Friday, August 29, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
From today's Commercial Appeal
'Greenline' is closer to reality with nonprofit, rail agreement
By Tom Charlier
Monday, August 25, 2008
In a possible first step toward developing a long-sought hiking and biking trail through much of Memphis, a nonprofit group says it has reached a preliminary agreement to acquire part of an idle railroad corridor on behalf of Shelby County.
Under the deal, Memphis Community Connector Inc. will pay CSX Transportation $5 million for rights to a 100-foot-wide strip of land extending from just north of Shelby Farms westward to near the Poplar and Union viaduct. The purchase would take in the western half of a 13.34-mile CSX rail corridor that extends east almost to Houston Levee Road.
Using funds donated by anonymous individuals and foundations, the nonprofit would buy the land and turn it over "straight to the county," said Charles F. Newman, a lawyer for Memphis Community Connector.
Final details must be resolved before a purchase agreement is signed, but many of the terms have been worked out, Newman said. The acquisition would clear the way for the county to begin work on a "greenline" park containing a multi-use trail.
"We've been working on this for over a year. It's been a difficult negotiation," Newman said. "Obviously, we're pleased to have reached this point."
Efforts to contact officials at Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX since late Friday have been unsuccessful.
But county officials, who along with city leaders have been seeking to buy the railroad right-of-way for some five years, hailed the progress.
"This is a significant step forward in connecting our neighborhoods in a way that has not been possible in the past," County Mayor AC Wharton said in a prepared statement.
"This segment is a critical piece in our trail system plan, linking communities in the core city to Shelby Farms and areas beyond."
Andy Cates, founder and board chairman for Memphis Community Connector, called the tentative agreement a "very important milestone" in the development of an amenity that will greatly enhance opportunities local residents have for recreation and fitness activities.
The breakthrough comes two years after city and county officials broke off negotiations with CSX because the railroad had been seeking up to $17.8 million for the entire 13.34-mile corridor.
The acquisition will be made under the Rails-to-Trails provisions of the National Trails Act. It permits the county to construct and operate a trail system on the property while maintaining CSX Transportation's rights as the underlying owner, recognizing the possibility, however slight, that rail service could someday be restored.
Nationwide, some 15,000 miles of Rail-to-Trails projects have been established.
As for a timetable on the final purchase and the beginning of work on the greenline, Newman said, "It's very difficult to predict."
The rail corridor dates back to at least 1916, but by the late-1990s it was used little. In 2003, CSX received federal authorization to discontinue service on the line, and in recent weeks it has been removing the rail and cross-ties.
The line still has not been formally declared abandoned by the federal Surface Transportation Board. But the board has granted the nonprofit, the county and CSX an extension on certain legal deadlines to allow for more time to negotiate details.
Although they eventually want to acquire the eastern half of the corridor as well, officials with the non-profit say they'll first concentrate on completing the purchase and development of the western portion.
-- Tom Charlier: 529-2572
Friday, August 22, 2008
It’s about 9 am Thursday, August 21. I am cycling to work down Germantown Road as I have safely done daily for four years. The traffic light is red for the southbound traffic at the Trinity intersection. I am stopped in the outside lane (next to the right-turn only lane) when the light turns green. (I ride in the shoulder of Germantown Parkway where there is one. Otherwise, I am within 3 feet of the lane edge.) There are no cars behind me. A lane over, a scruffy looking guy in a plain gray car rolls down his window and shouts “Get off the road.” This happens occasionally, so I shout “No” as I ride off, signaling that I am merging into the new outside lane formed at that intersection.
Suddenly, the plain gray car starts flashing his police lights and sounding his siren as he pulls behind me. It’s an un-marked sheriff’s car. I stop in the driveway of Wal-mart and Target. He gets out of his car, slips on his lanyard with a star and asks, “What did you say?” I admitted that I said “No”. “You don’t tell an officer no in the line of duty,” he says. I apologized and admitted that I was wrong to do so.
He says that I can’t ride on Germantown Parkway. He asks, “How long have you lived in Memphis?” I told him that I have lived here for the last 27 years, as if that mattered. “You can’t ride on the road. You don’t have a tag and registration. You’re impeding traffic.” I explained that traffic is impeded if there are four cars behind a slow moving vehicle, and they have no safe way to pass. I carry a copy of T.C.A. 55-8-171 to 174 and I offered to show these to him.
