Category: Commuting

I’m back

My people.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve written about, well, much of anything, other than the effects of academic early intervention programs on student performance, but that’s another story.  Suffice to say that I have greatly missed writing about my daily exploits and experiences as a bike commuter in our fair city and that in the coming days, I will be writing more. Beginning tomorrow in fact, when I debut the November cyclist of the month …

Success

I just want to say thanks to everyone who helped make Bike-to-Campus Day a success.  Ty and Cort – thanks for helping me publicize the event.  Thanks to all the Memphis bike shops who displayed posters: Victory Bicycle Studio, the Peddler Bike Shop, Outdoors Inc., and Midtown Bike Company.  And a special thanks to the Peddler for donating the water bottles.  They were a big hit.

And a huge thanks to everyone who rode today.  I really appreciate everyone’s support.  As soon as I get some pictures, I’ll post them.  Cheers.

Bike-to-Campus Day update

This week has been super busy – like 12-14 hour days every day, including weekends – but I wanted to jot a quick note about Bike-to-Campus Day.  First, thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word.  Cort from Fix Memphis is mapping bike-friendly routes to campus.  Ty from Living Loud in Midtown mentions it in almost every blog post.  Jen from The Memphis Blog talked it up yesterday.  And the good people at Victory Bicycle Studio posted about it on their facebook page.

Also, special thanks to the Peddler Bike Shop for donating the free-while-they-last water bottles.

Here’s the event listing on facebook.  Hope to see you there.

Spreading the word

I had a proper biking adventure over the past few days.  The goal: to deliver posters to the four bike shops in in-town Memphis to spread the word about Bike-to-Campus Day, which is next week.  Here’s what happened.

On Saturday I biked from home to campus to pick up the posters.  I then biked to the Peddler on Highland to deliver my first set of posters.  There I ran into Cort and we chatted for a minute before I headed off to my next destination: Outdoors Incorporated on Union.

I caught a lucky light at Belvedere and Union and was able to (hurriedly) bike east on Union for half a block before I turned into the parking lot.  I dropped off another set of posters before heading off again to my next (and final) destination of the day: Otherlands Coffee Bar on Cooper.

There I dropped off my last two sets of posters for the day.  I had hoped to make it downtown to Midtown Bike Company and to Victory Bicycle Studio in my neighborhood that day, but I ran out of time.

I took care of the first of those two errands this morning.  Around 9:30 this morning I headed east on Southern toward downtown, arriving at Midtown Bikes around 10:00 AM.  I left two posters with Daniel, the owner, and then biked to campus for a day at the office.  I was going to leave two posters at Victory this afternoon but forgot that they are closed on Monday.  Boo, my memory.  I’ll hit them up on Wednesday.

Here’s the map of combined rides on Saturday and today.

Screen shot 2011 09 26 at 8 40 35 PM

Pretty hot, huh?  And here’s a clickable link to the same.

Altogether I logged 28.3 miles on my bike in just over two hours.  Traffic was generally very manageable and I had only one close call.  Yes, cars should yield the right-of-way to bikes when leaving a stop sign.  Otherwise, skidding might happen.  Just sayin’.

Anyway, thanks for reading.  I hope to see you all at Bike-to-Campus day.  Here’s a poster for the event.  Cheers.

Bike to campus poster 0911

Weekend wrap-up

People.  I have good news (and bad) for the Memphis biking community: the Shelby Farms Greenline will be receiving $3.3 million to be extended east to Cordova.  This is awesome.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to Cordova in the five years I’ve lived in Memphis.  With this new cycling path, perhaps my visits out east will become more frequent.

But here’s the bad news: $1.1 million for a bike-lane project on Broad Avenue was declined.  I don’t know what this means for extending the Greenline west to Midtown – whether or not other sources of funds for this project have been identified – but it’s a drag to have this initiative not receive funding.

Have you registered for the Bluff City Blues 100?  I haven’t, but only because I’ll be out of town that day.  Get on that ride and support a good cause.

I’m not so crazy about e-bikes – I like an unassisted ride – but if I were to buy one, this might just be the one.

…..

