Friday, June 26, 2009

On Herenton's Resignation, A.C. Wharton, and the Upcoming Mayoral Race

As news of Mayor Herenton's resignation settles in, we can begin to think about the future of our fair city in a new way.

Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton, likely to be a fierce contender in the emergency mayoral election to take place within the next 180 days, will be an important candidate to watch.

Where does he stand on cycling issues?

In March of 2008, Mayor Wharton commissioned seven committees to develop a sustainable agenda for Shelby County. "What does a sustainable Shelby County look like" the committees asked; "How do we go about creating a sustainable Shelby County?"

Taking seriously the idea that the bicycle fits neatly into a sustainably developed city, I began service as a member of the Traffic and Transportation committee.

This was the consensually agreed upon "goal" of the Transportation and Traffic committee:
We envision a transportation system that respects its impact on land use,
provides efficient and safe choices for users, and enhances and supports the
use of all transportation modes while educating the public on their benefits.
Our group distilled its "values" as such:
1. Mode Choice
(we envision) A transportation system that provides access to various forms of transportation (car, transit, bike, pedestrian, etc.) for individual’s daily trip needs.

2. Safety/Security
(We envision) A transportation network that provides a safe environment to its users and whereupon can be free of fear of violent action against them or their community.

3. Efficiency
(We envision) A transportation system that provides reasonable travel time and reliable service for both goods and individuals

4. Education
(We hope) To develop an information system that helps the public realize

a) the impacts of their transportation decisions;

b) the value and benefits of changing how they travel; c) how the development of residential, commercial and industrial land uses affects the transportation system, and d) to provide a clearinghouse for various transportation users and providers.

5. Land Use
(We hope) To encourage land use development practices that incorporates different forms of development (single and mixed use; residential, commercial, industrial), and a context sensitive transportation system which helps in creating livable communities.
Our committee then named seven long-term strategies for increasing the presence of our transportation values in Shelby County. Among them were to:
3. Create complete walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.

5. (and to) Improve/enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities a) ensuring that future development is walkable and b)
reknit the pedestrian network in existing developments.
Our short-term recommendations were to:
  • Educate bicyclist, pedestrians, and drivers on how to safely share the road.
  • Create (and) enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities:
  • Identify routes that can easily be striped for bicycle lanes.
  • Install “share the road” signs.
  • Integrate park and ride locations with transit and bicycle and pedestrian routes.
  • Create/enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities.
Which means to...
• Identify routes that can easily be striped for bicycle lanes.
• ensure dedicated funding through capital improvement program for the above identified routes.
• Install share the road signs.
  • Create a dedicated funding source for bicycle and pedestrian improvement.
It's also worth noting the committee's commitment to:
19. Reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per household per day /Reduce the number of trips and distant of trips taken by automobiles.

The committee also sustained a commitment to creating transportation that balanced efficiency with environmental stewardship:
29. (We hope) to Educate the public about the impact of transportation on the environment and the benefits of active living such as biking and walking.
Considering the Sustainable Shelby Initiative was finalized and completed just under a year ago, it may yet be difficult to gauge the project's effectiveness.

Still, I think the initiative is clearly committed to including bicycles as part of the county's sustainable policy.

In fact, rounding out the top ten recommendations for a Sustainable Shelby County is this:
Create/enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities to identify routes that can easily be stripped for bicycle lanes, ensure dedicated funding through capital improvement program for the above identified routes, and install “share the road” signs.

All told, Sustainable Shelby was a nice experiment in bringing to the same table for discussion very different people with very different priorities. While we haven't seen a dramatic increase in bicycle facilities this year, increasing bicycle infrastructure did make it into the top ten priorities for a Sustainable Shelby county. Perhaps for this reason, Memphis' Engineering Department recommended nearly a dozen routes be striped as bicycle facilities this past March.

I think A.C. will be a Mayor who support bikes, largely because he worked to secure the CSX Greenline, commissioned the Sustainable Shelby Project, and is a Mayor with the vision to see the ways in which increasing bicycling benefits both bicycle riders and the wider Memphis community.

It is also becoming clear that City Councilman Jim Strickland will be on the mayoral ticket--whether in the emergency race or in the official race in 2011. Councilman Strickland has been a a friend to cyclists, and frankly I'm confident he too would exercise good leadership in making Memphis a sustainable city that goes by bike.

For now, both Councilman Strickland and Mayor Wharton appear to be the most bike friendly candidates. Regardless of who wins, we ought to have the next mayor commuting to City Hall by bike....


  1. Since we're on the subject, what is known about Cohen and Herenton as far as bikes go?

  2. Notquitealibertarian:

    Steve Cohen is a wonderful congressional advocate. I asked him to join the bike caucus in March, which he did. I asked him to support the Complete Streets Act, and he ended up co-sponsoring the bill. I asked him to support the America Bikes agenda for the new transportation bill re-authorization, and he did that too. Cohen is a wonderful representative to Congress for Memphis bicyclists.

    Mayor Herenton appears to have no comment on record about bicycling. Thus, it can be read as a tacit lack of support for increased facilities.