Navigating Riverside Drive By Bike Or On Foot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecent changes to Riverside Drive have created a new, one-mile stretch of riverfront property dedicated for use by anyone riding a bike, walking, running, and any other form of active transportation (Check out a map here). The two westernmost travel lanes have been re-purposed as dedicated space for non-motorized roadway users. The design of this new space is guided by the principals of all City of Memphis Green Lanes where physical separation between moving bicycles and moving automobiles (and, in this case, pedestrians too) creates an environment where riding a bicycle is less stressful and more appealing. On Riverside Drive, the physical separation comes from the presence of the landscaped median – all the cars on one side of the median, bicycles and pedestrians on the other.

Modeled after pilot projects conducted along Broad Avenue, Cleveland Street, and Mississippi Boulevard, the Riverside Drive pilot is meant to serve as a living laboratory, where changes to the operations of a street can be tested, measured, and refined so that when it comes time to spend money repaving or rebuilding the street, the end result is a street that works well for all the roadway uses, not just those choosing to drive (read more about this approach here). The pilot project along Riverside Drive will last approximately 12-18 months while impacts to traffic volumes, speeds, crashes, and other factors along Riverside and other parallel roads, like Front St., are measured and discussed publicly. Because this is only a pilot project,the extent of changes only occur between Georgia Ave. and Beale St. The ultimate discussion of how to change Riverside will include the entire stretch of the roadway between I-55 and I-40.

While the pavement marking and signs should make the new configuration more intuitive, here are some interesting features worth noting to make your ride, walk, and jog along the Mississippi River more enjoyable and safe.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStriping has been added to the roadway to indicate where (and in which direction) a bicycle should be ridden separately from all other types of activities like walking or rollerskating. The arrows indicate which direction you should be traveling while riding your bike and is further accentuated by a bicycle pavement marking. To avoid potential conflicts, other users should refrain from entering the bicycle space. The good news is that, unlike many other shared-use pathways there is plenty of space left on the roadway for a variety of activities. Running, walking, rollerskating, skateboarding, picnicking, sitting, and sidewalk chalk art are all great examples of what can occur in this space. Just be mindful of each other while enjoying your time playing in the street.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are four points along the corridor where automobiles are allowed to cross the bicycle and pedestrian pathways in order to access the driveways and parking lots for Beale Street Landing and Tom Lee Park. At each of these points, the bicycle and pedestrian pathways are extensively marked to raise the awareness of these potential conflict points. The pedestrian pathway is marked with a white, high-visibility crosswalk – just like you would expect at any trail crossing in the city. The bicycle pathway is marked with green paint, the universal symbol for a dedicated bicycle crossing. This is where the term “green lanes” comes from. It is important to remember that these symbols are put in place to alert both drivers of cars and pathway users of the potential conflict zones. Signs, in accordance with city ordinance, indicate that drivers of cars should yield the right-of-way to person using the bicycle and pedestrian pathways. However, all users should remain cautious at these points and watch out for one another.


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At Beale Street Landing the configuration of the new bicycle and pedestrian pathway changes slightly. Instead of having dedicated space for bicycles and pedestrians, the pedestrian space moves out of the roadway and utilizes the sidewalks and pathways surrounding BSL. The reason for this alteration stems from the need to keep access in place for those patrons and services needed at BSL due to the frequent docking of passenger riverboats at the new boat ramp. At this location, local access is granted to BSL in the space designated for pedestrian use further south of BSL. Here, a buffer area is created that further separates the moving cars from the two-way bicycle pathway. This separation is further accentuated by the placement of flexible delineator posts. At BSL, there are two points where moving bicycle traffic and automobile traffic would conflict. Like previously mentioned, each of these conflict zones is marked with green paint indicating an increased sense of awareness is necessary. Also, at each conflict point, moving bicycles have the right-of-way and automobiles are required to yield or stop before crossing the bicycle pathway.


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At Georgia Ave., part of the landscaped median was removed in order to create a left turn for automobiles accessing Georgia from Riverside Drive. At this point a painted buffer is drawn on the street and, accentuated with flexible delineator posts, provides a visual separation between moving bicycles and moving cars.


If you are traveling north, you may enter the protected bicycle pathway from any approach – 1) using the curb ramp on the west side of the street, sidewalk access is granted directly to the beginning of the protected bicycle pathway, 2) from Georgia Ave. you may enter the protected bicycle pathway by using the high-visibility crosswalk located at the intersection; wait for traffic to clear before crossing, or 3) you can enter Ashburn-Coppock Park by way of the parking lot at this location. About half-way down the river bluff using the park trails a new curb ramp access has been created that allows both pedestrians and anyone riding a bicycle to enter and exit the protected bicycle and pedestrian pathways along Riverside Dr.


If you are traveling south, you may exit the protected bicycle and pedestrian pathway by – 1)bicycles only may continue along a buffered bike lane up to Channel 3 Drive, the future foot of the Big River Crossing bridge project or 2) bicycles or pedestrians may exit the protected bicycle and pedestrian pathway by accessing the curb ramp at the intersection of Georgia Ave. and Riverside Dr. and either use the sidewalks on the west side of the street or cross the street using the high-visibility crosswalk in order to travel eastward along Georgia Ave.


IMG_2113While the ultimate desire is to create continuous access for bicycle and pedestrian along Riverside Drive, the restraints of the pilot project cause the bicycle and pedestrian pathways to terminate on the northern end at Beale St. At this point, there are some unique features that help facilitate safe entry and exit to the protected pathway. For traveling north or south from Beale St., anyone not using a bicycle should be using the off-street sidewalks and pathways adjacent to Beale Street Landing at this point. There are no dedicated facilities here except for those individuals using a bicycle. Crossing the street here should be done using the existing sidewalks, curb ramps, and pedestrian signals.

BealeRiversideSouthIf you are riding a bicycle and traveling south, you may enter the protected bicycle pathway from any approach – 1)using the off-street sidewalk you can enter the cycle track with the curb ramp located at Beale St., 2) from Riverside Drive you may enter the protected bicycle pathway by leaving the automobile travel lane and merging right – directly into the protected bicycle pathway, or 3) from Beale St. you may make a left hand turn with the traffic signal directly into the protected bicycle pathway.

BealeRiversideNorthIf you are riding a bicycle and traveling north, you may exit the protected bicycle pathway using two methods – 1) if you wish to continue traveling north along Riverside Drive you must use the curb ramp on your left to access the off-street sidewalk pathways along the Cobblestone area, or 2) use the right turn queue box to wait for the traffic signal to change and cross onto Beale St. It is ok to wait inside this green box until the traffic signal gives you a green to cross. Continuing to travel northbound, against traffic on the left side of the roadway is both dangerous and illegal.