Dear Santa,

I promise I’ve been a good boy this year.  I ate all my vegetables and made my bed every day.  Now just bring me some MonkeyLectric Lights and there won’t be any problems, fat man. Capiche?  Because I’ve got a u-lock with your name on it otherwise.

Love,

Doug

…..

A bicycle mecca?  Yes, please.  Also, I did not realize that Anthony Siracusa rode across the entire freakin’ US of A when he was only 16.  FTW, Anthony.

Don’t forget that funding for cycling projects is never guaranteed.  It’s a shame that we have to fight for these dollars.  Don’t hesitate to contact your local Congressional representative.

Drivers, be nice out there.

So, what is the difference between cyclists and drivers?  At least in my state we have equal rights to the roads?  Is there any reason to classify us differently?  I think not.

Big thanks to Cort and Ty for helping me promote Bike to Campus Day.  I hope to see you all there.  Let’s all show that Memphis is a cycling-friendly and active town.

Mid-week review

Hi people.  Today was a fucking lovely day to be biking in Memphis.  The weather this morning was slightly chilled, but not too bad, and this afternoon was unbeatable.  At one point, as I was turning right on Madison from McLean, I could have sworn I was in Seattle.

I’ve been wearing my knee warmers, which I purchased from the Peddler a few weeks ago, on my morning commutes; they seem to be helping.  Hal recommended that I wear them whenever the temperature drops below 70ºF, which seemed a little extreme at first.  But he explained that the area under the kneecap gets very little warming blood and as a result the knee is prone to injury in cold weather.  Given that I was out of commission for several weeks in January due to an overly-ambitious cold-weather ride on the Greenline, I am taking much better care of my knees.  Can’t genuflect without them, you know.

Interbike 2011 was last week, and while I don’t see myself heading out for such a huge bike expo anytime soon, it’s nice to see reports from there on the other biking blogs I read.  For example, check out this absolutely sick set of bike tire chains from Slipnot Traction.  I mean, how cool is that?  Makes me want to move someone snowy.

And, have a gander at these ridonkulous lights from LED by LITE.  I’ve long wanted turn signals for my bike, and you know my love of bike lights (four rear, two front and counting).  This might be the solution that I’ve been dreaming about.

Lastly, check out this clothes-folding system for commuter cyclists.  I’ve never been particularly worried about having wrinkled clothes – that’s an academic for you! – but I might kludge my own version of this for use on my commutes.

Hey, are you a real cyclist?  I guess I am.

It’s comforting to know that Memphis is not alone in having a backlash against bike lanes.  I mean, Portland of all places?  I can sympathize with the complaints about gentrification.  Too many neighborhoods have been bifurcated or simply torn down in the name of “progress.”  Most familiar-sounding quote from the article?

“There was the feeling that the city just rolled through with this.”

Des Moines also suffers from some anti-bike lane paranoia.  But I hear it’s so flat out there …

I admit, sometimes I lose a little steam with my blogging.  Being so busy preparing for my new job plus teaching almost 300 students and keeping up with all my job responsibilities (not to mention housework) can be a little daunting.  So it’s always great to get a little love, like I did today on the facebooks.

Screen shot 2011 09 21 at 7 44 33 PM

I’ve always favored world domination of any sort, but bicycle world domination has to be the best.  Thanks for the shout-out, Matt.  Maybe my blog will be mentioned in an article like that someday.

What made my day earlier this week was being recommended by Clark over at Victory Bicycle Studio for inclusion in a photo series by local photographer and bike mechanic Nathan Berry.  Nathan is taking pictures of local cyclists in their everyday street clothes in an effort to demystify cycling.  I really like the idea and was happy to sit for some pictures.  The project will culminate in an art opening on 14 October in the Broad Street neighborhood.  Sadly, I’ll be out of town for the event, but I’m really honored to have been cited by Clark as a prominent local cyclist.  I guess it goes to show what hundreds of miles biking and a blog can do for you.

The good people over at Greater Memphis Greenline posted this map of all the multi-use trails around town.  I had no idea there were so many such facilities scattered around town.  I can’t wait for the day when they connect with one another seamlessly.  And for a good chuckle, zoom in on the U of M campus.  We are positively dense with biking possibilities apparently.

