May 9, 2014

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer

While we were interviewing smart people around the country for our new video about the rise of protected bike lanes, we asked Mayor AC Wharton of Memphis why he’s been such a supporter of protected bike infrastructure in a city that, before he came to office, didn’t have a single bike lane.

Though it didn’t make it in the final video, our favorite moment from this interview is in the 48-second video clip above, when Wharton took a moment for some Real Talk about the tradeoffs he faces as an allocator of resources.

There is enough real estate in our core city. The infrastructure’s already there. Why further tax yourself by trying to extend infrastructure, sewers, schools, whatever, into areas than just take advantage of the beautiful facilities and the beautiful land that you have already? It is much more cost-feasible for me to just fix up Broad Avenue, Madison, with some stripes on the pavement, protected bike lanes, than it is for me to go way out somewhere, put in sewers, street lights, have garbage pickup, all this stuff. So it bodes well for our citizens and their health — both physical and emotional — but it also bodes well for the finances of the city.

Wharton is a great spokesman for this Strong Towns-influenced way of thinking about city finances because he puts it in such clear, concrete terms while never losing sight of the non-financial benefits that biking brings. Starting next week, we’re about to shift away from telling the stories of our first class of cities and start covering the successes and challenges of our next six. But anyone looking for ways to talk about the benefits of protected bike lanes could probably learn a lot from the mayor of Memphis.

Video interviews by Laura Crawford and Russ RocaThe Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write [email protected]

 

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