August Cyclists of the Month: Memphis Pedicab Company

Hi everyone.

It’s been several months since I posted a Cyclist of the Month interview – that one with Jason Potter was pretty awesome – and I’ve been meaning to sit down with (read: email) the guys at Memphis Pedicab Company for some questions.  Well, after months of procrastination on my part, plus a ridiculously busy schedule, here we are.  Read on to learn about the history of Memphis’s only people-powered transportation team, how to recover from a night of hauling around passengers, and what it’s like to pedal a cab.

337808 119702204804956 1547936622 o

Co-owner Chris Copeland taking some people for a spin.

1. Tell me about the history of Memphis Pedicab. How did this new business get started?

Jeremy Reese and I started the company after finding ourselves unemployed in early 2011.  It was a sudden and unexpected change after dedicating so much time, energy and emotion to someone else’s idea.  Not long after spending all day every day looking for a job and realizing, first-hand, how difficult the current job market is to navigate, we decided that we needed something to do with our time and abilities.  We did some research and found that Pedicabs were becoming more and more popular across the US.  We were intrigued at the possibility and set about finding a used Pedicab to purchase to fuel the fire and proove the concept to ourselves.

Once we found one and drove it back to Memphis, in the back of a rented pick-up, we were convinced. We then put together a business plan, a proforma and secured a business license. Next came our biggest and most rewarding hurdle to clear…We had to submit a proposal to the City and appear before a panel to present our idea and business plan. On the panel were representatives from the Memphis City Gov’t including the Permit Office, the City Attorney’s office, the MATA, the Taxi industry, the Visitors Bureau and Convention Center and the MPD. We really could not have succeeded without the support of the following people: Aubrey Howard at the Permit Office, Kyle Wagenshutz, the Mayor’s Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Mayor AC Wharton himself, Leslie Gower and Paul Morris of the Downtown Commission and Maria Fuhrmann from Kemp Conrad’s office.

2. Since you’ve been open, what’s happened to your level of business? Do you plan to add more employees any time soon?

Since starting at the end of last Summer business has most certainly picked up. We don’t have to solicit rides as much as we did initially. People are definitely starting to catch on as they realize how convenient and fun the pedicabs are. We are always looking for a few good men AND women to pedal. It’s a great way to stay in shape while earning a little cash.

3. You must have some really interesting stories from transporting people around downtown in a pedicab. What’s been your most interesting/bizarre clients?

Have you ever seen Taxi Cab confessions on HBO…??? People really will tell you almost anything while you drive them around.

331491 132074363567740 710537584 o

4. What’s it like driving a pedicab? Those things must be geared in a way to let you handle some serious cargo (i.e. people). And I imagine they have some serious brakes on them too. What’s the weight limit for a pedicab?

Driving a pedicab is tons of fun! Most of the time you are transporting people who are already out to have a good time and you get to be part of it…you get to actually be part of the environment. You’re always meeting someone new and you get to contribute to their experience. The cabs are geared just like a 21speed mountain bike and even though they have a pretty big granny gear a five or six hour shift definitely takes it out of you. Downtown is not as flat as you think it is, especially when carting a few hundred pounds around. The max load is about 800 lbs and they are equipped with hydraulic rear brakes. Usually as the nights progress we inch closer and closer to that max 800 pound limit as people pile on in fours and fives!

5. You must be pretty exhausted after a full day/night of pedaling people around Memphis. What’s your favorite energy booster?

Sugar, sugar and more sugar followed by carbs and more sugar.

6. What other neighborhoods do you think would be well-suited for a pedicab? I could see one making the rounds on Madison Avenue, between Cooper and McLean, especially once Overton Square is renovated.

We ask ourselves that question all the time. We keep coming back to the Cooper-Young/Overton Square area. We really like the feeling and activity in that part of town. Hopefully the Square will make a comeback…it has such great potential. Pedicabs would be perfect for the trip from Cooper Young to Overton Square. That part of town would also be ideal for a dispatch-type of pedicab servivce.

467558 229600610481781 185470143 o

7. What’s been the response to your business among downtown locals and businesses? Do the horse-drawn carriages ever try to race you?

