Sooo… today was interesting. By the end of the day I was so jazzed up, I could barely contain myself. I ended the day at a dinner with my wife and friends. This is one of my longest posts. A bit of work. But let’s start from the beginning.
Pulling into the parking lot of Coffee Town I noticed a waiter carrying a large takeout plate to a car. Apparently someone ordered 15 breakfasts to go at 8:00 a.m. The line to get a coffee at Coffee Town was so long, I whispered to the waiter to get me my coffee on the side. A minute later I had my coffee. Cool. I also read a great article in the Commercial Appeal about iced coffee (printed paper), but I cannot find the article in the online version of the newspaper. Bummer. I wanted to post a copy here. We chatted a bit this morning and I was off to work. I was driving to work today in my vehicle. See I had this little meeting to attend this evening about bike lanes on Madison Avenue.
I left work a few minutes early and drove to Minglewood Hall. I was surprised and glad to see the entire parking lot was full of cars. Many bikes were parked outside as well. A good sign. Many of the presenters were neatly dressed. The crowd? Old, young, hippies, hipsters, men, women, cyclists, non-cyclists, and business owners were all in attendance. The crowd was a good size. Presented for all to see was a large map of Madison Ave.
I took many, many notes from the meeting. As many notes as I took, I wish I had recorded the meeting. My best notes were taken during the focus groups meeting.
So here is the Madison Ave. bike lane meeting at Minglewood Hall from my notes:
George Little from the city started the meeting. He introduced the speaker and those present for the meeting. The introductions were short and to the point.
The next speaker presented the audience with a slide show of ”where we were” or what has occurred in the past, & upcoming events (the plan for the next two meetings).
The next topic presented was the “Heart of the Arts” study (see it here) produced by LRK.
The speaker asked who commuted using Madison Ave. He then asked at what speed were attendee’s driving down Madison. 30, 40, 45 miles per hour?
The speaker pointed out that great streets evolve. These great streets use creative design when planning them. These great streets are functional to the people who use them daily. Motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. Complete streets? What is that term? (FYI- There were many terms used that I have never heard of during this meeting. The city of Memphis and maybe a newspaper or two or three need to educate the citizens of Memphis of this new vocabulary). Complete streets is a roadway used by pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, motorists, businesses and property owners. (or you can go here to see the definition at dictionary.com).
While working to improve Madison Ave., there is also the obstacle of overcoming the fear of change. (My thought on this topic; “Hey we’ve doing the same thing, the same way for 30 years. Why change?” “Well, the way you’re doing things is NOT working. If things were so good, you would see businesses booming on Madison Avenue. That is not the case. Madison Ave. is OKAY at best. The sidewalks need A LOT of improvement, it is difficult to bike on Madison Ave. The happening place to be is not necessarily Madison Ave. That is just my take on it.)
How many different points of interest are there for Madison Avenue? The next slide illustrated a grid, 8 by 6 points of interest of changing Madison Avenue. So yeah, many different idea’s are presented for Madison Avenue.
Options for Madison Avenue? 1) Four lane traffic 2) On street parking 3) Protected bike lanes.
At this point the “dancing guy at the Shell” spoke up. “Number Three”. (If you have been to a show or two at the Shell, you know who I am speaking of. He is the older gentleman in shorts and t-shirt that goes down to the front of the stage and jams to the groove. I am not making fun of him, that is just what he does. I would include his name, but I don’t know it. If anyone knows who I am speaking of, please let me know.)
The speaker invited everyone to participate in an online survey you can find here (www.madisonavenuememphis.com). (The survey is quick and easy, I just took the survey, now it’s your turn!)
What is the amount of traffic on Madison Ave? Glad you asked. There are traffic counters set up as of Monday to count the traffic. By the next meeting there should be hard numbers provided for the audience. No guesses, no “last year numbers”, this road usage data will be up to date. (Good idea guys).
The audience broke up into focus groups. I was in group #6. The three main topics to be discussed are 1) What will make Madison Ave. great. 2) How do we know it is successful 3) What topic are YOU most interested in?