Agreed.

Speaking of the Greenline, the second in the series of I Love Memphis murals, envisioned by Kerry Crawford of the awesome I Love Memphis blog is being installed even as we speak on our favorite rails-to-trails facility.  I loved the first such mural, located in my neighborhood as it is, and I’m really excited about the new one.  Can’t wait to bike by it and take a few pictures.

Yes, please!

Q: Are bikes more environmentally friendly than cars?  (I mean, do you really have to ask that question?)  A: Yes, they are.  By a mile.

More lighted awesomeness.  Expensive, but still awesome.  Damn my budget constraint!

I can’t say that I’ve ever really wanted to take a tall bike on my daily commute, but this video by the good people at Live from Memphis just might change my mind.

Speaking of Live from Memphis, go here to see their pictures from the recent Midnight Classic.

Well, I didn’t make the list of the 50 most influential bike bloggers this year, but there’s always next year.  Still, check out the list for some gems.  I particularly love Commute by Bike and Bike Commuters, for obvious reasons.

Do I really need more lights?  Oh, why not.  They’re so inexpensive!

Yes, please (part two)!

80% bike network coverage?  It looks like Hoboken is giving Portland a run for its money.  Although it appears that Portland is safe for the time being.  Notable fact from the article? Hoboken’s City Council approved these efforts unanimously. You listening, Memphis City Council?

Well, what started out as a short mid-week post has turned into a massive purge of all the biking-related links I’ve been saving over the past few weeks.  Look for another post soon.  Until then, keep biking in Memphis.

Exciting upcoming event!!!

I have an exciting upcoming event – as the subject line implies – to announce.  Tuesday, 4 October, is Bike-to-Campus Day at U of M!!  Look, we even have a poster!!!

Bike to campus poster 0911

I’m more-or-less the organizer of this thing.  We had our first bike-to-campus day last year, again in conjunction with Tiger Blue Goes Green Day, and about a dozen people participated.  I’m hoping for more this time, which is where you, dear reader, come in.

I know that most of you reading this blog don’t work at U of M, so it doesn’t make any sense for you to actually participate.  But you likely know someone who does work at the University. So please, take a moment and share this post on your facebook, or forward it to a friend.  Or, better still, send them the link to the official facebook event.

As the poster indicates, we have two group rides that morning.  One leaves from First Congo at 8:00 AM; I’m leading that one.  Brian Janz, a colleague of mine, is leading one from near Shelby Farms down the Greenline.

The rides culminate with a group picture on campus.  I’d really like to have 25+ people there.  Help me spread the word and we’ll make it happen.

And of course, if you do work at U of M, please join us for this day.  You don’t have to do a group ride, just be at the fountain at 8:30 AM.

A smattering of stuff

I am so happy for the onset of autumn that I can hardly stand it.  The air smells like burning wood, the night arrives earlier, and I find myself wanting to go to a college football game.  Or at least watch one on TV.  For the purposes of this blog, the weather has gotten so much better for biking it is not even funny.  Instead of being bathed in sweat when I arrive home in the afternoon, I am merely glistening with perspiration.  Quite a difference, I assure you.

Before I get to my day’s rides, I have some good news to share with you.  The League of American Bicyclists has bestowed on our fair city not one but two awards!  We’ve received an Honorable Mention as a bike-friendly city and a Bronze-Level Bicycle Friendly Business Award.  The former is due to the construction of more than 120 miles of cycling facilities in the past 8 years; the latter is due to the installation of bike-commuter facilities, like showers and bike racks, at local businesses.  This is such good news and portends a great future for Memphis as a biking city.

Yesterday was a quite uneventful day on my bike.  I left for work in the morning then came home in the evening.  Now that the beginning of the semester has given way to the realization that we’re not getting out of this until December, my students have become much more docile.  Despair with do that to you.

Here’s a map of my ride yesterday.

Screen shot 2011 09 15 at 7 49 40 AM

See that?  How wonderfully boring.  There and back again, on the same road no less.  Sometimes that’s nice.

Aaaaaannnnnd here’s my map from today.

