Once labeled a “worst city for cycling”, Memphis adds 270 miles of bike lanes in a decade

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) — In 2010, the city of Memphis was labeled one of the worst cities in the nation for cyclists.

Since given those unfortunate honors by Bicycling.com a decade ago, the city worked towards becoming a more bike friendly community.

In 2019, the city added 22 miles of bikeways to its total of 270 miles of paths. In 2010, the city could account for less than two miles of bike lanes.

One sign of progress can be seen at the intersection of MLK Jr. Dr. and Walnut St. in the Medical District. The intersection is one of the bike friendly projects completed in 2019.

It is the city’s first protected intersection for cyclists, Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager Nicholas Oyler explains. The intersection includes pole barriers, planters, “zebra humps” and brightly painted cement to make crossing for cyclists and pedestrians safer.

Oyler said the intersection was inspired by European plans and is believed to be the first of its kind in the state and possibly the country.

“It’s exciting to finally start seeing a network coming together. Five years ago you may have had a bike lane over here, a bike lane over here, but now they’re actually starting to connect and we’re getting a true network,” Oyler said.

Oyler said the city established more bike lanes for several reasons: to promote healthy habits, to stay competitive in the growing popularity of cycling and to increase safe public transportation options.

“In a city where a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, many people can’t afford a car or maybe they have some other reason why they’re not able to drive. So anything we can do as a city to make it easier to get around the community, to access jobs, access education,” he said.

In 2020, Oyler anticipates the city adding 20 or more miles of pathways.

One of the big projects looking at completion this year is of the Hampline which will connect the Greenline to Overton Park.

Oyler said the city also expects to add 500 more bike racks and to start a public service announcement series to promote bike safety.

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