Our View

Our View

Cyclists will come — give them something to do here

For almost a year now West Memphis leaders have spent a considerable amount of money and time trying desperately to make their city a tourist destination, hoping some of the thousands of cyclists and hikers who are taking advantage of the Big River Crossing from Memphis will spend their money on this side of the Mississippi River.

Now that the Delta Regional River Park development is competed, enthusiastic visionaries are thinking about making a bike route along no other than the picturesque Broadway corridor.

Let’s give this a thought for a moment and picture in our minds what a so-called “tourist cyclist” will experience. As they travel west past Pancho’s they will come upon a group of used car dealers, the old and dilapidated Ryan Chevrolet building, a fish market in a former gas station, a beer joint, more car dealers, a bunch of second hand stores, and a string of empty commercial lots and vacant buildings.

As these cyclists proceed toward Missouri Street they’ll face being struck by fast moving traffic, vehicles backing into the highway, and forced to share the busy highway with motorists who just may not be so understanding.

Correct us if we’re wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be very many places these cyclists would actually be interested in stopping at as a “tourist” destination in their journey along this stretch of the once prosperous West Memphis business district.

Councilwoman Ramona Taylor, a strong advocate of the Big River Crossing, says the city has made a big financial investment and she says now is the time to figure out the best way to make it possible for cyclists and pedestrians to come into the city.

While we understand that there have been nearly 250,000 people cross the river but we’d be interested in knowing just how many actually spent any time or money in West Memphis other than maybe lunch at Poncho’s.

Taylor wants to link the crossing from Memphis to the city’s Main Street area on Broadway and views this as a tremendous economic opportunity. Our only opinion in this is that in order to be as effective, as Taylor is envisioning, will absolutely require major participation from the private business sector, a comprehensive business plan and major improvements to east Broadway.

Simply designating a bicycle path along this stretch of Broadway will only bring about frustration, traffic disruption and serious safety concerns.

So seems these concerns are similar to those being expressed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization Study Director Eddie Brawley who has expressed interest in holding public hearings about alternative routes other than Broadway. Unfortunately, most of the alternative routes, such as the South Loop or Polk and Thompson Streets, would do little to benefit businesses in West Memphis.

Once again, let us make it clear that any plan to draw cyclists into West Memphis for economic purposes must involve the input of the business community willing to invest in the project.

We’re afraid bike routes alone won’t accomplish the desired effect being sought by the politicians and city bureaucrats.