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State of bicycling has Memphis riding high

bicycling 600All the miles of new bicycle infrastructure that the City of Memphis has constructed since 2010 would get you within about 17 miles of Jackson, Tenn.

According to the 2014 State of Bicycling Report, 71.15 miles of new bicycle infrastructure was created over the three-year period, a 114 percent increase of dedicated space for persons using bicycles, mostly along Memphis streets. The report was released on Friday.

"One way in which we keep Memphis competitive is by providing choices for our residents," said Mayor A C Wharton Jr. "In transportation, we've traditionally left the automobile as the only way to move around the city, but in just a short period of time, we've shown that with a little creativity and direction, Memphis can offer the same, if not better, amenities as any modern city."

Memphis is expected to once again double the miles of bicycle-specific infrastructure within its limits by 2016. Most of the gains thus far were achieved through coordination with on-going repaving projects and did not require any new budgetary considerations to create on-street bicycle lanes.

"We've already seen remarkable results in people choosing to bicycle more as a result of our efforts and we're looking forward (to) what the next three years hold as we work to improve how our transportation works for transit users and pedestrians," said Wharton.

Bike usage has doubled since 2008 and safety has improved, according to City officials, which reflects a 35 per cent reduction in the number of accidents during that time.

Kyle Wagenschutz, bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, said the rate at which the City been able to create new dedicated bicycle facilities is unprecedented in the U.S.

"We've been able to both reduce the number of bicycle accidents while simultaneously increasing total usage of bicycles," Wagenschutz said. "This wasn't achieved through big budget spending, but rather by being creative and thoughtful about how we deliver projects and better use existing resources."

It is estimated that, on average, 5,000 trips each day are made in Memphis by bicycle. That includes persons traveling for work, school, or utilitarian purposes (such as shopping, visiting the doctor or going out to eat) as well as those that might be using a bicycle for social or recreational riding.

Some of the new infrastructure will be a result of the City's involvement in the Green Lane Project, a program of People For Bikes aimed at increasing the installation of protected bike lanes, or cycle tracks, in six US cities, including Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington DC. The City installed its first protected bike lane along Overton Park Avenue, between Bellevue and Cleveland, in Fall 2013.

The city plans to install 22 miles of protected bike lanes over the next two years.

Bicycling magazine named Memphis the "Most Improved City for Cycling" after giving naming it to the "worst" list in both 2008 and 2010. Also, in 2013, Memphis became the 500th city in the nation to pass a Complete Streets Policy insuring that as future projects are delivered, the needs of persons using bicycles, transit, or pedestrian means of transportation are equally considered in design decisions along with automobiles.

Stay up to date on projects, public meetings, or programs that impact cyclists by visiting http://www.bikepedmemphis.com. The website contains a downloadable copy of the 2014 State of Bicycle Report. Information is also available on the City's Bike/Ped Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/BikePedMemphis.

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