Sometimes it can be a slow process trying to start something new or break into an industry that has established players. You certainly can’t escape the “new-kid-on-the-block” feeling. Before we had all the required paperwork and been properly vetted the response was not what we had hoped but certainly expected. We are finding our place in the higherarchy, we are starting to be accepted as part of the downtown scene and we couldn’t be happier. And yes, the carriages regularly ask us if we want to race.

8. When the Harahan Bridge project is completed, we’ll have bike lanes crossing the Mississippi River. Any plans to transport people across the river to West Memphis and back?

That is certainly in the cards.

9. What other types of biking do you do around town?

I also race as a Cat 3 cyclist.

10. Any other stories you’d like to share?

We are perfect for parties, weddings, corporate events, brand ambassadors or even as a valet service.

340997 142308242544352 547101295 o

And there you have it, folks.  I’ve been meaning to head downtown and take a ride on a pedicab myself.  Have you done so?  Leave me some love in the comments section, and say hello to Chris, Jeremy, and the rest of the Memphis Pedicab people the next time you’re downtown.

Important meeting

Hey everyone.  There’s an important Public Review Meeting concerning proposed bike lanes on Tillman and Broad on August 16, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, 2835 Broad St.  At the meeting various issues surrounding extending bike infrastructure from the Greenline west to Overton Park will be discussed.  I plan to be there; hope you can be too.

Biking to Germantown

Have you read this article from the Commercial Appeal?  Pretty exciting stuff.  It looks like the connection between the Greenline and Germantown is completed.  The 1.25 mile section has apparently been unofficially open now for a couple of weeks.  This means that one could bike from Tillman to Germantown on bike paths without interruption.  Here’s a map of where the newly completed segment lies.

Screen Shot 2012 07 22 at 11 26 02 AM

You can the connection between Shady Grove Rd. and the Poplar Estates neighborhood on the map, bottom center.  I’m not sure if that’s exactly where the path lies, but it would appear to be.

I haven’t had the chance to go exploring out east in some time.  Anyone else ridden this new segment?

” … my right.”

You might have read this article in today’s Commercial Appeal.  If you didn’t, or for some reason are unable to click on links, the article concerns the recent installation of bike lanes on McLean Boulevard and some conflicts that has created.  The conflicts stem from the loss of on-street parking, which was sacrificed to make way for the bike lanes, and are localized onto a roughly 2000-foot section of McLean between Poplar and Overton Park Avenue.  Here’s a map of that section.

Screen Shot 2012 07 18 at 11 09 00 PM

I’m not terribly familiar with that section of McLean, it not being in my normal patterns of travel.  But, as you can see, there are no cross streets, meaning that the loss of on-street parking is a legitimate grievance for the residents and businesses there.  A local resident received a parking ticket when she parked on the street, to make way for a construction crew doing work on her house.  A videography business is worried about losing clients, since access to its offices are now greatly limited.  No doubt other residents have similar complaints; again, all legitimate.

Two things struck me about the article and the concerns addressed therein.  First, big props to the city and, in particular, Kyle Wagenschutz, for getting in front of this issue and responding very quickly to emails from concerned citizens.  When I think about what effective local government means, rapid response to complaints or questions is tops on that list.  (To that point, my wife have been very impressed by the MPD’s program of watching over your house when you’re out of town.  We regularly call the MPD when we’re traveling and we feel safer as a result.  In fact, we’ve gotten to know at least one of the officers assigned to our beat.  Of course, bringing a tray of sandwiches to the local precinct will do that for you.  But I digress.  A lot.)

Second, the statement from one of the residents of McLean that it “is my right” to park on the street.  That’s the problem.  Because McLean is a public street, it is not only her right to park there, but every other resident of the city (and visitors to the city) also enjoys that same right.  Not only that, every other resident of the enjoys the right to bike along that street, drive on it, or otherwise use it for any lawful purpose.  Such are the difficulties of congestible public goods.

Economists have a phrase to describe this phenomenon: the Tragedy of the Commons.  The basic idea is that when individuals share access to the same common resource, the resource is often depleted, such that its value is lessened for all users.  Each user has the incentive to consume the resource as much as possible, to her/his own benefit, but in doing so, adversely affects other’s enjoyment.  In this case, we see that the road in question is shared by many users: drivers, cyclists, residents, pedestrians, and so on.  When all users attempt to use the same road for each of their own ends, the road becomes congested to the point that the overall benefit is reduced.

