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VOL. 126 | NO. 136 | Thursday, July 14, 2011

Final Madison Bike Lane Hearing Weighs Options

By Bill Dries

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Now the decisions begin about how to redraw the markings on Madison Avenue in Midtown.

More than 100 people attended the third and final in a series of public hearings Wednesday, July 13, at Minglewood Hall.

The meeting came the day after a group of business owners along the street complained that the sessions were “biased” toward recommending dedicated bicycle lanes that would mean the elimination of one lane of auto traffic in each direction.

The merchants, numbering over 60, are opposed to that and have pushed for improved curb lanes with new signage and markings where bicycles would share the road with auto traffic. Their idea would leave two lanes of auto traffic in both directions.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. hired the planners and architects to conduct the hearings and then make a recommendation to him based on what they heard from the public there and from on online survey taken by nearly 400 people as of Wednesday evening.

Wharton ordered the short term review after an April recommendation from the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator Kyle Wagenschutz to convert Madison between Cleveland and Cooper to cut one lane of auto traffic in each direction and convert the lane to a dedicated bicycle lane with some parking sharing the lane. The third lane of that scenario would be a turning lane in the middle of Madison Avenue.

When the business opposition surfaced after the recommendation, Wharton set up the second review under a tight deadline. A plan and decision for repaving and reconfiguring the lanes of Madison must be in place by the end of July or the city will likely lose the federal stimulus funds to pay for the project.

Looney Ricks Kiss architect Steve Auterman, who moderated all three sessions, denied any bias at the outset of the Wednesday meeting.

“They thought we were being too heavy handed in talking about how a three lane road works,” he said, referring to feedback he got later from some at the second meeting last week. “It wasn’t because we were advocating three lanes over four. It wasn’t. It was because we have a four lane road to look at. … We wanted to imagine what are the things about a three lane road that would be different so we can compare and contrast.”

Auterman presented eight different layouts for separate blocks of Madison between the four lane and three lane scenarios. That doesn’t include an option under the three lane umbrella that would create on-street parking in Overton Square on both sides of Madison.

The other options primarily involve parking on both sides of the street or parking on one side of the street, varying widths for some of the lanes and where left turn lanes would be placed.

In either case – four lane or three lane -- Madison between Cleveland and Cooper would not have the same exact layout on every block.

And there are several problem intersections – where a designated bicycle lane would have to co exist with right turn lanes either putting bicycle riders and their lane between two cars or car drivers following bicycles. The intersections include Madison and Belvedere Boulevard and Madison and McLean Boulevard.

Some of the non controversial elements of the Madison remake that Auterman said he found broad agreement on include:

•A pedestrian crosswalk at Morrison Street on the western border of the Overton Square district before a median strip begins. The crosswalk would probably not come with a traffic signal.

•The same kind of crosswalk by Minglewood Hall where there is street parking on both sides of Madison.

•Landscaping including trees that might be planted in extended curb areas between street parking spaces since the sidewalks are too narrow for tree planters.

•Corrals for newspaper stands, more trash cans, benches and bicycle racks that come under the general heading of street furniture.

•Street lighting that is spaced closer together, closer to the ground and brighter.

Read more in Friday’s edition of The Daily News.

PROPERTY SALES 23 23 1,365
MORTGAGES 21 21 1,068
BUILDING PERMITS 117 117 3,173