Madison to get dedicated bike lanes

(WMC-TV) - It's an issue that has divided cyclists and Madison Avenue business owners for months, but Mayor A C Wharton has finally made a decision about what kind of bike lanes will be added to the street.

Wharton announced this afternoon that Madison Avenue will have dedicated bike lanes in both directions. The bike lanes will start at Cooper and head west to McNeil.

Some merchants along the street have worried that dedicated bike lanes will slow down traffic too much, causing drivers to avoid the street and ultimately hurt their businesses.

But in a written statement, Wharton said the city's experience with bike lanes has shown positive results for companies.

"As we've seen throughout Memphis and all over the country, bike lanes are encouraging people to be healthier, more environmentally friendly, and more supportive of locally owned small businesses, " he said.

However, this isn't a total victory for cyclists. Proposals originally called for the dedicated bike lanes to run from Cooper to Cleveland, a bit further than Wharton's plan.

In his statement today, Wharton also pledged to work with business owners and tweak his plan if needed.

Here's the full statement from the mayor's office announcing the bike lanes:

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. today has issued an order to the city's Engineering Division to move forward with a restriping process for Madison Avenue between Cooper and McNeil Streets that will include dedicated bike lanes on both sides of the street.

The Mayor's decision came after he reviewed the results of a traffic modeling study by engineering consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates. This study indicated that vehicular traffic between major intersections along the 1.5-mile route would be slowed by only a few seconds under a proposed "road diet" that includes the bicycle lanes.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.:

"Madison Avenue is a vitally important central corridor for dozens of small businesses and thousands of families. It is imperative to the long-term economic prosperity of Midtown and the entire city that it be as safe, accessible, and vibrant as possible. As we've seen throughout Memphis and all over the country, bike lanes are encouraging people to be healthier, more environmentally friendly, and more supportive of locally owned small businesses. The Kimley-Horn traffic study and the public meetings that were conducted by Looney Ricks Kiss earlier this year strongly indicate that we can look forward to those same benefits along Madison Avenue.

"However, I am highly sensitive to the merchants' concerns about business traffic along Madison. I have pledged to them that we will continue to work with them and to monitor commerce on the street and that we will make adjustments should they become necessary.

"I want to thank the public and all of Madison Avenue's stakeholders for their input and patience. We are committed to making this street a destination – not just a thoroughfare.

"As we work with the private sector to make Madison Avenue a truly vibrant Midtown entertainment district, installing these bicycle lanes is an obvious first step, but we acknowledge that it is only a first step. We will be looking at possible future enhancements along Madison Avenue, including other streetscape and infrastructure improvements."

The repaving and striping procedure is funded by a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and will require no funds from the city's general fund.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Robert S. Donovan.

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