Tagged: bike commuting

Ridiculous

My people, I present to you a pictorial representation of bike commuting in Memphis in the 21st century.  Behold …


That big stack of papers on the right?  That was my Spring Break.  I didn’t actually grade all of them: my graduate assistant did most of the grading and preparation for my intro-level economics class (that’s the two folders in the middle).  But I did have to sort them, staple scantrons to exams, and enter the grades online.  Plus all the grading, sorting, and recording scores for my two upper-division courses (those are the two stacks of Blue Books you see).  I didn’t actually measure or weigh the stack, although I’d put it at around 20 pounds.  Maybe 30.

But I’m not here to write about my grading duties, overwhelming though they are sometimes.  I just wanted to post the picture and mention that I managed to carry all of those papers, plus my lunch, coffee, laptop and power cable to work in my panniers.  And it really wasn’t that bad.  My bike felt light as a damn feather coming home though, I can tell you that.

Almost forgot

In my most recent post, about the bike-lane meeting, I forgot to mention that I had a pretty epic biking day that day.  I biked from home to school, then from campus out to Shelby Farms on the Greenline and back (another group bike ride with the UM Cycling Club), then from campus to Otherlands, then from Otherlands to the Snowden School for the meeting, then from Snowden home.  Here’s a screenshot of my day.

And here’s a link to an interactive map.

Pretty awesome, huh?  I biked for a total of 25.2 miles that day.  My average speed was a respectable 10.4 MPH, and my peak was 20.8 MPH.  A good chunk of the trip was on the Greenline, but most of those miles were commuter miles, which I love.

The Meeting the Week Before Last About Bike Lanes on Madison Avenue

I’ve been a bit delinquent in posting my thoughts on the meeting two weeks ago about proposed bike lanes (or other bike facilities) on Madison Avenue and other roads around town.  I have been extraordinarily busy lately and haven’t had much time for long-form posts.  Plus, some of the opinions expressed in the meeting were quite shocking in their tenor such that I really wanted some time to process the events and write something thoughtful about it.

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A Smattering of Bits of Interest

  • Local biking guru Anthony Siracusa has a great article in today’s Commercial Appeal about the status of community cycling efforts in Memphis.
  • Several articles have appeared lately about the walking and biking lanes that are to be installed on the Harahan Bridge (which I’ve just discovered has its own Facebook page – who knew?) in the near future.  I am so excited about being able to bike to Arkansas – and eventually to New Orleans – I can hardly stand it.
  • There’s a meeting Wednesday, 2 March at 5:30 PM at the Church Health Center on Union Avenue about the plans for pedestrian and biking infrastructure in the area.  Kyle Wagenschutz and other folks from the Memphis MPO will be soliciting input from the public about what sort of facilities we want.  I’ll be there and I hope you will be too.
  • I’m way behind in posting about the controversy surrounding the installation of bike lanes on Madison Avenue through Midtown, but here’s a great letter to the editors of the CA on just that topic.
  • Here’s a great article from the U.S. Department of Transportation on the benefits of bicycle infrastructure.  I haven’t had a chance to fully read it, but I like what I see so far.

What a difference a day (and some shameless self-promotion) makes

I’ve been writing this blog for almost two months now.  For the first month at least, I was very reluctant to publicize this blog, for a few reasons.

  1. I am notoriously bad at self-promotion.  Something in my nature greatly resists running around and trumpeting my latest endeavor.  Why?  Who knows.
  2. I really wanted people to discover my blog “organically,” which means via internet searches and so on.  And for a while, that worked OK.  But the payoff was pretty low.
  3. Let’s face it; announcing to one’s friends and acquaintances that “hey, I’ve started a blog!” is kind of like being excited about joining MySpace.  It’s just a little dated.  But given my lack of interest in signing up for a Twitter account on top of this blog, here I am.

That said, welcome to my new readers.  To give you all an idea of what a brief mention of my blog in the comment section of a post I made on my facebook page meant, have a look at this graph.

Guess which I day I chose to publicize my blog.  Go on … take a minute.  Give up?

Whatever the case, I appreciate all my new readers.  I try to post about every 2-3 days, depending on what’s happened in my life as a bike commuter in Memphis.  I realize that there is only so much interest in posts titled “Today’s commute,” so I try to intersperse those posts with other posts concerning the larger picture of what it means to bike in Memphis.

And aside from my commute today, which was rather uneventful, except for some unwelcome rain showers this morning, that’s the point of this post.

I haven’t had a chance to write about a meeting I attended last week at the Snowden School.  The meeting was about the proposed bike lanes in Midtown, including routes on McLean and Madison.  But it was the lanes on Madison that provoked the most controversy.

You can ride about the meeting here.  I’ll add my own thoughts in a few days, as soon as I get a chance.  But what I really want to publicize is this event.

After all, what better way is there to show our support for bike lanes in Midtown than to support the very businesses that might be affected by the lanes?  While I believe the net affect will be positive, I understand that these businesses are concerned about their bottom lines.  So let’s show them that bike lanes need not mean a decline in revenues.

