Monday, April 16, 2012

Signs of Change

It was good to be wrong.

I didn't think Mayor Wharton would make the decision to put in dedicated bicycle lanes between Cooper and Cleveland.  Or at least all the way.  There was no major player pushing it, only a lot of citizens and community organizations.  And while the opposition was relatively small and individually muted, together it had made a big media splash, successfully positioned itself as "business" and counted Wharton supporters the Boggs family among its numbers.  I cynically figured there was no way that the Mayor wasn't going to look for a compromise, as he had on Cooper when he rejected protected bike lanes at the prodding of some Cooper-Young business owners.

Cynicism sucks and I'm glad to have mine sucker punched by the Mayor's decision.  Without the easy cover of the support of a bigwig, the Mayor didn't compromise -- he listened to his Bicycle and Pedestrian coordinator and the many citizens and businesses who had supported it, and re-striped Madison with dedicated bike lanes.  Perhaps it's too much to to call the decision by a Memphis leader to ignore a narrow and antiquated vision of business historic, so I'll just say the decision was great.

The decision was great 6 months ago when the striping began, but now it's been proven even greater now because of something that wasn't mentioned by anybody during the debate, at least directly.

The transformation that's resulted from cars parking on Madison in the new parking spaces.

The extra spaces were definitely part of the give and take of the process, but now that people are using them, not only bicyclists but people walking back and forth to their cars are energizing the street.  Plus Madison lined with cars makes it obvious to anyone randomly driving down the street that something is happening here.  Madison hasn't had that consistent visual cue until now.

The change most pronounced in Overton Square where the street parking has re-energized the district's street without Bob Loeb having to do anything.

I believe that the next Madison location that would benefit is the cluster of businesses and restaurants at Madison and Belvedere.  So the next time you have to drive to Zinnie's or the Lamplighter or Audiomania, park across the street and seed the energy.


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