A Road Too Wide
It isn't Government's job to get people to drive cars.
No apologies to John Branston
Sometimes government makes it easy to cause one to wonder why it does not care about the quality of life of residents. For example: take a look at the last several decades of local land use and road planning.
After looking at what has happened in Cordova, Southaven and other areas with ever increasing gridlock and car crashes in spite of ever-widening roads, I feel a little like a Sierra Club fan. Still, I can only conclude the forces that caused this are as near-sighted as the Sierra Club can be sometimes.
For years, I've watched with interest as my hometown area reached for economic development through growth with all the benefits that was expected to bring. I thought it would be good, but I was wrong. The developers passionately and successfully pitched their plans to convince elected officials to ignore the rules they set for land use and road planning. Only now we all realize we were duped and the clock cannot be turned back.
I have a car and I'm thankful I can afford it and have the ability to use it. I have to drive it sometimes. This week I drove home from Birmingham overnight. It was hard, but the rapid schedule of modern life didn't allow an option.
I often bike to work. It takes me 20 minutes. I like that it gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I would bike even more if fuel reached $5 a gallon. It is no one's business why you ride a bike, but if you enjoy the privilege of driving a car, the government, for the common good, requires you to be licensed, registered and insured.
I often walk and I'm thankful that I can with no problems. Disabilities can make a street crossing an insurmountable obstacle.
The staff of the local MPO has done a great job of updating the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. This plan is only a portion of the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) required by the federal government in order to receive transportation funds collected through gasoline taxes. The LRTP is being prepared by a contractor at a significant cost to taxpayers.
In 2004, the LRTP was found deficient and federal highway funds were frozen. One of the deficiencies was no acceptable Bicycle and Pedestrian plan. An award-winning plan was produced that satisfied Federal Highway Administration requirements, but it was not implemented. More recently it was discovered that under the previous Memphis administration, though promises were made to implement the plan, City applications for funds stated that no bicycle facilities would be included in any project, even projects on roads in the plan. Failure to follow the plan could have resulted in returning those funds.
The law (23 USC 217(g)) states: “Bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways shall be considered, where appropriate, in conjunction with all new construction and reconstruction of transportation facilities...” 'Reconstruction' includes repaving. This law was made by Congress and the language is not new. Thankfully, Mayor Wharton recognized the potential for the loss of funds and responded by not only meeting the requirements but also by committing to comply in a way so bicycle and pedestrian facilities will not be poorly designed afterthoughts.
Data shows the metro area constantly grabbing more land around the perimeters while the population is not increasing. This leaves many once-vibrant neighborhoods in a dark shadow while adding to expensive infrastructure. Data also shows the area is slipping lower in health and education and higher in poverty.
Investments in livability can help turn these trends around. If we can all work together across city, county and state lines to agree on what is better for the area as a whole, we can improve the lives of all Mid-South residents.
It's not government's job to get people to drive cars.
This is awesome! First a little lane on Horn Lake, then Southern, then BOOM! At this rate, we'll have a pretty good beginning network of connected bike routes throughout the area within another 1 to 2 years. This was not even a dream a little over a year ago. I see more people biking all the time for transportation, not just recreation. This will have a profound positive effect on the area in terms of health as well as economic development.
Change can be difficult to accept, and sometimes not even necessary. I hope Mr. Vernon never changes his recipe that produces what I think is the best pulled-pork sandwich in town. At the same time, I wish he could understand that a change in the configuration of Madison Avenue could help grow his business - at no cost to him.
Madison will be repaved unless Wharton delays his decision too long and the funds are lost. LRK has shown the 3-lane configuration with dedicated bike lanes can easily handle current car traffic with room to grow while at the same time increasing safety for both bicycles and cars. In addition, it will add more on-street parking and improve accessibility for handicapped people. This is a case where a positive change in a business model will be paid for with public funds.
Someone has hired a consultant to mount a misinformation campaign full of untruths and unfounded 'facts'. The consultant has been so effective that many businesses have been blindly falling in step without weighing the evidence and making their own, informed decisions.
Bike lanes and routes are only a small part of Mayor Wharton's plan to turn Memphis into his 'City of Choice', and Madison Avenue is only a very small part of that plan. But Madison can become better than what it is now. It can become more of a destination spot as it was a few years before - the Main Street of Midtown.
Change can be difficult to accept.
Jack is correct, we need to have intelligent discussions and friendly debates. The benefits of encouraging bicycling as transportation are proven. Under state and local law, all city streets are 'bike routes' and this section of Madison is already commonly traveld by bike. Well designed lanes are safer and encourage more people to ride. I support the lane option here because we have been assured it will not reduce traffic counts on the road which could harm the local businesses, and because I believe we have people on board who can assure the lanes are properly designed.
BTW - Peabody is in the plan to have lanes added in the future.
Get involved! While the coordinator is a good start, he or she cannot do it alone - besides, engineers design the roadway, a coordinator's job is to assist in that design, help make intelligent connections, come up with useful signage and other cool stuff. The City right now has over $25 million in mostly federal funds to repave over 32 miles of roads found on an EXISTING bike plan THEY APPROVED in 2005 (http://memphismpo.org/index.php?option=com…). Engineering tells the public bike routes will be installed on those roads (one example - http://www.memphistn.gov/framework.aspx?pa…) yet when they applied for the money (over a year ago), they said "no bike routes will be included in this project". You can make a difference (and help make the coordinator's job easier) by contacting the Mayor and your Council representative and letting them know the lies must stop. Keep up the pressure!
By Joe Boone
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