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Saw the Sign

Memphis City Council may stop funding stand-alone bike lane signs.


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Tesla may have said it best with the lyric, "Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs."

There are too many bike lane signs if you ask Memphis city councilman Jim Strickland and some of his constituents who live on Central Avenue. Strickland has proposed a resolution for the city to stop funding stand-alone bike lane signs in favor of placing signs on existing utility poles.

"We are junking up people's streets. We spend so much money trying to get rid of blight in this city, but we are adding to blight," Strickland told the council last Tuesday during a meeting of the Public Works and Transportation Committee. He referred to the signs as "litter on a stick."

Strickland said he's received several complaints from residents on Central, where bike lane signs have been placed in the city right-of-way seemingly every few feet.

One Central Avenue resident, Webster Riggs, said there are two bike signs in front of his house, and one is located next to his driveway.

"Right as you turn into the driveway, there's a bike lane sign. It takes away from the homely aspect," said Riggs, who has lived in his home near Central and Highland for 33 years. "If they could move that sign about 20 yards further east or put it on a telephone pole, that would take care of the problem."

In some areas of the city, bike lane signs are already installed on utility poles. The reason for that, said city bike/pedestrian coordinator Kyle Wagenschutz, depends on who built the bike lanes.

"With projects that are city-funded, where city crews are doing the repaving and striping, we've already been implementing a policy of hanging signs on existing poles," Wagenschutz said. "The projects where we're using consultants to do the design work and hiring outside contractors to do the construction are the projects where we're having the most problems with that practice [of using stand-alone signage]."

Wagenschutz said the city engineer's office is short-staffed, and they often rely on contractors to handle bike lane projects that are large in scope. He said he doesn't know why contractors tend to avoid using existing utility poles, but "they're generally hesitant to do so."

Using existing poles does require that the city get permission from Memphis Light, Gas & Water, but spokesperson Glen Thomas said the utility is happy to work with the city on such projects. In cases where contractors have already installed signs on stand-alone poles, Wagenschutz said the city will be going back to clean up the area.

"In those cases, we've been going back after the fact and correcting some of the installations. We already planned on using the off-construction season this winter to catch up on some of those projects," Wagenschutz said.

If residents don't wish to wait for the engineer's office to correct signage issues, Wagenschutz said they can contact his office, and the city will relocate signs on a case-by-case basis.

The council will take up Strickland's resolution at their next meeting on December 4th. Although Strickland is only suggesting moving the bike lane signs, he said he's received some angry emails from bike advocates since he made his proposal.

"I'm not for removing the bike signs and letting the bikers out on their own without sign protection," Strickland said. "I'm just saying let's move the signs to existing poles. I support bike lanes, and I think some bike advocates are misinterpreting me as anti-bike."

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