We’re About to Take a Big Jump


The Big Jump logo


Guess what, Memphis? We’ve done it again.

“Done what again?,” you ask.

Oh, you know, made national headlines regarding our progress and leadership when it comes to establishing biking as a safe, convenient, and reliable mode of transportation around our city. Let me explain.

Today, PeopleForBikes issued a national press release announcing which cities across the U.S. it has selected to participate in The Big Jump Project.  Around 80 cities applied, and only ten have been invited to participate. Yes, Memphis is one of them.

PeopleForBikes is also the organization that facilitated the Green Lane Project, which, as you may recall, rose some eyebrows around the country – but especially locally – when Memphis was selected as one of that program’s initial six cities together with the likes of Austin, Portland, and San Francisco (and also, to drive the point home, Chicago and Washington, D.C.). The purpose of the Green Lane Project was to accelerate the development of bike lanes, primarily protected bike lanes, in its targeted cities. If Memphis announced its arrival on the national stage of leading bike-friendly communities through the Green Lane Project, The Big Jump is our thunderous request for a chair, because we intend to occupy that stage for quite a while.

While the Green Lane Project concentrated on individual, landmark infrastructure projects in its participating cities, The Big Jump is all about the greater network and the people who use it. Here’s a description about the program from PeopleForBikes:

Everyone agrees that connected, high-comfort bikeway networks can make bicycling an ordinary part of life for many more people. But U.S. cities have a very difficult time connecting them.  . . .

The result is that networks go unbuilt, business districts remain auto-dependent, cities keep choking on their own traffic and healthy physical activity keeps falling.

Escaping this trap will require an innovative leap — a collective realization by U.S. cities that smart, rapid changes to create connected high-comfort bike networks of protected bike lanes, off-street paths and bike-friendly side streets can rapidly change the way that neighborhoods or districts work. Just as the cities that pioneered protected bike lanes are now seen as national leaders in street design . . . the cities and towns that bridge the gaps between bikeways to create working networks will lead the next generation of change.

Another difference from the Green Lane Project is that The Big Jump will focus its efforts locally on one target area, instead of across the city. Through careful consideration and outreach to neighborhood institutions, we settled on South Memphis – including much of southern Downtown – as our local Big Jump focus area. The general borders for this focus area are Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Avenue on the north, Interstate 240 on the east, Mallory Avenue on the south, and the Mississippi River on the west. While narrow in geographic focus, The Big Jump will result in scalable lessons that the City can repeat and apply in every neighborhood. In short, South Memphis will be our proving ground, and all of Memphis will reap the benefits.

Memphis is also in good company once again. Some of the other cities sharing in this distinction are none other than New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, and Austin. We’ll learn from each other as we take this big jump together.

As this project kicks off in earnest in late spring or early summer, expect to hear more about the specific goals and related activities. Over the course of the project’s three-year duration, updates will be frequent.

In the meantime, be proud, Memphis. We’ve once again been recognized as an elite city in the country for our commitment to and progress with biking.

You can read more about The Big Jump Project HERE.