VOL. 133 | NO. 100 | Friday, May 18, 2018
A Better Ride
The final phase of construction on the innovative Hampline will begin this summer, with a goal of completion by the end of the year. The protected bike path completes the missing link in the Greenline between Overton Park and Tillman Street, and has been an ongoing project since 2010.
The gap in the Greenline was first identified by Livable Memphis, which has since rebranded as BLDG Memphis.
“We saw this as a great overlap for community development and bike infrastructure,” says Sarah Newstok, former program director of Livable Memphis and avid bike rider.
Sarah Newstok and her daughter Pearl ride together down The Hampline near Sam Cooper Boulevard and East Parkway. The final phase of the project is set to begin this summer. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
In November 2010, Livable Memphis and the Broad Avenue Arts District co-hosted “New Face for an Old Broad,” a street festival meant to engage the community around the project and demonstrate how the Hampline could transform the district. The event included restriping the streets and putting down bike lanes with house paint.
“At that point in time, I don’t know that anyone on Broad was thinking of bike lanes as a business strategy,” says Pat Brown, co-owner of T Clifton Art on Broad and co-chair of the team that created the Hampline. The restriping and placement of bollards was effective in slowing traffic and making businesses more visible, according to Brown.
“We had people coming into our stores saying, ‘I never noticed there were businesses here,’” said Brown, who had already been in contact with PeopleForBikes, a national nonprofit that works to help communities and cities build better places for people to ride bicycles.
“The Hampline was the first of its kind in the U.S. in a number of ways,” says Kyle Wagenschutz, director of local innovation for PeopleForBikes. “One of the most notable ways is it’s one in which the business district and residents of the community came together and put cash on the table to help make the progress move a little bit faster.”
Concrete pavers on the south side of Broad Avenue will create a barrier between bike riders and auto traffic. (Submitted)
While funding for the design of the Hampline came about relatively quickly, construction plans have only recently been approved by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The construction of the final phase of the Hampline was funded through a TDOT Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant and includes concrete planters along sections of Broad and Tillman, narrower traffic lanes and the creation of public gathering spaces.
“This design came out of a multiyear planning process involving residents of the community, the city, business leaders, a number of local philanthropic organizations, as well, producing some of the most innovative biking infrastructure that has been seen in the U.S. to date,” said Wagenschutz, who views the Hampline as comparable to infrastructure in major bicycling cities worldwide.
“What we’re finding is that communities with businesses that are on the upswing are really focusing on people,” Wagenschutz said. “You can’t have this mixture of people walking and bicycling in an environment where cars are driven as fast and furiously as they (can be).”
Concrete pavers on the west side of Tillman Street will create a barrier between bike riders and auto traffic. (Submitted)
Local architecture firm Looney Ricks Kiss brought in Alta Planning and Design as a consultant on the project.
“The guiding principle was that we wanted people to feel like they never left the Greenline,” says Wade Walker, vice president of Alta Planning and Design.
Using industry design guidance, they identified the safest locations for the pathway as the south side of Broad and west side of Tillman.
The Hampline is an example of how public-private partnerships can be successful in combining public safety and ambiance while creating revenue for business.
“If you’re a retail business, you want traffic a little slower,” Brown said. She also emphasizes the design was centered around families and slower-paced bike riders as opposed to more advanced professional cyclists.
“Broad is such a cool, artistic area,” said Broad Avenue business owner Taylor Lewis. “To bring more traffic is really exciting.”
Lewis owns the only Airbnb on Broad, and leases space to Mbabazi House of Style.
“In the past few years, Memphis has gone from a place people went through to a place people go.”
Nicholas Oyler, the city of Memphis bikeway and pedestrian program manager, emphasizes that the Hampline is not just a bike project, but an overall street improvement project. Noting that retroactive planning around infrastructure originally intended only for automobiles is a national conversation, Oyler points out that Memphis is really at the forefront.
“The Hampline is the crown jewel in that effort,” he said. “Streets are a public space, and we want them to be safe for everyone.”