Thursday, October 21, 2010

Southern Avenue Bike Lane: Update

The Southern Avenue bike lane is moving towards completion.
At the intersection of Perkins Extended and Southern--on the far eastern end of the road improvement--the roadway has been primed for repaving.  Because the process of re-paving requires a "scouring" of the the street, the roadway becomes pretty rough before it's repaved.  But it's a small price to pay for the super smooth asphalt that follows. 
(This stretch of rough asphalt currently stretches from Goodlett to Perkins on Southern.  By the end of next week, most of Southern between Cooper St and Perkins should have new asphalt.)
Heading westbound on Southern this morning, we found the street closed for re-paving beginning at Goodlett.   Most of Southern between Patterson and Goodlett has been repaved. 
Paving crews are putting on the finishing touches today.   
Pedestrians will notice that along most of Southern, the City of Memphis has completed "curb cuts."  The curb cuts are just as they sound: they are areas where concrete has been cut out of the curb at street crossings to provide handicap accessibility on the sidewalk.  
(A curb cut near the repaving zone at Goodlett and Southern)
 Near the  University of Memphis, where today the street was closed between Patterson and Goodlett,  re-paving crews were hard at work. 
Heading west from Perkins, repaving along Southern Avenue will end at the intersection of S. Highland and Southern Avenue. 
Readers will remember from our last blog entry that Southern will not receive new pavement between S. Highland and Semmes during this fiscal year's repaving cycle.  The City of Memphis hopes this stretch of Southern will be re-surfaced during fiscal year 2012.   
(The intersection of southern and Prescott is within the .8 mile stretch of Southern that will not be repaved this year)

Beginning at Semmes heading west, bicycle riders will enjoy smooth sailing all the way to S. Cooper St.  New pavement has been poured and smoothed.  Best of all, the beginnings of a bike lane are now striped on the road.  
The bike lane actually begins at Goodwyn, one block west of Semmes.   This bike lane is part of Mayor A.C. Wharton's 2010-2011 Bicycle Facilities Program, which began with striping bicycle lanes on Horn Lake Road in July of this year. 
Here's a shaky and hazy but continuous video of the bike lane from Goodwyn to Cooper.

Note that "bicycle lane" signs have not been erected by the side of the road and bicycle emblems have not been installed inside the bike lane.  These features should be done, along with crosswalks on the newly repaved Southern Avenue, within the next week or two.  We'll keep you up to date.

Once again, thank you for helping make this bicycle lane a reality.  Advocacy works.


  1. This is a great status update; thank you! I hope the administration realizes how important it will be to make sure these lanes are swept "early and often!"

  2. I am thrilled about the bike lane. However, driving this stretch of road yesterday made me wonder about the crazy width of the driving lanes. What is the standard lane width and what is the width of the driving lanes on Southern? The bike lanes disappear at Josephine because the street narrows. However, it looks like there could be room in that stretch for bike lanes if the traffic lanes and turning lane were not so wide.

  3. @Barry: my understanding is that all roads with bicycle facilities will now be swept 4 times annually. That is 3 times more than roads are currently swept.

    @toltecs: You are absolutely right. The street is wide enough at Josephine to have the bike lanes, however because the Traffic Engineer at the City of Memphis Engineering Division has set a personal minimum standard of 12 ft. for travel lanes and turn lanes, the bike lanes are dropped out in locations where these wider lanes would prohibit at least a 4' bike lane. This 12' travel/turn lane preference is not a rule, it is the preference of the City Traffic Engineer.

    International standards for allowing two fire trucks to pass at the same time in two opposing travel lanes is 20'-- meaning two 10' travel lanes are acceptable.

    Additionally, all of the intersections will require treatments along Southern at some point in the future, but currently federal design standards prohibit any bike lane treatment through intersections. Cities around the United States are successfully requesting intersection treatments from the Federal Highway Administration, but here in Memphis this work will likely be a separate project targeting many of the bike lanes developed in the coming years.

  4. Thanks, LM. Another issue that appears to be a result of this arbitrary choice of 12 ft. travel lanes is the loss of street parking on Southern between Patterson and Normal. Again, it appears that the street is wide enough through this section to accommodate parking on one side of the street, two bike lanes and two travel lanes.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know the width of the travel lanes on Poplar near Mendenhall, for instance? It would seem they are more narrow than 12 ft.

  5. I saw a street sweeper on Southern this morning cleaning the bicycle lanes.