Today, the City of Memphis releases its Pedestrian and School Safety Action Plan, the result of an 18-month planning process focused on prioritizing and constructing pedestrian infrastructure near schools in Memphis. These projects will serve students walking to and from school, as well as residents accessing parks, libraries, community centers, transit stops, and other public resources often located near schools.
Following the successful creation of a program designed to financially assist low-income, disabled, or senior citizen homeowners with the repair of sidewalks in front of their homes, this plan is aligned with Mayor A C Wharton’s strategic priority to make Memphis a city of choice by creating safe and vibrant neighborhoods by providing safe alternatives for Memphis residents to travel around the city and focuses specifically on the needs of our most vulnerable pedestrians – children.
“Improving the sidewalks and street crossings for pedestrians is an endeavor that impacts all the residents of Memphis,” said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. “At the end of the day, we’re all pedestrians. The moment we get out of our cars to go in a store, take a walk to the park with our families, or step out of the office to grab lunch at the restaurant next door, we each expose ourselves to an environment that should be welcoming and safe. For the 20,000 children walking to and from school each day, this plan is the launch pad by which we create a safer world for the next generation of Memphis residents.”
The plan utilizes a number of data-driven measures to evaluate the existing conditions for pedestrians, predict the areas of highest pedestrian use, and develop a $200 million improvement list, phased over a twenty year period of time. How the city will fully fund the implementation of the plan remains a work in progress – likely a combination of grant, philanthropic, and capital funds. However, the city already has more than $3 million of pedestrian projects underway which, among others, will provide sidewalk improvements near Hanley and Dunbar Elementary Schools in Orange Mound and along Range Line Road in Frayser, and roadway crossing improvements near Trezevant High School in Frayser, Lester Elementary School in Binghampton, and Cherokee Elementary School in the Cherokee neighborhood, east of Lamar Ave.
“The City of Memphis has nearly 3,500 miles of sidewalks with a replacement value exceeding $1 billion,” said Memphis City Engineer John Cameron. “With a maintenance burden so vast, it has always been difficult to evaluate where the greatest need for sidewalk repair or sidewalk improvements were at any given time. What this plan allows us to do, for the first time, is strategically think about improvements for the next 20 years, where they’ll do the most good, and work to fund, implement, and evaluate those projects on an annual basis.”
While the prioritization of projects weighed heavily on proximity to schools and feedback from Shelby County Schools and principals and officials, the plan also took into account pedestrian counts and usage along routes, a historical crash analysis detailing the circumstances leading to pedestrian crashes in Memphis, proximity to other common pedestrian destinations like parks, community centers, libraries, and transit stops, as well as corridors that serve persons with disabilities.
“This plan is one of the most comprehensive pedestrian planning documents I’ve seen used across the country; both in its intended scope of impact and its breadth of analysis, “said Kyle Wagenschutz, Bicycle/Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Memphis. “Implementation of this plan will allow us to redefine the experience of being a pedestrian in Memphis. Just like we’ve changed the conversation for bicycling in Memphis, we have the ability to make this city a national example of how transforming the streets to be safer for pedestrians is good for our health, economies, and neighborhoods.”