But there are ways of dealing with this tragedy, one of which the article (and the city) addresses: the assigning of property rights.  If the various users of the common have limits on what they can consume, then the good can be protected for the benefit of all.  The city initially did this by allowing unfettered access to drivers and parkers.  Fine, unless you’re a cyclist.  Then, the city reallocated property rights, creating bike lanes and greatly reducing the property rights of parkers.  Fine, unless you’re a parker.  But now, we have a proposed compromise, which is to allow parking in the bike lanes between certain hours; dusk to dawn, for example.

While I am generally more in favorable of compromises, as opposed to all-or-nothing solutions, and while I do think that allowing night-time parking in bike lanes would be acceptable, I do have some concerns about that solution.  First, I’m concerned that others would seek to apply this solution to other lengths of road where bike lanes have been recently installed.  The loss of parking space is a legitimate concern, as we have seen expressed in the discussion over bike lanes on Madison Avenue and Cooper Street.  But if  this solution were applied more broadly, the integrity of those bike lanes, and the protection they afford cyclists, would be compromised.  While I recognize that some such compromise is acceptable, I’d like to minimize it.  To be sure, no one has suggested such additional compromises, and hopefully that won’t come to pass.

My other concern is that, while perhaps Pareto-improving (sorry for the overuse of economics jargon, by the way), compromises can be confusing.  Parkers and cyclists would have an entirely new paradigm to adjust to, one that might not be as easily understood as one all-or-nothing solution or another, to say nothing of the difficulties in enforcing this solution.  This is not to say that an amenable solution does not exist; indeed, the city, to its credit, is looking into that as well.  In fact, I’m really curious to find out what other cities have done in similar situations.

One last point, before sleep overtakes me: part of me is utterly overjoyed when I read articles like this.  Why, you might ask?  Because when cities march (or pedal) down the path toward being truly bike-friendly, they inevitably encountered such issues.  While some might take this story as being evidence of the intransigence of the non-biking public, I take it as meaning that we, as a city, are doing the right thing.  Memphis is truly becoming a bike-friendly community, and these intermittent skirmishes are evidence of that.  As long as we all keep our heads (and helmets) about us and focus on the long run, we’ll be fine.  Just imagine what Memphis will be like in 10 years, or even next year, and these short-term concerns become less of a headache.  (Unless you live on McLean between Poplar and Overton Park Avenue, that is.)

Parking in bike lanes

I’ve seen it many times; I’m sure you have too.  Sometimes it’s a landscaping truck, or a broken-down car.  Sometimes it’s an MLGW truck or even a Memphis Police Department vehicle.  A friend of mine on facebook even began to chronicle it on his wall.  As the subject line suggests, this post is about parking in bike lanes.

I don’t have any statistics or photos to share with you.  Usually I’m too busy to stop and take pictures or do a count of vehicles parked in bike lanes when I’m biking to school.  It appears to be more common on Southern Avenue than Madison, probably because there is already on-street parking on Madison.  I hear that it’s an issue on McLean as well.

None of this should be particularly surprising.  For all the acclaim the bikes lanes have received, many Memphians are not used to them.  Part of that stems from the fact that new lanes are being added on an ongoing basis, so drivers haven’t had a lot of time to adjust to them.  And they’ve only just recently begun to infiltrate the most dense and heavily-trafficked parts of the city, on roads like Peabody, Madison, and McLean.  Nonetheless, the lanes are here to stay, so we have to do what we can to educate drivers and ourselves about the proper use of these lanes.

For more information on the city’s rules about bike lanes, visit Municode, a repository of municipal codes from across the country.  Click on Tennessee, then Memphis, then the Memphis Code of Ordinances link.  The relevant code is found in Title 11, Chapter 11-24.

I’ll quote from the code here.  In Section 11-24-9, the code says that “[e]very person operating a motor vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a person operating a bicycle within a bicycle lane. A person operating a motor vehicle may cross a bicycle lane when making a turn or when entering or leaving the roadway, but a bicycle lane shall not be used as a turning lane or passing lane.”  It goes on to say that “[m]otor vehicles shall not be parked, stopped or left standing in a bicycle lane unless the city has determined that parking within the bicycle lane in specific locations is appropriate during certain hours and official signs have been erected in the designated areas to that effect or the city engineer has issued written special permission parking for a specific event during certain hours.”  That’s as clear as I can imagine.

