luttrell said.
Here's a list of those appointed to the committee:
· Co-Chairperson: Harvey Kennedy — Chief Administrative Officer, Shelby County Government
· Co-Chairperson — Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy
· Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald
· Kim Hackney — Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Shelby County Government
· Kelly Rayne — Shelby County Attorney
· Carter Gray — Assistant Shelby County Attorney
· Yvonne Madlock — Director, Shelby County Health Department
· Tyler Zerwekh - Administrator of Environmental Health Services, Shelby County Health Department
· Bob Rogers — Manager, Pollution Control, Shelby County Health Department
· Tom Needham — Director, Shelby County Public Works
· Pragati Srivastava — Administrator, Metropolitan Planning Office
· Paula Lewis — Executive Assistant, Shelby County Chief Administrative Office
· Martha Lott — General Services Director, City of Memphis