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VOL. 126 | NO. 106 | Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Cycling Progress

City outlines bike plans for North Parkway

By Bill Dries

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After a detour through some continuing controversy involving Madison Avenue, the idea of bike lanes in Midtown is back to near unanimous public support for the lanes on North Parkway between Front Street and Overton Park.

A standing-room-only crowd filled Buckman Hall at Rhodes College to hear about striping North Parkway for bicycle lanes from East Parkway to Front Street.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

The latest public meeting on the proposed North Parkway plan drew a standing room only crowd of several hundred people and lots of support last week during a public hearing at Rhodes College.

Moving beyond the renderings and diagrams shown at the meetings depends on the availability of city funding in a tough budget season at City Hall and putting public works crews to work on putting down the lines once they are done with flood recovery work.

The proposal the city is considering would divide the four miles of road into three segments.

The first segment from Front Street to Danny Thomas Boulevard is a state route that the state will probably repave in four years.

Kyle Wagenschutz, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said because that section of North Parkway is the narrowest, there wouldn’t be much beyond signage indicating it’s a bike pathway.

The second section from Danny Thomas to McLean Boulevard is largely residential and has non-rush hour on-street parking. The plan is to turn the outside third lane of traffic in both directions into parking lanes with a bicycle lane next to parking, leaving enough space for door openings.

The third section from McLean to Overton Park’s eastern edge before it reaches East Parkway is the heaviest traveled section of the thoroughfare.

Bicycle lanes for most of a four-mile stretch of North Parkway between Front Street and Overton Park would be done in three phases. The Downtown leg would have no bike lanes but signs urging motorists to share the road. The second leg would include a parking lane replacing the outer lane of auto traffic with a bike lane next to it, and the third would have a bike lane and a buffer with no parking.

(click to view PDF)

That section would also be reduced from three to two lanes in each direction with the outer lane in each direction being converted to a bicycle lane with a six-inch buffer from the nearest lane of auto traffic. There is not now nor would there be on-street parking allowed on this stretch of North Parkway.

Wagenschutz said he is not advocating the North Parkway bike lanes link up with East Parkway, the road connector to Broad Avenue that dead ends on the eastern edge of Overton Park.

“That is very heavily traveled,” he said as he talked of routes into Overton Park and onto the Rhodes campus possibly as “a better option than a tricky intersection.”

Bicycle traffic going south into Overton Park from North Parkway could emerge on the eastern edge of the park and pick up Broad Avenue from there.

Still to be worked out, Wagenschutz told the group, is how bicycle traffic would enter Overton Park and how it would link up with the Broad Avenue bicycle connector route on the other side of Overton Park, a plan Livable Memphis is working on.

“This is a short-term phase to make sure the connection is being made between Downtown and Overton Park and to allow people to start using it,” Wagenschutz said. “We’re not expecting children to get out there tomorrow and start riding on it. But we do want to symbolically make that connection so that people know this is a bicycle route.”

Also still to be worked out is whether bike riders go under the North Watkins overpass in Crosstown or over North Parkway at the intersection.

Wagenschutz said the option being discussed for Crosstown is to route bicycle riders to the two ramps east and westbound instead of them going under North Watkins.

“It’s not really that complicated,” he said as he emphasized the details and lane markings for such a crossing have not been decided at this point.

One person in the audience wanted to know if bikes could use lanes built into the North Parkway median strips.

“We would have a lot of regulation work to build a trail there as well,” he said. “From a safety standpoint, putting bikes in the middle doesn’t really solve a lot of the safety issues at the intersections. It’s kind of a tricky crossing for cars. Adding bikes to that central median and having them trying to cross there I think makes it more complicated. That may be a more dangerous situation than what currently exists.”

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