So the challenge now is on two fronts: education and enforcement.  On the first front, the city recently released a video which discusses the proper etiquette in the use of bike lanes.  It’s a great video, short and to the point.  And hey, that male cyclist looks familiar, doesn’t he?

On the second front, we must rely on the Memphis Police Department.  I called the MPD today for more information about the fines that could be levied on a vehicle parked in a bike lane but was unable to get a response.  (Don’t worry: I didn’t take it personally.  I know that our city police are pulled in many directions and I always appreciate their part in making Memphis a better place to live.)  But according to the city’s code, parking in bike lanes is a misdemeanor offense, so I imagine that the penalty is similar to what would be levied for a parking ticket.

Hopefully, continued education, vigorous enforcement, and the accumulation of experience in dealing with bike lanes – plus lots of cyclists using those lanes – will resolve many of the unlawful uses of these lanes.  We’ll likely never reach a point of 100% respect and compliance, but by working together we can insure that bike lanes are used only for their intended purposes: giving cyclists a safe place to ride.

This weekend’s activities

Hi everyone.  Just a quick post about a couple of biking activities this weekend you should know about.

The good people in the Boscos Cycling Team (including April’s Cyclist of the Month, Jason Potter) are leading a Bike to Work Train from Midtown to downtown on Friday, June 1.  The ride begins at Otherlands Coffee Bar at 7:30 AM – be there early for some java.  It will be a fun ride.

On Saturday, June 2, the monthly Cycle Memphis ride happens.  This installment meets at 7:00 PM at the gazebo at the corner of Cooper St. and Young Ave. and begins at 7:15 PM.  I don’t have a route to share with you, but every Cycle Memphis I’ve been on has been great.  I don’t think I’ll be able to attend, so have fun in my absence.

Alright Memphis, get out there and get on your bikes.

Bike share programs – UPDATE

There was a great article in yesterday’s New York Times by David Byrne, formerly of Talking Heads and about 1,000,000 other projects, about New York City’s new bike share program and his experiences with similar programs in other cities.  Memphis is slated to adopt its own bike share program, although I have few details about it, as I missed the Pizza with Planners meeting last week due to vacation.  And, the University of Memphis should be implementing a bike share program for students beginning in the fall, subject to approval by the Board of Regents.  I’ve been working on that project for some time now, along with my friend and colleague Amelia Mayahi, the University’s Sustainability Coordinator, and many others.  Hopefully the two programs will complement each other as well as the existing bike share program at Rhodes College.

New York’s bike share program would offer unlimited rides for $10 per day, as long as the rides were 30 minutes or fewer in length.  This time restriction is made easier by plans to install 450 (corrected: 600) bike share kiosks and station around the boroughs.  In a practical sense, this means that if you wanted to bike from home to the grocery store, you would need to find a bike station near your home and another near the store.  You would check out a bike near home, bike to the station nearest the store, and return the bike.  After shopping, you would return to the station near the store, check out another bike, and continue on to your next destination.  You could do this as many times as you like that day.  The ease of finding bike share stations is enhanced greatly by offering an app for iPhones (and hopefully Android devices as well), that shows the location of nearby stations.

I don’t know where the bike stations will be located around NYC, presumably near population centers, entertainment districts, subway stations, and so on.  As for Memphis, I could imagine numerous bike stations in downtown (i.e. at South Main and Patterson, further north on Main, near the Convention Center), in the Pinch district, Uptown, the medical district, Overton Square, Overton Park, Cooper Young, near college campuses, and so on.  Basically, anywhere where there are lots of people or where lots of people like to go.

One thing to consider is the number of stations relative to the time limits on rentals.  The basic equation is that fewer stations = longer rental time.  If we start out with, say, 10 stations in Memphis, a 30-minute window might be too short for many rentals, and might inadvertently discourage participation.  On the other hand, making sure that bikes are returned in a timely fashion is important.  If relatively few people account for most of the rentals, effectively hogging the bikes and preventing others from using them, dissatisfaction with the program will manifest.  This is a concern that Amelia and I heard from some of the other bike rental programs we investigated.

