Memphis Turns Two Highway Lanes Into a Car-Free Oasis By the Mississippi

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pfb logo 100x22 Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Once you start thinking about new ways to use your city’s streets, you start to see opportunities everywhere.

That’s exactly what’s happened last weekend in Memphis, Tennessee, where half of a separated four-lane highway was converted into a safe, direct and stress-free walking and biking route along one mile of the Mississippi River. As we reported in March, Bluff City engineer John Cameron decided this spring to follow the recommendation of urban planning consultant Jeff Speck and experiment with a permanent new car-free space between downtown and the planned Harahan Bridge connection to Arkansas.

“Nothing separates downtown Memphis from its riverfront as powerfully as the current pedestrian-unfriendly condition of Riverside Drive,” Speck wrote in his 2013 report on ways to reconnect the city with the riverfront that created it.

No more. Thanks to years of temporary closures during the annual Memphis in May festival, the city knew nearby streets could absorb the auto traffic without much trouble. And in return, for the price of some plastic bollards and new street coloring, Memphis has opened one of the best streets in the mid-South for biking, walking, skating and playing.

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All photos courtesy City of Memphis. You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

  • Glenn Scott

    Sh! Gathering from the experience with BRT in Nashville, the Tennesse State government will pass a law making Memphis to change this back.

  • Kevin Love

    Love it! This looks great.

  • KL

    Wow good job Memphis!

  • Daphna

    That’s beautiful. They all look so happy to have some space for human powered mobility. The side that it still a highway never has many cars in it in these photos, so the excess road capacity that had been there definitely seems not to be needed.

  • nycbikecommuter

    This is… amazing!

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Now this is something I REALLY like! This facility was dirt cheap to create and is is useful not only to the 8 to 80 crowd but the from the “bold and fearless” and the “enthused and confident,” to the “curious and concerned”. The photos clearly demonstrate this.

    However, it’s really a multi-use pathway, not a cycletrack but MUPs have their place in augmenting a well designed on-street network.

    Well done Memphis!

  • Congrats to Memphis! With all they’ve been doing the last couple years, Memphis is going to get itself a reputation for being the most innovative city in the South, and on a shoestring budget at that.

  • Jake Wegmann

    They just did it. Awesome. Mayor Wharton sounds like the real deal on these sorts of issues.

  • C Monroe

    No doubt, don’t tell anyone in the capital in Nashville. This is evil socialist engineering! Shhhhh.

  • Joe R.

    That’s exactly right. I see wide lanes with plenty of room for faster cyclists to pass slower ones. What don’t see is equally important. I don’t see lots of driveways. More importantly, I don’t see any of the traffic controls cyclists in general hate-namely stop signs and traffic signals. What we have here is a nice pathway where cyclists can ride in safety/comfort, and achieve average travel speeds close to their cruising speeds. That’s all any cyclist can ask for.

  • iSkyscraper

    Wow, bravo. What a great example for other cities.

  • Br

    Awesome!! I’m moving to Memphis!!!

  • KL

    Anyone know if this is permanent?

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