Screen shot 2011 09 15 at 8 02 00 AM

This is what running an errand at Poplar Plaza does for my ride.

You’ll note the circuitous route I took from campus to the store.  I completely skipped Central and Highland and instead biked down Midland to Greer to Joffree.  Why the extra miles?  It was rush hour when I left my office.  And as short as the bike ride down Central and up Highland would have been, I just did not feel like dealing with traffic.

But I had to ultimately, as I needed to run another errand on Cooper, which meant biking from the end of the Chickasaw Gardens route down to my ‘hood.  It wasn’t so bad until Cooper bottlenecks at Central (coming from the north).  I’m not going to be dramatic and say that I almost got run off the road, but I did choose to wait on the sidewalk next to the nursery at Cooper and Central until the light turned red and I could safely rejoin traffic.

Thursday I’m biking to campus and then Boscos for a beer around 8ish.  Hope your Thursday is good too.

Oh and guess what?  We’re still waiting.

Yesterday and today

Hi everyone.  I’ve been a bit slack in my writing in the past couple of weeks, but with good reason.  Fall semester began just under two weeks ago and, no matter how much preparation I do, there’s always 1,000,000 tasks that need to be completed in the first days of the term.  That, plus being taken out of commission for a few days due to some weird, random abdominal pains, I haven’t felt like writing much.  This means that I have an ever-growing backlog of daily rides, articles, and special events to write about.  (It’s good to know that I’ll never run out of fodder for posts.)  So I’ll knock out a couple of them right now.

Last night was the third Cycle Memphis group ride.  Last month’s event was ridiculously fun, so I arrived at the gazebo at the intersection of Cooper and Young with high expectations for this month’s ride.  I’ve learned to accept that group bike rides will often start a minute or two later than advertised; this just means more time for socializing.  Once the ride began we set off from Cooper-Young and headed down Young Avenue to Barksdale.  We then biked north to … well, just check out the map.

Screen shot 2011 09 11 at 8 38 37 PM

And here’s a clickable link.

So basically, we biked through Midtown to the north end of downtown, then down 2nd Street to Court Square Park.  There we rested for moment, took a group picture or two, then headed south again on 2nd Street.  I loved biking past the throngs of people in downtown – hell, I just loved seeing throngs of people in downtown – and waving to them.  It was really great to see the stares and hear the comments from bystanders.

The best part of the ride?  Hands down it was biking on Riverside Drive.  Honestly, I was a little nervous about it at first.  When traffic is heavy on that road there’s not much room to move if things get heavy.  But coming down the bluff and seeing the river and the bridges come into view … it was really amazing.  The fact that Kanye West was playing on the mobile sound system only added to the awesomeness.

After a stop or two to fix a flat tire we headed back to Cooper-Young.  Quite a few people dropped off the ride before the end; the crowd at the gazebo was a bit smaller than last time. And sadly there was no spontaneous dance party.  But that’s OK.  There’s always next time.

Other coolness from the ride: I finally met Ty from Living Loud in Midtown!  I was waiting at the intersection of Linden and Cleveland for cyclists to pass when another rider stopped with me.  We continued on and chatted and, lo and behold, it was Ty.  He recognized me from my blog.  It was really cool meeting a fellow cyclist and blogger.  Ty: let’s have a beer soon, and thanks for the shout-out.

I arrived home from the ride and promptly went to bed.  (OK fine … I actually sat outside and read for a bit while swatting away mosquitos.  I think I crashed around 2:00 AM.)  But today began sometime this morning, and so I decided to run a few errands on the bike.

Errand #1: take a huge pile of mixed-paper recyclables to the recycling bins at First Congo.  The reason: the pile of magazines on and under our coffee table was getting a little ridiculous.  So I decided to load those magazines into my panniers and dump them.  My best guess is that each pannier weighed about 30 pounds fully loaded.  That made my bike ride to the recycling center quite fun.  Here’s a few pictures.

IMG 0819

Yep, that’s a lotta paper.

IMG 0823

Close-up of pannier #1.  Quite a load, right?

IMG 0827

Feed me, Seymour!

IMG 0817

And a little more for my messenger bag.

IMG 0829

Ahhhh … much better.