The bike rental program at U of M will have a two-week window for using a bike.  Upon returning a bike, the student must wait 24 hours before re-renting a bike if there are no other bikes available.  The program will be open to all students for a flat annual fee.  We’re going to start with 50 bikes which will be housed at a central location on campus.  We won’t have the kiosks that are typical seen in municipal share programs due to the initial expense of acquiring and installing them.

Another concern with bike share/rental programs (by the way, I am using “bike share” and “bike rental” as synonyms, although there might be a difference that I am missing) is helmet use.  According to the Annals of Emergency Medicine, only 1 in 5 bike share users wear helmets.  While I am 100% pro-helmet use, and never bike without one, I am also respectful of the right of adults to engage in risky behavior at their own discretion, without the government forcing them to use safety devices.  I’ve never written about them before, but I am generally opposed to laws that require adult cyclists to wear helmets (although this rapidly turns into a discussion on the relationship between the state and the individual and such issues as helmet laws for motorcyclists and seat belt laws).  Helmet laws for minors are a no brainer.

At U of M, we’re going to address the helmet issue by providing helmets and other safety gear for all riders and, of course, requiring that they sign a waiver indemnifying the University from injuries, etc.  Also, the students will be responsible for any damages to the bikes, equipment, or theft.

I don’t know how the helmet issue could be addressed in a municipal share program’; perhaps with one of these?  It would be difficult to mandate that riders wear helmets, although having them available would be good and might enhance participation.  Of course, there’s also the ick-factor of wearing a sweaty, stinky helmet that just came off someone else’s head.  Maybe some Lysol would solve that.

Whatever the case, I am very excited about the bike share programs at U of M and in the city itself.  They both show that Memphis is growing into a truly bike-friendly city.  Good times.

UPDATE: Here’s a great article from the Atlantic Monthly Cities blog about safety concerns with NYC’s bike share program.  And here’s Cort’s ideas on bike sharing in Memphis.

April Cyclist of the Month: Jason Potter

Hi everyone.  As I wrote just a few days ago, April is a particularly busy month for cyclists in Memphis.  There are events scheduled every weekend, sometimes more than one. But I’m particularly excited about the fourth annual Tour de Grizz, in no small part because it combines two things I love most about Memphis: basketball and biking.  The fact that the Tour was started by a really great guy, Jason Potter, the Director of Promotions and Event Presentations at the Memphis Grizzlies, makes it even better.  Read on for the history behind the Tour de Grizz and more Memphis cycling goodies.

 

1.  This marks the fourth year of the Tour de Grizz, if I’m not mistaken.  What inspired you to launch the first ride back in 2009?

I’ve wanted to put together a ride in Memphis like Tour de Grizz ever since I picked up riding again.  Four years ago, the NBA rolled out the first of its now annual “NBA Green Week” initiatives in an effort to highlight sustainability efforts and offer education to fans about the benefits of “Going Green.”  It was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

I perceived that there was a lack of awareness and education about cycling in Memphis back when we started Tour de Grizz.  I thought that an event that combined the fun and excitement of the NBA experience with the simple joy of riding a bike could be a catalyst in introducing or reintroducing people to riding.

2.  I remember the first Tour de Grizz; there were a few dozen cyclists and we left from the parking lot of First Congo church.  Last year there were hundreds of cyclists and we occupied much of the entranceway to the Memphis Zoo.  Mayor Wharton even rode with us.  To what do you attribute the rapid growth of the Tour de Grizz?

I had high expectations for Tour de Grizz even from its humble beginnings that first year.  I truly believed we could grow the event to be something special.  What has surprised me, however, is just how excited people get about the ride.  We certainly have a lot of experienced participants from the local cycling community who do Tour de Grizz for the fun of it, but I think just as many people who come out for the ride are not used to riding among a group of people that large.  To them, this is their biggest bike adventure of the year, and to see how happy they are to be a part of a community of riders just like themselves, well, it makes it all worthwhile.

I would credit that growth and excitement to two things: the change in attitude towards cycling in Memphis and incredible support from the cycling community.

