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Walk, Bike, Run

Outdated bicycle-pedestrian plan gets an update.

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In 2005, when the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization's current bicycle-pedestrian plan was adopted, greenlines and greenways were far-off pipe dreams.

Now that the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway are a reality, the Memphis MPO is looking to update its regional plan. Last Wednesday, the MPO held the first in a series of public meetings to gain input from walkers, bikers, and runners.

"We know that the number of people who are bicycling has increased over the last six years," said Kyle Wagenschutz, the group's bicycle-pedestrian coordinator. "Now we have this new group of constituents and we need to find out where they're bicycling from, where they're going, and what routes they'd like to take."

Last Wednesday, citizens were asked to dream up future bike routes and draw them onto maps at Church Health Center Wellness. One man placed a destination dot on President's Island.

"Now there's a destination people might not think about, but I have lots of friends who work down there and would like to bike to work," he said.

Wagenschutz said staff members will overlay maps from last week's meeting to determine where future multi-use paths are needed. A multi-use path is a bike and walking path separated from automobile traffic, like the seven-mile Shelby Farms Greenline that runs from Binghamton to Shelby Farms.

In addition to determining new multi-use paths, Wagenschutz also is seeking input on where the city and county should plan new bike lanes and where they should add amenities, such as restrooms, water fountains, bike racks, and vending facilities.

"The research shows that the way you get more people to live an active lifestyle is to make it more convenient for them. Convenience is more than building a bicycle lane or path," Wagenschutz said. "It's about providing facilities at the end of their trips. That might be a shower facility or a bike rack outside a building."

The public meetings began the second phase of the bike plan update. Phase one involved an online and paper survey in November and December of bike and pedestrian needs. Wagenschutz said the MPO is currently sorting through more than 2,100 responses.

"From our surveys, we've determined that the number-one environmental factor that keeps people from bicycling more often is weather conditions. We can't do much to change the weather, but we can provide covered bike racks and lockers to help people get out of the rain," Wagenschutz said.

Besides citizen input, the update also will set new benchmarks to implement the plan. For example, the 2005 plan called for websites with local bike routes to be established by 2006 and a database of bicycle accidents to be set up by 2010. Neither of those deadlines was met.

"There were all these strategies laid out in that plan, but none has come to pass. There just wasn't a person responsible for promoting bicycling and pedestrian activity in our community," said Wagenschutz, who was hired to fill that role in his newly created position last year.

The next public meeting for input on the regional bike and pedestrian plan update will be held February 9th at Church Health Center Wellness from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

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