Riverside Take Two 

Bike lanes could once again stripe Riverside Drive.

Bike lanes could return to Riverside this fall, and city officials, bicycle enthusiasts and, yes, some neighbors believe the new design for the lanes will be more successful than a controversial pilot project there in 2013.

City officials announced last month that they plan to repave Riverside. The project would include re-striping the street to include bike lanes that would allow a mile-and-a-half-long bike ride from Big River Crossing to Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.

The proposed design would cut one lane of car traffic from each side of the median, making the outside lanes protected for cyclists.

A pilot project added bike lanes on Riverside from June 2013 to May 2014. In its design, car traffic was pushed to the two eastern lanes. The two western lanes were for cyclists and pedestrians.

click to enlarge The new plan for bike lanes - on Riverside
  • The new plan for bike lanes on Riverside

The pilot was meant to help the public envision what Riverside could be, but it served to show city officials what the public did not want.

Many were unhappy with the exclusion of a left turning lane into Tom Lee Park, which caused traffic to back up. Many were also frustrated that the design didn't give a space for vehicles to pull over in case of emergencies.

Nicholas Oyler, Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Memphis, says those concerns are mitigated in the proposed design.

"We expect people to be much happier because, after hearing many valid complaints, we considered them when conceiving the new design," Oyler said.

A left turning lane near the Tom Lee Park entrance has been added, and bike lanes can double as a shoulder for emergency stops for cars and lanes for emergency vehicles, Oyler said.

The project is also expected to slow traffic. Oyler said Riverside is now "like an autobahn," with drivers routinely driving 10 miles over the speed limit.

Car accidents were higher then normal during the pilot, Oyler said, due largely to the fact that car traffic was not separated. The existing median will separate car traffic in the new design, lowering the number of accidents, Oyler said.

Another goal of the project is to improve accessibility and connectivity to attractions like the Big River Crossing and Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.

"Having more bike lanes attracts millennials to the city and keeps them here," said Don Williams, president of the South Main Neighborhood Association. "People have got to have a way to get places, and bike lanes are the perfect way to do that."

Williams said the pilot design "was a bit much, too far in the other direction." The new proposal is "a happy medium that will make bikers happy and not slow down traffic."

Sylvia Crum, executive director of Revolutions Bicycle Cooperative, said the new design shows that city officials listened to the public.

"The Mississippi River is a great resource and attraction, but the road has to be safe in order to get there and enjoy it," Crum said.

The Division of Engineering wants the public to have the final say in whether or not the Riverside plan, and nine other proposals, are implemented. They've posted an online survey to receive feedback that will remain open through April 17th.

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