“I don’t come into your office telling you how to do your job, don’t tell me how to do my job. I don’t want to see the law. You can’t ride on the road. Your bike has to be registered. Consider this a warning. If I see you on the road again I’ll give you a citation. If your still riding on the road, I’ll throw you in jail.”
Unfortunately, I was so rattled that I failed to get the officer’s name or badge number. I had no way to know he was a police officer being scruffy sitting in an unmarked car a lane away. I am shocked how ignorant of the law he was, unwilling to see the law. He was more upset that I said “no” to someone who looked like a day laborer.
I am e-mailing you to publicize this mis-treatment and ignorance by an officer of the law.
Cliff's comments: Who trains these sheriffs? "You can’t ride on the road. You don’t have a tag and registration. You’re impeding traffic. Bikes have to be registered” These are all wrong, legally. I wish the officer had given the cyclist a citation-- my guess is he didn't get a citation because the officer knew it would not hold up. What a bozo.
Friday, August 15, 2008
- The University of Southern Mississippi will begin an initiative this fall to encourage bike riding on campus.
The bicycle loan program's aim is offer a more eco-friendly mode of transportation and encourage exercise. Under the program, bicycles are provided for faculty, staff and students to use, then they leave the bikes behind for the next rider.
The bicycles will be painted the same, bright color for easy identification.
USM President Martha Saunders said a similar program was implemented at her previous institution, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
First off, I hope each of you are enjoying this beautiful morning while still managing to stay cool. The dog days of summer are upon us, but thankfully, this summer has been relatively mild and the cycling has been wonderful. Looks like we have a month of heat ahead of us before the cool autumn days make their appearance. Cycling at night with lights or in the early morning is a great alternative to the heat.
I am writing today to report on a meeting Nate Ferguson and I had with City Councilman Jim Strickland and City Engineers John Cameron and Wain Gaskins this past Friday. The topic for the meeting was making Cooper Young into Memphis' first bike friendly neighborhood, but as expected, the vision and scope of the meeting expanded to include planning for bicycles all over Memphis. I had brought with me the "Chicago Bicycle Design Guide," a city planning resource that the city of Chicago had put together to guide road planning for the inclusion of bicycles. It is a very thorough manual, and I thought it to be a wonderful resource for us in Memphis. Turns out, the engineers had already begun work on a Memphis design guide. They are in the final stages of development for the guide, and as soon as I see it I will send it to you all.
Instead of talking specifically about Cooper Young, which they agreed would be a great place to start striping bike lanes in Cooper Young, and which they also agreed to begin looking seriously at in the next couple months, we talked about making standards for the city and implementing these standards on every newly paved old road and every newly constructed road county wide. The engineers thought this was a good idea, and encouraged us to pursue ratification of such a standard in the new Unified Development Code which is in the works right now. I think we might get that through, and there are a number of people working on this code who might be able to help. If we can ask that all newly paved roads be required to have some sort of bike facility (if they are not too busy or too fast--think Poplar or Union) based on the new Memphis bike design guide, we will see an incredible number of bike facilities all over Memphis. Not just bike lanes, but sign shared roadways, marked wide outside shoulders, and other safety provisions.
The engineers said they have considered creating a bicycle advisory committee to the city engineering department, which I offered to help assmeble and be a part of. This would provide very close oversight of road development in the city for cyclists, and would guarantee that cyclists have an active role in the planning of city streets. Councilman Jim Strickland asked that the enigneers stay in contact with us so that we can continue our work together. On the whole, this meeting was an excellent start to an ongoing dialogue between bicyclists and city planners. This was an unprecedented meeting of minds in Memphis, and we hope it is the beginning of a new form of planning in the city.
Finally, this weekend Revolutions will host the last of six classes on bicycling. The class is called "Advocating for Safer Streets," and will provide a summary of the last five years of advocacy work for bikes in Memphis, give a synopsis of where we are today, toss out a few ideas for the future, finally offering practical strategies for making the streets of tomorrow a reality today. Class starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday and will run til noon. Please RSVP in advance, as there is limited space.
Many of you have seen the improvements going on at Revolutions. If you haven't please stop by and pick up a paint brush, or, just hang out and check out the space. It's an exciting time for bicycling in Memphis!
I hope to see some of you in the shop soon!
First Congregational Church UCC
Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop
1000 S. Cooper St.
Memphis, TN, 38104