I think we can all agree that Mayor Wharton’s administration has gone a long way in helping change the attitude towards cycling with the installation of all bike facilities (with more hopefully to follow).  There will always be the grouchy folks on message boards who think it’s a waste of resources to make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and we might not change those people’s minds.  But you can tell change is coming by the fact that so many businesses have gone out of their way to invest in facilities for riders.   I think the businesses recognize this isn’t a passing trend, that to a neighborhood or business district, being bike-friendly means real money.  Then the system perpetuates itself because people see that investment on the civic level and on the business level and they feel more comfortable giving cycling a try.  This is obviously good for events like ours.

The other major impact in the growth of our event has been from the support of the cycling community of Memphis.   We’ve had tremendous partners support our event on the grassroots level: from shops (I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank The Peddler, Outdoors and Victory Bike Studio) to clubs like the Hightailers and IP Cycling and organizations like Revolutions, Greater Memphis Greenline, and Shelby Farms, we’ve had the cycling community bend over backwards to help spread the word and see to it that the event became a success.  More riders at our event means more customers and patrons at their respective businesses.  It’s the same at other cycling events in town, too.  For so long, cyclists felt pushed to the fringes in Memphis, and now that it’s a new day they want to make sure they are as inclusive as possible to keep the good times coming.  That’s been my experience.

Lastly, the support we’ve received from the Zoo has been phenomenal.  It’s such a fantastic organization and a jewel to the City of Memphis.  Connecting the dots to the communities/fan bases/families that claim to be a Grizzlies Fan, a Cyclist, or a Zoo Lover; well, to put it in basketball terms, it’s been a slam dunk.  There’s so much overlap among the audiences, it’s been the perfect partnership.  We would not have grown the event so quickly without the Zoo’s participation.

3.  The Tour is one of many very inclusive group bike rides in Memphis these days.  Others that come to mind are the Cycle Memphis rides, the Tweed Rides, and the Tuesday night rides sponsored by the Peddler Bike Shop.  How often do you get a chance to go on one of those other rides?

One of my goals for this year is to participate in more “leisure rides” that are similar to Tour de Grizz to keep learning about who participates in them in an effort to make the experience better for our event.  I’ve loved all of the leisure rides I’ve done in town, including the Tweed Rides you mention and even a bigger scale event like the Midnight Classic.  Any time you bring together a group of cyclists with the expressed intent of having a good time, you succeed.

4.  Do you commute to work on your bike?  What’s your commute like?

I’m a self-proclaimed “fair weather commuter.”   I tend to ride to work the most in the spring through the fall, and try to do it once or twice a week at least during my riding season.  I love my commute from Cooper Young to FedExForum.  I like to ride in to work at an easy pace, and it usually takes me around 25 minutes no matter what route I take.  This spring, the city has repaved several of the stretches of Linden and Peabody I ride on, which has made it an absolute joy compared even to last year.  You probably hear people tell you how much the ride to work clears their head and how a ride home can decompress you from a workday, and I couldn’t agree more.  For all of the inconveniences of commuting by bike (which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, I think we’d have to concede a few) I find the benefits for what it can do to your state of mind, your creativity, and your feeling of connection to your community far outweigh the negatives.

5.  I think I met you for the first time at Bike to Work Day a couple of years ago.  Are you planning to participate in that again this year?

I love the “Bike to Work Day” event and think the organizers at the Downtown Memphis Commission and Church Health Center do a magnificent job of educating people about taking the plunge and making their first commute by bike.  This will be the third year of the event, and I’ve been involved each year.  When I first learned about it, I reached out to the organizers and asked if I could lead a ride from my neighborhood to get involved.  Since then, I’ve been an official “Ride Captain” and look forward to leading an even larger number of cyclists into work this year.  I enjoy demystifying the bike commute experience to first-timers.

6.  On a scale of one to ten, how awesome is the Shelby Farms Greenline?

On its worst day, in the coldest, wettest weather imaginable, I’d say an eleven.

7.  Do you run any errands on your bike? If so, how do you handle cargo? Have you invested in any panniers?

I’m more of a messenger bag or backpack guy when riding and carrying any cargo.  I find anything I need to take to work: clothes, toiletries, etc. all fit perfectly fine.  The messenger bag can get a little uncomfortable in the summer and probably isn’t practical if you don’t have facilities to get cleaned up at work, though.If I’m going to the store, that’s enough cargo capacity for the essentials.  It is a lot of fun to take your bike to the Union Avenue Kroger, too, because people still kind of look at you like you’re crazy, which we cyclists all seem to take pride in, don’t we?

