Cyclists and pedestrians won't have to complain about crazy Memphis drivers much longer since the Memphis Bike and Pedestrian Plan is entering its final stages. RPM Transportation Consultants, the group that's been developing the plan over the last several months, will submit a draft of the plan to the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) by November 5th.
There will be an MPO public hearing on December 16th, and the final plan will be approved by the end of December. The draft plan will be available for public viewing after November 12th on the plan's Web site, MemphisBikePed.com.
The plan, which falls under MPO's 20-year Long-Range Transportation Plan, covers all of Shelby County, two to four miles of Fayette County, and eight miles of DeSoto County. RPM looked at 1,200 to 1,400 miles of roadway to determine which were suitable for bike lanes, wide outside lanes, shared roadways, or greenways (multiuse trails located off the roadway).
According to RPM's findings, only 1 percent of the roads in the Memphis area are extremely compatible for bikes, meaning the road is wide enough to accommodate cycling traffic. Walnut Grove has the lowest compatibility due to the ban on bike traffic over the bridge leading into Shelby Farms.
"In addition to the proposed changes for existing roads, we're also recommending that bike facilities be included on any new road or development that's constructed," said Rebecca Brooks, the project engineer from RPM Transportation Consultants.
At the last set of public meetings earlier this month, RPM identified several roadways that were being considered for the draft plan. Inside the I-240 loop, they are proposing bike lanes (extra lanes for bikes only) along Chelsea Avenue and Willow Road. Outside lanes wide enough to accommodate bikes and vehicles are proposed for Central Avenue and Hollywood Street. They're also recommending that the city turn the old CSX Railway into a greenway trail through the city.
In Germantown and Collierville, RPM's plan suggests running a greenway alongside Bill Morris Parkway. As for bike lanes, Bob Murphy, the project's lead RPM consultant, said they've found that Germantown already has a fair amount of existing bike lanes.
Lakeland will rely heavily on greenways, and in Bartlett, they'll be suggesting a mixture of bike lanes and signed roadways indicating that drivers are required to share the road.
RPM found that Millington has few wide roads, and therefore, most of its bike facilities will be signed shared roadways.
Horn Lake and Southaven already have long-range road-widening plans in place. RPM will suggest that bike lanes be added as new roads are constructed.
"Some of these facilities can be implemented quickly with little cost and little construction. They can be completed in three to five years," said Brooks. "Others in our long-range bike plans could take up to 20 years to get constructed."
As for the pedestrian portion of the plan, RPM is suggesting that the city install "missing link" sidewalks in areas where a sidewalk ends and begins again farther down the road. Murphy said they're looking to connect schools with parks and neighborhoods.
Brooks said they weren't able to do a complete sidewalk inventory as they did with the bike portion of the plan because "it was beyond the scope of the project."
"We did do a walking survey and got responses on sidewalks in poor maintenance, which is one of the reasons people don't walk more often," said Brooks. "They've been damaged or overgrown with vegetation."
In Memphis, homeowners -- not the city -- must maintain sidewalks in front of their property, so there's not much in the plan for improving poorly maintained sidewalks. However, RPM is suggesting areas that would be ideal for "end-of-trip" facilities -- areas with benches, water fountains, shade, and bicycle parking. Brooks said they are highly recommending that these facilities be added near parks and in the downtown area.
Funding for the plan will come from a variety of local, state, and federal sources, as well as private developers.
"Memphis has a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of roads that can accommodate bike lanes and wide outside lanes without a lot of construction," said Brooks. "Because of regulations requiring sidewalks in much of the city, most areas already have them. There's a pretty good base to start out with. We're just enhancing what's already in place." •