If you drive around Memphis long enough, you will encounter limitless numbers of dumped tires.
They can be found scattered across neighborhoods, in creeks, by schools, on the side of the road. The question about what can be done about this rampant problem has been bandied about for many years.
The BDC Business Hub's proposal for the recycled tire bike lane marker installation. (submitted)
Thankfully, Binghampton Development Corporation
, Memphis artist Tad Pierson
, and the City of Memphis are on the job. Together, they came up with a way to make use of these ditched assets while creating jobs and building a growing and confident workforce. The tires are being reborn as colorful public art delineators for bike lanes along Broad Ave.
Making it happen
Many kinds of bike lane markers have been used around Memphis, like reflective paint, flexible posts, and “armadillo humps.” The tire art project is a pilot program to try a “double hump” style marker, which was chosen by Binghampton neighbors.
Nick Oyler first put forth the idea of a pilot project for this dual-purpose art and safety installation. As the Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Memphis, he knew the project would need funding from several supporters. Several sources stepped up, including engine manufacturer Cummins, PeopleForBikes
, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
A holiday decoration made of recycled tires by Memphis artist Tad Pierson. (submitted)
Pierson’s years of recycling abandoned tires into art led to his involvement in designing these barriers.
“My first foray into this work was goofing around with garden planters around 2005,” he said.
The BDC’s Business Hub
Director Andy Kizzee worked with Pierson on the design to make it work from an engineering standpoint. Once the design was approved and a plan was in place, the BDC trained a crew to install the barriers along Broad.
When the communications company Power & Tel moved out of their Broad Avenue warehouse in 2020, the Binghampton Development Corporation saw an opportunity to move in and expand on their programming.
“We got the building in July of 2021 and began training in October,” said Kizzee. “Today, we have five full-time staffers earning a livable wage working 40 hours a week.”
Crew members from Binghampton Development Corporation's Business Hub training program install recycled tire bike lane barriers. (submitted)
The Business Hub training program provides employment opportunities to employees who have found it difficult to break into the workforce. The training focuses on both hard skills—like technical abilities, knowledge, and project management, and soft skills—including on-the-job communication, work ethic, and adaptability.
Kizzee said the trainees have been helpful to the bike lane project, furthering the Hub’s goal to ultimately help stabilize and grow the Binghampton community.
“As property values increase, we are focused on providing job opportunities with competitive pay so neighbors can pay increased cost of living expenses," he said.
According to Kizzee, 450 to 500 recycled tires were used for the Broad Avenue bike lane project, which stretches more than 1.2 miles. He hopes this program goes nationwide, citing the fact that Binghampton Development Corporation could easily recycle around 7,000 tires per year.
“The pie is very big in this business,” said Kizzee. “If someone wants to adopt this in other states, bring it on. It’s more about recycling tires and creating something out of blight.”
The BDC is seeking another round of individual and organizational fundraising for upgrades to their warehouse and more projects like the bike lane delineators.
“Some ideas will work as stand-alone, while others can blossom into businesses on their own, like the tire program,” Kizzee said. “The crew has been great, they are learning some great skills and getting into the entrepreneurial spirit.”
“The enthusiasm is palpable, people are excited. I’ve heard nothing but positive comments.”