8.  Where do you go for information about bike commuting?  Are there websites you consult?  What about friends in the area who are experienced cyclists?

I guess for the most part I’ve learned about bike commuting through trial and error.  When I first got back into riding, it was primarily for fitness doing weekend endurance-style (read: spandex) rides.  I fell in love with it so badly, I wanted to find more time for riding and that’s how I first decided I’d try to ride to work.  Well, there were not such great programs in place as Bike To Work Day in Memphis yet to teach me what I needed to know, so I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I was dressing in full-on lycra and riding to the office super-early so no one would call me “Lance” or anything.  I think I thought that’s what I was supposed to do on a road bike, that I had to dress like that to be considered a “real” cyclist.  In hindsight, it was ridiculous.

I typically commute these days in khakis and t-shirts, and either bring a change of clothes in a messenger bag or I’ll have a shirt or two hanging in the office to change into when I arrive.  I keep an extra pair of shoes at work in case I want to ride my road bike.  I guess I’ve just gotten more relaxed about riding in general.  I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong way to dress on a bike, no right kind of bike to ride, that the only thing that matters is that you are comfortable both physically and emotionally, as in “comfortable with yourself.”  You shouldn’t be riding around wondering what people are thinking about you.  You should only pay attention to where other people are so you can ride as safely as possible, and spend whatever remaining mental capacity you may have dreaming about the things you need to do, your next trip, your friends and family, all the good stuff in life. Enjoy the ride, and laugh on the inside at all the people stuck in their cars listening to their bad music.

9.  What kind of bike do you have? Are there any biking accessories you can’t live without?

I currently have three bikes and I am always looking to expand the fleet, much to the chagrin of my wife.  I’m afraid I have to tackle a better bike storage solution than our dining room before I get too carried away again.

I have a road bike, a 29er mountain bike, and a single speed.  Each has their purpose and a special place in my bike heart.  As far as accessories, it really depends on the kind of ride I’m on.  I think the only constants I have are my ID and cell phone.  I don’t ride without my helmet and I always use lights at night.

10.  What about drivers in Memphis? How friendly are they to commuter cyclists?

I find motorists in Memphis to be more and more aware of cyclists every year.  Perhaps it’s from experience gained and confidence on the road, but I think cyclists and drivers alike are getting more accustomed to the new bike facilities in town and the outcry from both sides has seemed to mellow a bit.  Maybe bikes and cars can coexist after all, right?  Having said that, I think it’s especially important for cyclists to be alert at all times while on the bike and be smart about the way they ride and the routes they choose.  After all, it’s just you and your helmet out there.  As we see all too often, the danger is greater for the one on the bike than the one surrounded by a ton of steel.

11.  Any other stories you’d like to share?

I could go on all day, but any other stories I have are better told on a bike.  I hope I see everyone out there soon.

>>>>>>

Thanks Jason.  I appreciate the interview, and I’m sure my readers will as well.  See you this Saturday at the Tour de Grizz, where hundreds of people will be biking in Memphis.

April cycling events

Hi everyone.  Spring has certainly arrived early this year, making biking ever so much more enjoyable.  I have some hope that we can make these moderate temperatures last for a few months; the last thing we need is four months of summer.  But I digress.  Just in time for spring, the month of April is exploding with bicycling events here in Memphis.  Read on for more information.

1.  Tour of Flanders Party – The Brass Door Pub – Sunday, April 1, 7:30 AM until you bonk.

Did you really need an excuse to drink beer and eat waffles at 7:30 in the morning?  Because now you have one.  Co-hosted by the good people at Victory Bicycle Studio and The Brass Door, the Tour of Flanders Party features coverage of the 2012 Tour de Flanders ride (obviously).  Get there early for a good seat in front of the 92″ FLAT SCREEN TV. Is that shit even legal?  ‘Cause I’m tripping balls just thinking about it.

