MDN: Editorial: The New Map of Memphis

MDN: Editorial: The New Map of Memphis

It’s time for a map of Memphis that includes more than highways and vehicular roads.

The Memphis area has reached enough critical mass with bike lanes, greenways, greenlines and similar features that it is time to put that network on a map and put the streets in the background.

We aren’t saying bicycles have conquered cars in the land of Nonconnah-bahn and the home of Poplar Avenue’s tight lanes. But there is enough of an alternative infrastructure in place for Memphians to use, in part or as a whole, to make their way around the city – and more infrastructure is still forming.

In short, Memphis is becoming more than what is next to a road.

Bike sharing is a part of that infrastructure, an ambitious part set to include 600 bikes at 60 stations within the interstate loop. The connections among all of the different efforts from the Shelby Farms Greenline to the Wolf River Greenway are becoming of critical importance.

Talk to anyone who rides, or wants to ride, on a regular basis about what exists and it quickly becomes a conversation about how to connect with different elements. That includes bridging gaps in the existing city bus system.

The Mid-South Regional Greenprint effort has a downloadable “trail corridor handbook” that covers a 695-mile network – in place and planned – comprised of 499 miles of greenway trails in 58 corridors and 196 miles of on-road connectors.

So much is going on that you could easily background what’s not part of it and focus just on this.

Add in elements like the TransLoc Rider app – which plots out an optimal route using a combination of MATA public transportation, Uber ridesharing and walking – and you have something complex enough that it goes beyond the definition of a map.

It’s a way to mix and match transportation options – another grid that connects the area’s green spaces of all kinds to one another.

All of this is a challenge to the Memphis orthodoxy of going only where cars and paved roads take us. This compelling mixture makes Memphis denser and richer, and it better reflects the reality of a city that is a combination of the modern and the eternal.

The challenge is our hang-up about who would use a bike-share system and any of the other elements of this new Memphis grid.

This is a hang-up that makes a bicycle a symbol of some kind of class struggle or a frivolous priority.

To be clear, bicycles and more accommodations for them do not relieve anyone in civic leadership of the necessity of acting to close the gaps in income and opportunity that have existed in Memphis for too long.

Bicycles aren’t a way to jump the gap. Not even close.

They are a way to begin to see the city differently and a small start toward a different view of Memphis that follows through on the changing map of where some of us have to live and where some of us want to live.

MDN: Editorial: The New Map of Memphis

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