Racking Up 

City plans to add 16 bicycle racks downtown.

Downtown's residential neighborhood bills itself as "walkable, never pedestrian." But is it bike-able?

Last week, the Memphis City Council approved a $62,640 plan to install at least 16 more bike racks downtown. Although the number of bike-riders in downtown Memphis is not documented, it doesn't take statistics to show the need for more biker-friendly parking.

"Just from an intuitive standpoint, over the last three or four years the number of downtown residents has been growing very quickly," said Dottie Jones, administrator in the city's office of intergovernmental relations. "Obviously, there's a greater number of bicycles downtown than there ever has been, so there's a need for more racks."

The city will pay approximately $9,600 for the racks' construction and installation. An additional $3,000 will come from the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), the organization that initially presented the project to the City Council several years ago. The remaining $50,000 will come from funds left over from a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) grant for a 1999 project.

"The grant was written for 16 new bike racks, but I've kind of re-tooled the idea of how we're building them, and I'm hoping to squeeze 25 bike racks out of this," said DNA vice president Tommy Volinchak. "We've consulted with some of the folks who are bikers in the downtown area. We're trying to incorporate their functional needs and still make the racks artistic."

The designer of the racks has not yet been chosen. "It'll be a local Memphis metal artist," Volinchak said. "We've started talking with the Ornamental Metal Museum, and we'll step up those conversations once the approval process is completed."

The racks will be installed in "the hotspots where most of us like to park our car and patronize," Volinchak said, citing the farmers market at Central Station, Peabody Place, AutoZone Park, and local banks as potential candidates. "The idea is to help the many businesses that patronize our organization and make it easier for cyclists to patronize those businesses."

The locations have not been determined yet, and the DNA is open to suggestions, which can be made at www.MemphisDNA.org. "We would love to hear from bikers or businesses that would like to have a bike rack," Volinchak said.

Seven racks were installed by the city in 2002 in collaboration with the county, the DNA, and the UrbanArt Commission. Those racks were designed by local artist Jill Turman. In 2003, the city opened a Memphis Bike Route, 60 miles of on-road route tours of the city, marked by signs and equipped with rest stops and several bike racks. But for people making their daily rounds at spots that aren't tourist attractions, the new racks will be a welcome addition.

"Some of these people who live on their bikes can't hang out downtown because their bikes will take off on them," Volinchak said. "I just recently bought a bike and have been riding around downtown, and I've wanted to stop at Dyer's or something for a burger, but there's no place to park my bike. ... We've had requests from cyclists that they would like to have racks, and it'll probably bring more bikers into the area."

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