I love Memphis! If you have made it to the Make Memphis! blog then, chances are, you are a fan too. Despite my absolute love of our city, I see its faults. We have public transportation issues; completely run down areas of town; higher-than average crime. Many small businesses struggle day to day trying to compete with large corporate businesses. Much of Memphis and the surrounding suburbs seem very resistant to change. These issues manifest themselves in various ways that end up causing problems and create unrest with individuals, but what can an individual do? Many chalk it up to the sentiment “It’s just the way it is…”
Stop that apathetic sentiment. Right now. There is an easy solution that helps all of these problems.
Bike lanes. …and, like, actually using them.
Over the years, I have spent more than my share of time being without a vehicle. When I lived in Seattle or San Francisco, it was not an issue, in fact, it was more convenient to be without a vehicle. I moved back home to Memphis to be welcomed with the general feeling that if you do not have a car, you are S.O.L. or better have a friend that you can ride with…often.
Since Memphis is so spread out, walking takes forever. The bike options are getting better, but still not completely safe for fear of the typical ignorant motorist or the straight up road waste that can cause flats, which is a shame. One of the best ways to improve much of our community is to get out and go for a walk or, better yet, set out on two wheels.
The impacts of slowing down from the speeds of your car is immense. You actually see what is going on in your neighborhood. In your car, you get used to seeing the world around as a blur. When you walk to the store, the lines between housing and commercial real estate can be pretty gross; broken side walks, lots with litter strewn about, bad landscaping, boring buildings that need to be torn down or fixed up, or places that could use a big, colorful mural to brighten up a corner of your neighborhood.
These are the effects of urbanization. Neighborhoods around Cooper-Young, South Main, or Overton Square get it. Kudos to you! However, we need to get our outlier neighborhoods to get it. I’m looking at you South Memphis, North Memphis and most of all, the Shelby County suburbs of Raleigh, Bartlett, Cordova, Germantown and Collierville.
Somehow the more conservative outliers seem to have the impression that bike lanes and non-automotive transportation is a hipster, liberal, juvenile, granola agenda aimed at slowing down traffic. This is such a naive way of looking it. Bicycle lanes improve a neighborhood by boosting tourism, helps out community events, creates the awareness for urban redevelopment and community improvement. Community development makes an area look nicer, which in turn drives up public safety. But here is how you get your more conservative neighbors to understand why these are important to them – bike lanes:
- improve property values
- create jobs
- creates new investments in small businesses along the route
- boosts general consumer spending
- lowers crime
Are these not bottom line arguments in almost every modern election?!
Especially in the more mall oriented areas, we could use the community to come together a little bit more to make it a *Memphis* neighborhood, and not just a spot where large corporations sell things. Head out to Wolfchase on foot or Hacks Cross or Carriage Crossing. Look around? Do these establishments really represent anything about being a city in Tennessee? How are the smaller businesses doing? When you are slowed down on human powered transportation, you may stop at a local cafe you have never noticed before for a snack, which helps the small businesses to survive in a “corporation heavy” part of town. Not to say all corporations are bad, I would just rather money stay in Memphis rather than back to Bentonville, AR or China.
So the next time you have to make a trip to the store, throw on a backpack to stash some water and a place to stow items you buy, hop on your bike an spend 10-15 minutes to get there. You are going to save on gas, get some exercise, and you are going to really “see” your community which is far more valuable that you realize. Also, since you’ve exercised all the way to the store, treat yourself to some ice cream. You’ve earned it, for being a great citizen of your community.
P.S. Please share this to the suburbs. Let’s connect our neighborhoods so the entire area can benefit, not just a few choice neighborhoods in this great city of ours.
Jane Haze is a stand up comic, 3rd year electrical engineering student at Christian Brothers University, literal cross-country adventure cyclist, world traveller, and born Memphian. She accepts payment in the form of large unmarked bills or Jack Pirtle’s chicken livers and gravy.
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