Next I headed to the Easy Way on Cooper for a few veggies.  Here’s the scene.

IMG 0830

Nice parking job, if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, Easy Way doesn’t open until noon on Sunday, so I had to wait for about an hour to complete my shopping.  Hello, Otherlands!

Here’s a map of my ride today.

Screen shot 2011 09 11 at 10 27 26 PM

Nice and boring, just like I like it.

Memphis, I hope your weekend was as good as mine.  Look for more stories about biking in Memphis soon.  Good night.

Catching up: Round 2

You might have heard about the east Tennessee mom who was threatened with arrest on charges of child endangerment for allowing her 10-year-old daughter to smoke cigarettes and bring vodka to school in her lunch thermos ride her bike to school.  The story appears to have broken on Bike Walk Tennessee‘s blog. (Here’s a follow-up post from the same source.)

Then the story was picked up by Bike Portland’s wonderful blog and a couple of other sources.  The local newspaper reported that the issue had been resolved, a matter that the mother disputes.  The officers in question also claim that “no one has ever told this child she could not ride her bike,” a claim that also appears to be in dispute.  (You can read the full police report here.)

The girl in question had been kicked off her bus for bad behavior – perhaps she was advocating cycling to her seatmate? – and after consulting with her mom and taking a bike safety course, was allowed to bike to her school, which she soon grew to love.  The officer in question observed the girl biking in traffic near a bus and some cars and decided that it was an unsafe situation.  (Never mind that the best way to improve safety for cyclists is not to ban them from the road, but to accept them and create facilities to encourage safe biking and respectful driving.)  That was when the officer paid and visit to the girl’s mother and initiated a Child Protective Services report.  And here we are.

Apparently it is not uncommon for school kids to be forbidden from biking to school.  I remember when I was growing up in west Knoxville wishing that I could bike from my home to school. I knew of a few backyard-short-cuts that could get me part of the way there, but Knoxville, laid out as it is, with one primary east-west corridor, offered few safe routes for young ones to bike around town, outside of their respective neighborhoods.  (I don’t know if Knoxville has changed in the past few years; the time period I’m speaking of here was the early 1980s.)  But given the rampant problem that is childhood obesity – to put this in perspective, when I typed “childhood” into the Google search bar in my browser, “childhood obesity” was the first result that appeared; not “childhood” by itself, or even “childhood games” or someone nice like that, but “childhood obesity” – it seems a little shortsighted to deliberately limit physical activity for our young ones.

I have no doubt that the officer was well-intentioned in his actions, and that everyone involved in this debacle is legitimately concerned about this girl’s safety.  If one is not used to seeing cyclists using streets that they have every right to use, I imagine it could be a little shocking to see a girl biking to school.  But is her biking really the problem?  Is her mother really a bad parent for allowing her daughter to ride a bike on what appears to be mostly residential streets?  Yes, cars and buses also use these streets, but if any roads are to be shared among all users, shouldn’t it be these?

I would put forth that the real problem is two-fold.  One, parents today appear to be far less tolerant of risk when it comes to their children than they were even in my youth.  I never ever owned a bike helmet or any protective gear when I was a kid, and while I rode almost entirely on safe residential streets with little traffic, it doesn’t always take a car to cause an accident.  I probably still have scars on my knees from all the spills I took.  Today, I see hardly a child without a bike helmet.  This is of course good, but concerns about safety can be taken too far.

The other and more important issue here is that cycling continues to be marginalized behavior.  Sure, many cities have made great strides in improving cyclist safety and building facilities for bikes.  This is great.  But this is in the face of an ever-greater penetration of the internal combustion engine into our lives and public policies.  Funding for cycling facilities continues to be tenuous and regarded as optional, or frivolous.  Cyclists continue to fight for respect and equal access to the roads, even in pro-cycling regions like Portland.

We’ve seen this here in Memphis, with the continued fight over bike lanes on Madison Avenue.  Cyclists are (wrongly) perceived as being bad for business or as not having a legitimate place on our roads.  It remains to be seen how this particular issue will be resolved, but for the time being, cyclists of all ages will continue to have an uphill battle (or ride) in claiming their rightful place on the streets.