Livable Memphis Goes Car-Free

Being organizations that focus, among other things, on livability and transportation choices, the Community Development Council and Livable Memphis should be a shoo-in for a car-free challenge, right? Well, it turns out it wasn’t quite so easy for everybody here to fully embrace the car-free lifestyle, but it wasn’t necessarily for lack of trying. For us Midtowners on staff, it was easy in theory, but even John Paul, our “dedicated” bicycle commuter, managed to snap a break lever off his trusty commuter bike, which means he might be bike-free for a day or two here soon. It’s only a twenty minute walk from his house to work though, so I’m sure he’ll manage (or beg for a ride).

Anyway, here are some accounts of our car-free travel over the past week. All the catcalls have been referenced as “greetings from passersby” and such. Be sure to stick with us to Lisa’s identification of a pretty serious gap in transit availability between Hickory Hill and the Poplar-Cleveland area! (Don’t worry – we didn’t actually make her wait overnight for a bus…)


LM1Walking has been my favorite form of transportation for as long as I remember. Because Livable Memphis has been doing a lot of policy and advocacy work over the past couple of years on walkability, I’ve been paying more attention lately to our local pedestrian infrastructure – specifically its condition and how well it works.

I traveled about 3 miles on foot during my car free day, as I went to the dentist, work, lunch, and then to Memphis College of Art to be part of a Complete Streets panel discussion (the timing was perfect.) I’m fortunate to live less than a mile from our office, so it is actually practical to travel to work on foot from time to time.

Midtown is probably one of our most walkable neighborhoods, but yesterday I still encountered a few issues – streets with no sidewalks, walk signals that had me running once I got half way across, and of course drivers who were so distracted with their phones I feared they’d mow me over any minute.

But all in all, walking is a great way to get around my neighborhood, and I plan to ditch the car on a work day again, sometime soon.


This week, I walked to work once. Outside of exercising I rarely walk in Memphis. It was dirty, easy, and mostly enjoyable. I biked to work, to meetings and my kids to school a couple of days. I did not use MATA nor do I really know how to use MATA. I did not go an entire day without a car due to a variety of reasons including laziness, lack of planning, accessibility and/or safety. I often have children with me and I am rarely willing to run errands with them by bike or feet (our main drag for food and supplies is Union Ave). Traveling to Mike Rose Soccer Complex (where I am several nights a week) from Midtown in the evening is painful but only accessible by car.

Along with the advent of spring, the Car Free Challenge did reorient the way I think about getting around and encouraged me to be more creative and free with the possibilities. Changing my usual mode of transportation may be one of the easiest ways for me to gain a different perspective on Memphis. I plan to do bike and walk more with greater intentionality. The doability of this is one of the many reasons I live in Midtown.


I decided to walk to work yesterday and couldn’t have picked a better day for it. I’m almost embarrassed to consider my participation a “challenge” as I only live 1.1 miles from the office. However, in my defense I have had many out of office events to attend in the past couple of months.

I walked down to the Starbucks on Union as a small detour, so that I could enjoy a morning cup of coffee on my stroll. I also had a chance to check out the new location of the Midtown Nursery as I was walking past it (it looks great, a little more spacious than their original location).

I gave and received morning greetings from several pedestrians as I made my way to work, and enjoyed the sunny, cloudless blue sky. I also had a chance to appreciate the beautiful cherry blossoms lining Avalon. It was the perfect way to get to work and I plan on doing it again on days when I don’t have off premises events. We’ll see how long I last as a pedestrian once the Memphis heat kicks in.


LM2The CD Council is a very “Green” and “Alternative Transportation” place to work. So, when I heard of this Car Free challenge, I knew there was no way I was getting out of participating so I inhaled and went with it.

My first challenge was finding an alternate transportation because I love my car and the convenience thereof. Walking or biking was not an option in my book because I live approximately 20 miles from work, so I chose the bus. I tried to work out some carpooling with our intern, but that didn’t work out for me either, since our schedules don’t match.

I was very anxious to see how I could possibly pull this off, so I pulled up MATA’s handy traveler’s guide to try to plan my trip. Now, I am not educated on the bus routes, route names, etc. Needless to say I was a bit surprised when I realized that all my options to get to work by 9am involved 3 buses, walking at least a half mile or more, and took at least two hours. Okay, that’s doable.

As it turns out, catching the bus home from work was the problem. In order to arrive home by 5:30pm, I had to leave work by 2:00pm (My work hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm daily). I say to “arrive home by 5:30pm” but the reality is after 2:30pm there is no other option according to the trip planner, except an overnight trip leaving work at 11:15pm, waiting at Park and Lamar until 5:30am, and arriving home with about 10 minutes before I have to turn around and walk back to the bus stop to get back to work!

This is a thirty-five minute trip in my trusty car, so sorry guys, but bus riding was not an option for me.