Friday, October 10, 2008

Bicyclists benefit from bailout, eligible for stipend

By Rachel Gordon
San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, October 10, 2008

The bailout bill crafted by Congress and the White House to stop the tailspin of the nation's financial sector also includes federal tax benefits for people who commute by bicycle.

Starting in January, workers who use two-wheelers as their primary transportation mode to get to and from work will be eligible for a $20-a-month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bicycle-related expenses.

In return, employers will be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes.

"It significantly legitimizes bicycling and elevates it to a credible commute mode, like riding a bus or train," said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The money could be used to purchase, store, maintain or repair bikes that are used for an employee's commute.

Bike advocates had been trying for seven years to get such a provision passed, but came up short until Congress rushed through the Wall Street bailout package last week and lawmakers squeezed in pet projects. The bicycle benefit was championed by members of the Oregon delegation on Capitol Hill.

Backers estimate that the federal tax rolls may lose out on about $1 million a year because of the new employer write-off, according to the advocacy group League of American Bicyclists.

Trailing a new trend

Commercial Appeal Editorial
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Suburban living hasn't always been accommodating to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Many suburbs around the country seem to have been designed to discourage all forms of transportation except automobile traffic.

But that's changing.

Bartlett city workers have been finishing up the first phase of what is expected to eventually be a network with 30 miles of walking/bicycling trails connecting neighborhoods to parks, community buildings and open spaces.

Similar efforts are under way in Germantown and Collierville. These trails within communities can be a nice complement to larger projects like the planned Greater Memphis Greenline, which would create a linear park stretching between Midtown and Cordova.

Trails can greatly improve our quality of life.

They provide safe places to get exercise and socialize. It never hurts to save money on gas, either.

Dare we say it?

Trails really can make us happy.

Greenline for Green Jobs targets rail line potential

By Pamela Perkins (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Transforming an abandoned railway overgrown with weeds and kudzu will do more than create a landscaped haven for bikers, walkers and nature lovers.

Supporters say it will help create jobs.

"Part of what you see is a recreational opportunity. But it's also an economic opportunity," said Sid Lerner, board member of the Greater Memphis Greenline, a nonprofit group working to turn the old CSX rail line into a 13-mile string of park area from Midtown to Cordova.

He was speaking Saturday to 20 or so people at a local event organized to observe the "National Day of Action" for Green Jobs Now, a campaign for job creation and training in projects that help fight oil dependence and sustain the environment.

"The bottom line was to build consensus across the country to take to politicos to get them to fund green jobs initiatives," said Lynn Strickland, a local representative of Green For All "The Dream Reborn" program and who said many of those jobs would pay living wages.

Also, as the proposed Greenline lures people away from gas guzzling over to bicycling and hiking, it could create hundreds of new customers for business in communities it cuts through.

"A business like this would see tremendous benefit," said Lerner at High Point Terrace Pizza, where the group met before escorting them to the rail line at High Point Terrace near Johnwood.

A coalition of environmental, labor and architectural groups released a study earlier this month stating that a two-year, $100 billion national green energy and economic recovery program could create create 2 million jobs nationwide and 44,942 jobs in Tennessee.

The nonprofit Memphis Community Connector Inc. has proposed paying CSX Transportation $5 million for rights to the railway.

And Shelby County Commissioners last week approved using a $324,900 federal grant to conduct an environmental site assessment on the rail line.

The other local "National Day of Action" event was the Healthy Home Performance Analysis in the Riverview-Kansas area. The day was also locally observed at the Memphis Zoo Harvest Festival and by the Sierra Club at the Bartlett Festival.

-- Pamela Perkins: 529-6514

Plan aims to aid pedestrian, traffic flow in Germantown Parkway, Fischer Steel area

Artist rendering of Raleigh-LaGrange transformed
into a parkway beside Shelby Farms Park.

By Pamela Perkins (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Monday, September 29, 2008

Better road connections between Germantown Parkway and Shelby Farms Park. Safer connections from one Cordova shopping center to another. And friendly neighborhood pedestrian and bicycle connections to everywhere.

Those ideas are in a preliminary plan on what should be done with a 600-acre wedge of land around the Germantown Parkway and Fischer Steel intersection.

"It's a blueprint for a great facelift," said Cordova resident Anthony Culver, who attended a series of public forums called the "Fischer Steel Road Area Planning Charrette" that helped shape the plan. They studied the area roughly bordered by the CSX rail line, Raleigh-LaGrange and various roads just east of Germantown Parkway.

The plan includes a pathway under a widened Raleigh-LaGrange road into Shelby Farms, better pedestrian and traffic flow between shopping areas along Germantown Parkway and a walkable neighborhood with bicycle lanes.

"I'm really impressed, particularly with the design for Raleigh-LaGrange Road. I can ride my bike to church," Culver said. Now, "there's no shoulder on Raleigh-LaGrange and getting across Germantown Parkway is not easy."

Memphis and Shelby County planners and Austin-based planning consultants Code Studio hosted the forums to analyze land uses that are allowed and should be allowed in the area, which is mostly zoned industrial.

After finalizing the plan, the firm could be ready to make zoning recommendations sometime in November that could lead to permanent zoning changes and road improvements.

Replacing industrial zoning with more restrictive zoning could bring neighbors and developers the comfort of predictability when new businesses move in.

It might have given more comfort to neighbors who had learned over the past two years that a topless nightclub owner was building a restaurant across from GameDay's baseball fields. Despite Steve Cooper's denials, many Cordovans still believe the structure may become a strip club.

At the final forum last week, Lee Einsweiler of Code Studio said any developments in the study area should complement and connect to the park, which has a multi-million dollar facelift planned. The plan also complements the proposed Greater Memphis Greenline, a redevelopment of the CSX rail line into a landscaped urban trail.

Proposed road improvements are also meant to improve traffic flow to and from GameDay Baseball's 10-diamond First Tennessee Fields baseball complex on Fischer Steel just west of Germantown Parkway. It is planning an $80 million expansion.

-- Pamela Perkins: 529-6514