One Step Closer: Walker Ave. Traffic Calming Project

A signing and paving marking plan found in the draft construction drawings of the Walker Avenue Traffic Calming Project.

In 2018, the City of Memphis and The Works, Inc. tested a demonstration project along Walker Avenue in South Memphis to provide temporary examples of safety improvements for all users of the street. The goal of the project was to give the community and residents the chance to experience the proposed project before permanent installment. The prototype allowed both the City and community to discover the best traffic and safety developments needed to create a safer, more attractive, and livable street.

Traffic circles are designed to help slow down vehicles through intersections. They promote a continuous flow of traffic and are considered safer than traffic lights and stop signs.

The Walker Ave. Traffic Calming project began two and a half years ago, when residents complained of excessive speeding along the street and perceived dangerous conditions. After conducting analysis on the street, the City determined Walker Ave. would be a suitable testing ground for novel designs that calm traffic and improve safety. Data revealed a recent history of crashes, and showed some drivers traveling up to 60 MPH on this residential street. The following image shows reported collisions spanning a year and a half on Walker Ave. (Third St. to Mississippi St.). Thanks to the Big Jump project – which selected Memphis as one of 10 cities in the country to deliver safer streets in targeted areas – resources were available to respond to these trends with the demonstration project.

Map of Walker Ave. depicting reported collisions from 2016 through the middle of 2018.

Walker Avenue from South Third St. to Mississippi Boulevard has a high number of children-centric activities and land uses, such Ida B. Wells Academy and Knowledge Quest. The addition of traffic calming methods such as high-visibility crosswalks and traffic circles will reduce car speeds and provide a safer environment for people walking along the street, especially young residents.

Current road conditions on Walker Avenue displaying faded street markings.

A speed analysis before and during the Demonstration Project was conducted. The project involved the installment of a temporary traffic circle, pinch points, and the addition of educational signs.

A temporary pinch-point that depicts an imaginary curb extending into the travel lanes, forcing traffic to slow down.

Before the installation of the traffic calming obstacles, the average speed on Walker Ave. was 29 MPH. During the project, however, car speeds were reduced to 23 MPH. It is important to note that before the project began, 28 cars were recorded travelling speeds greater than 45 MPH, whereas during the experiment only 4 cars were recorded travelling over 45 MPH.

The speed analysis, input from residents, and other important data obtained from this demonstration is the reason why the City is confident the permanent redesign of Walker Ave. will encourage safe behavior and improve the interaction of multiple modes of travel.

What Is the City of Memphis Proposing and When?

On February 4, 2019, the City held a public meeting at Ida B. Wells Academy to discuss the permanent proposed improvements with the community in hopes of gaining feedback from the temporary experiments before moving forward with the project.

Ida B. Wells Academy Elementary/Middle School, located at the intersection of Walker Avenue and South Lauderdale Street.

The City will redesign Walker Ave. (from Third St. to Mississippi St.) with permanent slow shoulders, bump-outs at up to eight intersections, a traffic circle at Wellington St., and high-visibility crosswalks. In addition, pinch-points and landscaping are currently under consideration.

Intersection design on Walker Avenue depicting the use of high-visibility sidewalks, a new curb design and sign placements.

The next step in the Walker Avenue project is to complete the construction documents, which should be complete by the summer of 2020. Citizens can expect to see the process of re-paving and installation of slow shoulders begin anytime from July 2020 through June 2021. By the time March 2021 rolls around, construction of traffic calming improvements should begin and will continue until June the same year. It is important to note the traffic calming improvements are dependent on securing sufficient funding. A grant awarded to The Works, Inc. from the Kresge Foundation will assist in part with the project’s construction budget.

Be sure to keep an eye out for updates on the Walker Avenue project as it progresses over the year. To catch up on other interesting events happening with Bike/Ped Memphis, click here.

Welcome to the Team, Jessica!

Last week we heard from Sharon Moore, who is interning with the City’s Bikeway & Pedestrian Program over the semester. This week we’re pleased to offer a self-introduction from another new staff member in the office. Jessica Buttermore’s position is Bikeway & Pedestrian Program Technician. When it comes to active transportation, she talks the talk, and walks the walk. Literally. Welcome aboard, Jessica!

Hello, Jessica Buttermore here, the newest member of the City of Memphis Bike/Ped team.

I am arriving to the Bikeway & Pedestrian Program from the University of Memphis School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy and their Department of City and Regional Planning. I received a Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP) from that department in 2011 and stayed on as an employee, first as the Administrative Associate and later, as a Research Associate for the University of Memphis Design Collaborative (UMDC). I have spent most of my life in Memphis and much of my time here has been spent car-free, at times by choice and others by force.

My initial attempts to get around Memphis without a car were inspired by the weight of stress and anxiety I experienced trying to find a place to store my car at the University of Memphis (UofM) main campus when I was an undergrad. I had ridden my bike to school as a child and figured that I could at least try it out as an adult. At the least, I would not have to stress out about where to store a car while I sat in class.

While commuting by bicycling presented new sets of challenges, I found that overall, I appreciated it as an opportunity to feel more engaged with what is a typically grueling ritual, more aware of some of the conditions of the city I called home, more confident in my ability to manage my time, and more relaxed in the ways I was processing my thoughts. I guess in a way, it provided an opportunity to better understand myself and the varying dynamics of place.

In the time since that initial attempt to avoid the stress of storing a car/get around without a car, I have owned several other cars. Some for a period of months, and one, for a period of years. With each of these, I found a repetition of the same pattern: save money, spend saved money to purchase car, surpass the purchase amount on repair costs, etc. When the last car I purchased became too costly to repair, I looked hard at this repetition of what I was finding to be an unsustainable pattern and I thoroughly weighed all the pros and cons.

I was fortunate enough to: live and work in an area with decent access to transit, have access to a functioning bicycle that I felt confident in my ability to operate, have full mobility of my physical person; and have some flexibility and acceptance within my workplace. Things not all individuals without access to a vehicle have. I am not ignorant to the fact that I have been afforded these choice and fortunes due to the relative amount of privilege I have because of my identities and, as a planner, I see potential in the field to facilitate equitable outcomes for the diversity of individuals that make up our cities and regions.

As the newest member of the City of Memphis Bike/Ped team, I am excited for this opportunity to facilitate more equitable outcomes for Memphians through transportation projects that deliver safer access to our complex city.