By Kyle Wagenschutz
There has been a flurry of discussion these past few months about what Cooper Street will look like once bike lanes are installed. Will the bike lanes be wide enough? What will happen to the on-street parking? What happens at the intersections?
Not wanting to sit by and let city engineers alone decide the fate of our neighborhood’s first bicycle infrastructure, the staff at Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop began meeting with Cooper-Young business owners, neighborhood residents, local stakeholders, and community interest groups like Livable Memphis to clearly define the concerns and needs of each group. While differences presented themselves, through collaboration and compromise, a set of preferred scenarios were drawn that respect the unique concerns of each party while setting a precedent for innovative and safe bicycle and pedestrian facility design in Memphis. Of special note are the positioning of the bike lanes, the intersection treatment, and the preservation of on-street parking.
The proposed design positions 6-foot wide bike lanes next to the curb in each direction. Instead of being located at the curb, on-street parking is moved closer to the center of the road as a buffer between the bike lanes and automobile travel lanes. This design is already being used in some US cities, like NYC’s 9th Avenue. Placing the bike lanes on the inside of on-street parking creates a safe barrier for pedestrians and cyclists as they travel along the roadway and has been shown to increase cyclists while decreasing injuries.
The treatment of intersections is a paramount safety concern for cyclists as they interact with automobile traffic. The proposed design takes note of best practices from both European and US cities that lead the way in design safety. The bike lane will end prior to reaching the intersection. Arrows painted on the roadway will direct cyclists to a position adjacent to, and then in front of, the automobile traffic through the use of a bike box. The bike box allows cyclists to stage themselves in front of the automobile traffic, whose stop line is moved further away from the intersection. Following a painted crossing stripe through the intersection, the cyclist will be directed back into the bike lane once through the crossing. Clear queues on how bikes and cars should behave at intersections are necessary to prevent accidents.
Finally, perhaps one of the most contentious issues has been the availability of on-street parking for patrons of local businesses. In the proposed design, 4 to 5 existing parking spaces would be lost along the southbound lane of Cooper Street, south of Young Avenue. The parking spots along this stretch of road do not conform to existing safety standards, and, in reality, will likely be removed when the road is repaved regardless of bicycle lanes. With parking concerns in mind, the proposed plan calls for a reanalysis of blocks along Young Avenue currently designated no parking zones and for small investments in lighting, signage, and landscaping to direct patrons to available off-street parking spots. However, through installation of additional bike racks, Cooper-Young will actually realize a net increase in available parking when combining both automobile and bike parking.
On August 2, 2010, representatives from Revolutions and Livable Memphis will meet with City of Memphis Engineers to present these plans for approval. Through a careful process of discourse, we believe this plan best represents what everyone wants – a neighborhood that is safe, economically successful, and enjoyable. No doubt, further compromise may be necessary and teaching the public how to use the facilities will be required. However, we cannot afford to have Cooper-Young’s bike lanes be lackluster. Like everything we do here in CY, the new bicycle facilities should set an innovative example that other Memphis neighborhoods can follow.
The proposed plans can be viewed at Otherlands Coffee Shop located at 641 S. Cooper Street.