- Madison Avenue is one of several streets with plans for potential bike lanes.
- Business owners said it would decrease business traffic.
- Cyclists said it’s imperative for safety reasons.
(Memphis 2/16/11) Business owners sparred with cyclists at a Wednesday night meeting, hosted by city engineers to discuss potential bike lanes on Madison Avenue.
Close to 100 people showed up to voice their strong opinions on the matter. It was the biggest turnout compared to the city’s six other forums held about bike lanes on other streets.
Many in attendance were people whose businesses are on Madison Avenue. They said that they’ve already seen a decrease in customer traffic since the trolley line reduced the number of lanes.
“Whenever you have lane reduction or reduced traffic flow on a commercial thoroughfare, you cost jobs,” said Mike Cooper, who owns Mercury Valet dry cleaning.
Cooper brought his employees to the meeting, because he said they might lose their jobs if fewer cars drive past their store.
But city officials cited research done in North America, showing more bicycle traffic can in fact increase business in the area.
“Our society is based on automobiles, and that’s just how it is. That sounds ugly, but it’s the truth,” he said.
Cooper added, “I’ve had a bicycle rack behind my building for 20 years. And I don’t think I even get one a week.”
Still, some cyclists in the room stood up to say that they find existing bike lane areas very effective and that they would frequent the businesses that are on bike routes.
Austin Selby, a cyclist and runner who lives in Midtown, said that safety is another big issue.
While he was running recently, he was hit by a drunk driver. He said he also personally knows several people who were hit by cars when biking or running.
“If you see a bike lane there, then you’re expecting to see someone on a bike. And it’s just a lot easier to be aware. Just like if you see a stop sign ahead, you’re preparing to stop,” Selby said.
He added that some business owners’ suggestion to leave the lanes as “shared” betwen cyclists and drivers, doesn’t work.
“They’re not shared. They’re owned by the motorists. Even if a cyclist is obeying the rules that they’re supposed to, they get out of the way, they ride single file, they’re still honked at, yelled at, engines get revved, they almost get clipped on purpose.”
Selby said that bicycling magazines have been known to list Memphis at the bottom of “bike-friendly” cities. He said that this would improve that, giving future Memphians a community with more options to be healthy and active.
City engineers said that Madison is one of the streets already being re-paved using federal stimulus dollars, so it’s cheaper to make bike lanes there.
It would potentially reduce one lane of car traffic, but no parking spaces would be lost.
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