The Big Jump Gets off the Ground in South Memphis

Last February we announced that Memphis had been selected as one of ten cities in the country to participate in The Big Jump. This three-year grant from PeopleForBikes aims to achieve a dramatic boost in bike riding in specific focus neighborhoods within each of the ten selected cities. The local focus area is South Memphis, both the neighborhood generally referred to as such and a wider swath of land stretching from Mallory in the south to Peabody Place Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on the north.

Since the announcement, City staff and the project’s advisory committee consisting of neighborhood stakeholders has been at work with developing a plan of what The Big Jump will look like locally.

Teen Ambassador Program & Community Bicycle Rides

In a partnership with The Works, CDC and Revolutions Bike CoOp, we’re starting a Big Jump Teen Ambassador Program in South Memphis. The program will be administrated by The Works. Revolutions and the City of Memphis will provide bicycles, equipment, and training. The goal is to create a squad of 20 teenagers from the South Memphis area who will not only act as general ambassadors for The Big Jump, but will also organize and lead regularly scheduled neighborhood bicycle rides. In exchange for their time and commitment, teenagers will receive a free bicycle and accompanying safety equipment, not to mention leadership skills applicable later in life.

The Ambassadors have started their training and will graduate on Saturday, November 11th, when they’ll host the first Big Jump community ride in South Memphis. This will be an all ages, all abilities social ride. Join us:

Big Jump Community Bicycle Ride
Saturday, November 11, 2017
2:00 Pm – 3:30 Pm
South Memphis Farmers Market, 1400 Mississippi Blvd.

After this initial ride, the Ambassadors will take the winter months to plan and organize regularly scheduled, frequent rides in spring 2018.

Data Collection

Much of the early work associated with The Big Jump has involved behind the scenes work with data collection, especially as it relates to existing conditions on the ground in South Memphis. For example, we conducted bike counts at the intersection of South Parkway and Mississippi Boulevard. The automatic counters were left in place over a three-week period, and provided results that raised even our eyebrows.

The last time a bike count had been conducted at this intersection was in 2014, shortly after bike lanes had been installed on South Parkway. The count revealed a daily average of only a couple of people riding bikes through the intersection on South Parkway. Three years later (three years that saw the network of bike lanes expand and people become more accustomed to bike lanes on South Parkway), the new count shows that bike traffic through the intersection has grown significantly. According to the latest data, the daily average of people riding a bicycle on Mississippi Boulevard at South Parkway is 122.

Data like this is not only important for tracking progress, but also in demonstrating that people indeed ride bicycles along a certain street or in a certain neighborhood. Too often we hear from individuals something along the lines of, “I drive that street at least once a week, and hardly ever see someone using the bike lane.” What one person witnesses during his or her drive along a street is only a snapshot of the total activity on that street in any 24-hour period. Refuting such anecdotal evidence requires hard data, and that’s why we will be doing routine data collection over the course of The Big Jump and beyond.

To that end, PeopleForBikes has provided the City with a permanent bike counter. This has been installed on Florida Street, just north of Virginia Avenue. This location was selected for two main reasons. First, Florida acts as the primary connection between the south end of downtown and South Memphis from the perspective of bicycling. Second, we have plans to install protected bike lanes on Florida in the coming spring. This will allow a great before-and-after count to assess the impact of the bike lanes. You can read more about the Florida counter here.

Infrastructure Projects

Conversations regarding what kind of street improvement projects will be included in The Big Jump focus area have started. Mississippi Boulevard has been added to the Fiscal Year 2018 re-surfacing list with safety improvements in mind. Another early project formulating is the creation of routes to better connect MLK-Riverside Park with the rest of South Memphis and Downtown. This first phase will be simple wayfinding signage, but overtime the routes will be upgraded with dedicated bike lanes or other permanent infrastructure. Likely by next spring, the City will host the first public meetings in the neighborhood regarding these projects.