542312 3580324634954 1478317063 3285368 931839280 n

2.  The Fourth Annual Tour de Grizz – Memphis Zoo; FedExForum – Saturday, April 7, more or less all day.

The Tour de Grizz is one of my favorite group rides in the city.  It begins this year as in past at the Memphis Zoo and ends up at FedExForum and is definitely fun and safe for all ages.  For $25 per person, you get one-day admission to the zoo, a terrace-level ticket to watch the Grizzlies demolish the Dallas Mavericks, plus a t-shirt and lots of other stuff I’m forgetting.  And if you want club-level seats, you can pay $55 per person and make that happen.  (Note: if you’re a Grizzlies season-ticket holder like me, it only costs $15.)  The ride begins at 5:30 PM and is escorted by the Memphis Police, which is fun in and of itself.  I’ll be there, and so should you.

Tour de grizz 120307 630

3.  15th Annual Charles Finney Ride – Lakeland Outlet Mall - Saturday, April 14, 8:00 AM.

The Memphis Hightailers are sponsoring the 15th Annual Charles Finney Ride to benefit the Church Health Center on Saturday, April 14.  There are three rides you can choose from: 18 miles, 45 miles, and 62 miles.  I won’t be able to attend, as I have a work event that day, but hopefully you can.  Click here to register.

Button Finney Ride 2012

4.  Cycle Memphis April – Cooper-Young gazebo – Saturday, April 14, 8:00 PM until around 11:00 PM.

I’ve missed the last couple Cycle Memphis rides due to prior commitments, so I am super-excited about this month’s ride.  Normally held on the first Saturday of the month, Cycle Memphis April was pushed back a weekend due to the Tour de Grizz.  I’ve written about the Cycle Memphis rides before – they’re always a good time.  I imagine that the crowd will be extra large this time, what with the weather improving and all.  And, as an added bonus, I will be DJing the ride.  That’s right – I’ve volunteered to create the musical soundtrack for April’s ride.  I used to DJ some back in grad school, so I’m excited to dust off my skills and select some tunes for the people.

161923 174860925967087 529966017 n

(Note: that should read 2012, not 2011.)

5.  The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality Family Fun Rides – Levitt Shell at Overton Park – Saturday, April 14, 7:00 AM.

The Memphis Rotary Club is sponsoring Families Supporting Families, a day of bike rides to benefit the Dorothy Day House, which provides shelter and support for homeless families in Memphis.  There are three rides that day: a 1/2 mile family run ride around Overton Park, plus two rides to Shelby Forest and back, at 33 and 53 miles.  The longer rides begin at 8:00 AM and the fun ride at 10:00 AM.  Click here to register.

Dorothy Day Ride

6.  Bikesploitation II: Some Bike it Hot! submission deadline – Friday, April 20.

The good people at Live from Memphis are once again sponsoring Bikesploitation, a festival of bike-related films.  The festival isn’t until May 18, but the deadline for submissions is Friday, April 20.  Click here to read more and here to learn about how to submit your own film.  Hmm … maybe it’s time for me to get that handlebar-mounted camera I’ve been eyeing.

Honorable Mention - Ignite: Sustainability – The Zone at the FedEx Institute of Technology, University of Memphis Campus – Tuesday, April 3, 6:00 PM.

While this event doesn’t have any biking-related content per se, my good friend Matt Farr, along with Launch Memphis, Sustainable Shelby, and the University of Memphis, is organizing Ignite: Sustainability to promote ideas for sustainable products and projects in Memphis.  I was planning to present but had to bow out due to my work load.  It should be a great event though, so plan to go if you can.  Here’s more information.

>>>>>>

What a great month we have in store.  So much biking, so few Saturdays.  I hope you can attend all of these events; I know I’ll be at most of them.  Did I miss anything?  Leave me a message in the comments.

Stolen bike alert!

People.  This just in from local cyclist Craig Schuster:

My bikes have been stolen. Both my blue Schwinn Cruiser and my custom made Tricycle. Please share this photo and help me look for them, especially the Trike. If you see anything that looks like the trike in any way, contact me or the police immediately. Craig Schuster, (901) 278-3489.

Here’s a picture of the (really sweet) custom tricycle.

426878 10150624399239495 236916594494 9488361 905092780 n

Please keep an eye out for the bikes.  Contact Detective Keaton with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office if you see them.  His number is (901) 568-5645.

Let’s get these bikes back home.