Bike Lanes Can Save Cities. Here's Proof. - Bicycling
Memphis was in trouble.
In the early 2000s, the city was at or near the top of every major negative index of urban living: obesity, violent crime, poverty, and poor education. All those negatives meant that it was nearly impossible to recruit employees and businesses to the city. And to top it off, this magazine named Memphis one of the country’s worst cities for cycling in 2008 and 2010.
City and county leaders knew they needed to do something to turn the city’s fates around—but what? They needed so much: to improve public health, to fix blighted neighborhoods, to assist lower-income residents with basic needs.
When a group of citizens first floated the idea of building a 10.7-mile bike path called the Greenline in 2001, it was put down in a nearly unanimous vote. Local government considered it a frivolous use of taxpayer money.
But with that vote, a spark was lit. A C Wharton revived the push to build the Greenline when he became mayor of Memphis’s surrounding Shelby County in 2002. He saw the Greenline and all bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as a means to combat Memphis’s status as one of the unhealthiest and fattest cities in the U.S. “Some of my supporters said, ‘That’s been tried before. You’re going to get your butt kicked.’ I said, ‘We gotta do this. But my approach is going to be different,’ ” he says.
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