Sooo…. I am in group #6. The speaker for the event was heading up my focus group. The first topic; What will make Madison Ave. great? Here is the list I compiled from the group. I am listing nearly every suggestion. (This is where I took good notes.)
More pedestrians for businesses. Bike Lanes. Develope empty property lots. Have property values rise. Wider sidewalks. Rain Guards. Historic Street Lighting (good one). More viable businesses. Slower Street Traffic. Some way to have people interact with the neighborhood instead of just driving through it. Landscaping – more trees. Fewer curb cuts- more consistent sidewalks. Narrower Streets. Artistic Designs at intersections (My suggestion. Everything doesn’t have to be grey. Try something INTERESTING!) Button Parks (a new term for me) – small public spaces (sounds like a very cool idea!) Benches (good one) More people, Better mass transit (uh… hire ANY other company to do mass transit better. ANYTHING is better than what is available now. Have you checked the website with the VERY old information presented?) Edible landscaping (interesting) Branding for the corridor, Safety, Police Bike Patrol (good idea, it would certainly make locals and tourists more comfortable) Preserve Granite Curbs, Pedestrian Connectivity, Outdoor seating and dining (great idea) A public space that is vibrant, Arts and culture, Help existing businesses.
And here is where the focus group became VERY interesting. Apparently the gentleman sitting next to me was a leading business owner against the two lane traffic plan. He said aloud, “I am not against bike lanes, but please do not make Madison Avenue two lane traffic”. A much younger member of the group then said “What if you cut the traffic lanes down, but keep the same or increase the amount of PERSONS travelling on Madison?” That didn’t seem to help much. The older man was convinced that less vehicle traffic on Madison would decrease business on Madison. (And here are my thoughts. When I was riding my bike on Madison a few weeks ago, I stopped in at three different business locations on Madison. I spent money. If I were driving down Madison Avenue, I would have gone to one business location. Why? I am there at that time, I am riding my bike so I am not in a hurry, I might as well spend money at a business that I am driving so slowly by. I am not going to bike all the way home, then think “Hey, I should ride back to the business for this or that. I am here NOW, might as well buy something since it is right here”.)
The 4 traffic lane gentleman did say that he would give up on street parking to keep Madison to 4 lanes of traffic. This is where I said my two cents. “So we are not saying the ENTIRE street of Madison would be two lanes? Some of the street could be four lanes, some could be three lanes and some parts of the street could be two lanes, correct?” Yes. There could be many variations of the street lanes for Madison Avenue.
The next topic was “Success is measured by?” The suggestions were:
Keep Madison Authentic (Try not to look like some other city) Track sales tax to see if the neighborhood succeeded, If more businesses are created, If locals take family / tourists to Madison Ave (my suggestion) If Madison Ave becomes a destination site (or it becomes a social space) If a Madison Ave Festival is created, Madison Ave, is recognized as leading the way nationally, The plan becomes reality, Increased arts projects, Reduced pedestrian / bike accidents, Citizens can walk to get most of anything they need.
Wrapping up, the speaker asked what everyone wanted the most on Madison Ave. The answers are:
More people on Madison Shopping and Living, Utilizing the Federal Money Available now, Slower Traffic, Bike Lanes, Four lanes of traffic, The street more accessible to the handicap, A hot area to go to (thriving community) Connect to the Greenline, Fill In (an area that has everything that the neighborhood needs; bookstore, coffee shop, dry cleaner, ect).
That pretty much wrapped the meeting up. The meeting lasted until 7:00 p.m. I really enjoyed attending the meeting. My expectations were that it would be two opposing sides sparring the entire time. That is not what happened. The meeting was a group of people getting together and stating what they wanted to see occur in their community. As the speaker said, “You may not get 100% of what you want, but you may get 80% of what you want.” Fair enough for me.
Please attend the next meeting. You will really find it interesting. Remember, if you do not participate, do not complain about the outcome. Also, please make sure to take the survey online.
It is now late Wednesday and I have to wake up early. I haven’t even had my nightly adult beverage yet. So get outside Midtown, voice your opinions, drink lots of coffee, and live your life to the loudest. Preferably on ELEVEN. “These go to eleven”. (Or see it here on Youtube)