AGENTS OF CHANGE
C.A.V.E. Men walk among us: Citizens Against Virtually Everything. In my world they are the opponents to bike lanes and greenways who think that city and state funds would be wisely spent dealing with other issues, mostly crime. We seem like liberal hippies spewing bike lanes and connectivity and equitable modeshare and rainbows and granola and other liberal hippie jargon. We believe in the transformative role of green infrastructure (bike lanes, greenways, parks, etc…) to solve many problems like obesity, city-wide job loss, vacant neighborhoods, economic stagnation, food deserts, and yes, even crime. But it’s sometimes difficult to break through our liberal hippie jargon and get a good picture of what we’re talking about, so let’s use these before and after photos to prove that we’re not spewing empty rhetoric (and that Google has gotten much better cameras since 2007).
I’ve called Overton Square home for almost 15 years. I remember many walks from my apartment to TGI Fridays after a long Saturday night at the Hi-Tone. I remember Square Foods, The Vortex, Yosemite Sams, and Paulette’s. Being a liberal hippie I knew how awesome the Square and Madison would be with bike lanes (and I’m still waiting for bike lanes on this side of Cooper!) The C.A.V.E. Men said they would cut down on the number of cars that pass by their business – but do you really want cars passing by your business, or do you want them slowing down and stopping and shopping? The bike lanes on Madison did what we said they would do: slowed traffic, spurred reinvestment and development and through more eyes on the street made the neighborhood safer. Now I’m not the only one walking from my home to the square, nor am I the only pushing a stroller while I do. Move the slider and see how Overton Square went from ghost town to ball gown, and gave those businesses more parking as a bonus!
I had never been on Broad Avenue when Sarah Newstock from Livable Memphis asked Peddler Bike Shop to help clean up and have a pop-up shop at the New Face for an Old Broad event. Vacant buildings were swept out, bike lanes were painted, on-street parking was reconfigured and we threw a big party, and Peddler made a few hundred dollars in the process. Broad Avenue Arts District occupies some of the connective route between Overton Park and the Shelby Farms Greenline. The District is now home to a permanent bike shop, Victory Bicycle Studio, as well as some of the hippest retail and restaurants in town like City&State, Rec Room, VINI (Five-IN-One) Social Club, Bounty, and 20Twelve.
The other portion of that connective route rests on Tillman which is seeing it’s own share of neighborhood reinvestment.
The before and after images below are even more examples of how bike lanes have transformed the streets to make them safer for everyone. On my end of Cooper I can’t count how many car horns I’ve heard because someone thinks that Cooper near Poplar is a two lane road. A treatment like the one below will help those wayward souls.
This entrance at Shady Grove provides access to enjoy the Wolf River Greenway – and by connections – Germantown Greenway and Shelby Farms Park. People use greenways like this for recreation and exercise and some use them as transportation routes. The Wolf River also serves as a natural corridor for wildlife to make their homes. Who doesn’t want to see a little baby deer prancing through the woods?
North McLean between Poplar and North Parkway, with its on-street parking, was at one time very scary to drive on, much less ride a bicycle or try to cross to get into Overton Park or the Memphis Zoo. Now the traffic is slower and the viewpoints are better.