Maps Marked Up At Second Madison Bike Lane Meeting

By Bill Dries

A group of more than 100 citizens got a chance to do more than just look at maps of Madison Avenue Wednesday evening.

In the second of three public hearings on proposed bicycle lanes for the two mile stretch of Madison between Cleveland Ave. and Cooper St., those at the Minglewood Hall meeting got a chance to mark up the maps with what they would like to see.

The maps and citizens were divided into four break out groups. The two groups with maps of the stretches of Madison from Cooper to Tucker St. – including Overton Square – and the stretch between Tucker and Evergreen – were the most popular and the busiest hubs of activity.

Much of the discussion in the group that included the Overton Square entertainment district focused on whether to allow on street parking in an area that now has none. And if so, should it be allowed on both sides of Madison or just on one side – and if so, which side?

The map in the Tucker to Evergreen group had a lot of markings as well as written comments.

“I can’t stand to walk that part,” one man said before writing “uneven bad sidewalk” and marking the section between Idlewild and Auburndale.

Mike Cooper, owner of Mercury Valet dry cleaning, drew a long line the length of the north side of Madison Avenue in that section and wrote in red “no protected bike lanes.”

A bit further down the rectangular map someone else had written, “ticket cars parked in bike lanes.”

Someone else had drawn in a section of on street parking by Huey’s at Madison and Tucker.

The third MInglewood Hall public hearing, July 13 at 5:30 p.m., will wrap up a short term planning process the Wharton administration set in place just last month with the architecture firm Looney Ricks Kiss taking the maps, some new traffic counts and the meeting and online survey comments to come up with a street design by the end of the month. The Wharton administration is under an end of July deadline to have a plan for resurfacing and restriping the Midtown stretch of Madison or lose the federal stimulus funding for it.

Under that timetable, the road surface would be stripped in early Aug. and the street repaved in September.

The city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, Kyle Wagenschutz, recommended in April eliminating one of the two lanes of auto traffic in each direction and replacing the lane with on street parking in some places and a dedicated bicycle lane the entire length.

The recommendation drew fire from a group of 60 business owners along the street and support from a bicycling community opposed to shared lanes with auto traffic.

That’s when Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. brought in LRK and set up the series of three public sessions.

Traffic engineer Wade Walker and LRK architect Steve Auterman said traffic count devices on the section of Madison last week, from June 26 – July 1, showed a traffic volume of 12,500 vehicles a day going both ways. And 85 percent of the cars were driving 41 miles an hour or higher despite the posted speed limit of 35 miles an hour.

Madison reached a traffic count volume high of 21,000 a day in the mid 1980s with the count dropping dramatically in the mid 1990s and bottoming out shortly after 2000. It’s remained stable since then.

In 2008, 36 percent of the auto accidents on Madison were from cars switching lanes, a driving habit the planners call “slaloming” that they say could be remedied with a turning lane on some sections of the street.

That and other options including the dedicated bicycle lanes, they argued could increase and even double the amount of traffic on the street.

Those at the meeting heard eight options for Madison between Cleveland Ave. and Florence. There were two options for Overton Square between Florence and Cooper which has a median strip and broader sidewalks – two features the other part of Madison doesn’t have.

The ultimate plan appears unlikely to come down to one option for the whole section of Madison but more likely to be a mixture of the options on a block by block basis depending on the land uses for a particular block.

An online survey by nearly 300 people so far showed Madison is a destination for entertainment and dining several times a month for most who took the survey. A third said they shop along the street. Most – 80-90 percent – taking the survey, said they favor protected bicycle lanes.

And 40-60 percent said they use Madison as a commuting route. Only one-sixth of those surveyed said they took public transit on Madison.