VOL. 132 | NO. 63 | Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Riverside and Cooper Bike Lanes Draw Complaints
By Bill Dries
Out of 10 repaving projects the city is considering for bike lanes by this fall, the two that got the most attention at an open house Monday, March 27, were the Riverside Drive and Cooper Street bike-lane proposals.
Since the debut of the Broad Avenue bike lanes, city leaders say they have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. The city is proposing 10 new bike lane repaving projects, including more bike lanes on Riverside Drive and on Cooper Street north of Central Avenue.
(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
The largest groups in a crowd of more than 100 at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library were gathered around maps and drawings of those two ideas.
Memphis Bikeway and Pedestrian Program manager Nicholas Oyler said at the outset that all of the ideas are tentative and could be withdrawn in cases where there is enough criticism.
“I want to stress that these are proposals. These are conceptual ideas at this point,” Oyler said. “Nothing is a done deal. Nothing is final. How we proceed depends on what you tell us tonight. It depends on the feedback, the info we get from you.”
But not everyone was convinced.
“You can see it in his eyes,” said Bill Strong, an opponent of bike lanes on Riverside Drive in particular. “It’s going to happen.”
Two years ago, the city closed both southbound lanes of Riverside Drive to auto traffic between Beale Street and Georgia Avenue with no advance notice beyond then-Mayor A C Wharton saying earlier in the year the city was exploring the option.
The new proposal would create bike lanes on Riverside between Jefferson Avenue and Beale Street, north of the prior experiment.
Oyler says there is a lot happening on a different part of the riverfront, north of Beale, that wasn’t there during the trial period for the Riverside bike lanes.
“What we know is that more and more people are accessing the riverfront on foot and by bike,” he said. “It’s a question of how do we want Riverside Drive to fit into that. On average, the speed of traffic on Riverside Drive is more than 10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit. It creates a dangerous situation for trying to cross the street on foot.”
Another proposal would create bike lanes on Cooper between Central and Washington avenues, joining existing bike lanes on Cooper south of Central.
Like Strong, Charlie Ryan, who owns property at and around the Cooper-Young intersection, is convinced the bike lanes are going to happen.
“They are dead set to do this,” he said. “We are not going to be able to stop it.”
But Ryan does hope to slow it down.
“I think what’s missing here is no one has considered how to slow the traffic except by choking the traffic,” he said. “It did slow it down some. Did it work? Yes. But what about the situation that developed.
“I’m trying to do a $70 million project at Cooper and Central,” Ryan said. “I’m very concerned about ingress, egress, traffic flow. I don’t want anything to touch Central. You will have traffic backed up when there’s only one lane in each direction.”
Mark Morrison with the Cooper-Young Community Association sees more bicycle traffic between Overton Park and Cooper-Young.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said of extending bike lanes north on Cooper. “Cooper is in sore need of repaving. It’s not very fun to ride on your bike. … I think it will make it a much easier for a lot of people in Midtown to access Overton Park.”
Morrison cites plans by the Overton Park Conservancy to create a pedestrian-bicycle gateway into the park where Cooper dead ends into Poplar Avenue.
Ryan counters that customers coming to eat at restaurants in Cooper-Young aren’t showing up on bicycles in most cases.
The other eight bike lane proposals the city is considering are:
• North Highland Street from Summer Avenue to Walnut Grove Road
• North Perkins Street from Summer Avenue to Walnut Grove Road
• Hickory Hill Road from Mount Moriah Road to Winchester Road
• Knight Arnold Road from Hickory Hill Road to Ridgeway Road
• Riverdale Road from Winchester Road to Shelby Drive
• Getwell Road from Park Avenue to Interstate 240
• Airways Boulevard from Shelby Drive to the Mississippi state line
• Mendenhall Road from Knight Arnold Road to Mount Moriah Road.