I hope you will join me in this effort. Thanks again for reading.

Biking to the store(s) and elsewhere

Today was an absolutely amazing day to ride.  Temperatures in the mid-70s, clear skies, a nice stiff breeze (the occasional brutal headwind aside), and a long list of errands to run.

I’ve long believed that the best biking is the kind that takes you out of your car and puts you on a bike. Obviously, not all trips are equally easy to be done on a bike.  Visits to the bulk-buyers mecca known as Sam’s Wholesale Club are just going to be more difficult on a bike, unless you have a cargo trailer, which even the most dedicated cyclist often doesn’t own.  But many trips are completely feasible on a bike, including a sizable weekly trip to the grocery store, which I accomplished today.  Given that something like 75% of trips under two miles in length are made in a car, I think we all have a little room for improvement.  And that was my goal today.

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Two days, two rides

I don’t know if it’s writer’s block or a lack of a theme for this post, but I want to write about my experiences commuting around Memphis today and yesterday, and yet I’m having a devil of a time getting started on this.  Were my rides frustrating?  Exhilarating?  Fulfilling?  Lacking?  What’s the through line?

Well, like almost any commute I’ve made in the past few years I’ve been biking around Memphis, my rides were both frustrating and exhilarating and fulfilling and lacking.  Everything, all rolled into one giant burrito of what it means to be a commuter cyclist.

So what was frustrating about my rides?  First, let’s have a look at the routes.  Very similar, the two of them.  For both rides, I started out at my home in the south-east corner of Cooper Young, headed north to the main intersection of the neighborhood, then went on from there.  On Friday I stopped by my favorite local bookstore to pick up a book I had recently ordered, then biked over to my favorite local video store to pick up some movies for the weekend.  From there I sallied forth to the nearest package store to pick up a bottle of vino, then home.

On Saturday my ride was nearly identical.  To the video store to return one of the DVDs, then to the nearest drug store to pick up a few items for my ailing wife, then back by the liquor store for another bottle of wine, then home.  Sounds nice, yes?

Sure, except for nearly getting cut off by a driver who turned right in front of me off Cooper.  And encountering more than a few drivers for whom the three-feet rule is unknown.  [sigh]

But I don’t let it get me down.  In the past week I’ve biked every day and haven’t used my car once.  To me, that’s a good week.

Advocacy <-> Action

I teach economics at the University of Memphis at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  I’ve been teaching economics for around 13 years, going to back my days as a graduate student at Georgia State University.  In those years of teaching I’ve developed many pedagogical tools to help my students better understand economics, which believe me, can be quite a challenge for many undergraduates, if not graduate students.  One of the tools I’ve developed is emphasizing how cause-and-effect relationships can describe what motivates people to change their behavior.  For example, an increase in the price of some good should motivate consumers to buy less of that good.  In this example, the direction of causation is one way: the change in price causes people to change how much they purchase, not vice versa.  Of course, I am implicitly relying on the ceteris paribus assumption: that all other relevant factors, including income, tastes and preferences, the price of related goods, are held constant.  In other words, we consider only the relationship between the price of the good and the quantity of that good that consumers wish to purchase at that price. All other factors are held constant.

Of course, in reality it is most difficult to hold all other factors constant.  We economists have many tools at our disposal for dealing with these challenges, among them regression analysis, but we fully recognize that reality is far messier than our models allow.

What brings all this to mind is something my wife said the other night.  I don’t remember what we were talking about, probably something about my cycling advocacy efforts, but what she said really made me pause for a moment.  What she said was this: “You live the life you advocate.” Continue reading

Memphis MPO Meeting

An email reminder from Kyle Wagenschutz …

Hello everyone,

Just a quick reminder about next week’s meeting during Phase 2 of the update process for the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.  We had over 70 people attend last month’s meeting, many of whom were new faces, and we got some great feedback and ideas for expanding our region’s greenway and trail network.

We are now gearing up for our second meeting that will focus on pedestrian and bicycle issues.  During this process, we will be getting public input on the most important part of the plan – describing what we, as a region, want to accomplish in terms of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and support programs.

The Memphis MPO will be holding two additional public meetings over the few weeks to help us gain your perspective on how the plan should be updated.  Each of the meetings will be held at the Church Health Center Wellness Center at 1115 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104 in Conference Rooms A and B.  A link to a map and a schedule of the times and topics is listed below:

(http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&q=church+health+center+wellness&fb=1&gl=us&hq=church+health+center+wellness&hnear=Memphis,+TN&cid=0,0,7484869207653639589&sqi=2&ll=35.136493,-90.02561&spn=0.003268,0.007612&t=h&z=18)

February 9, 2011 – Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities – 5:30pm-7:30pm

March 2, 2011 – Review and Revise Phase 2 Findings – 5:30-7:30pm

Please make sure to mark these dates on your calendars and plan to attend. We need to hear from you about how we can advance our efforts in formulating a regional bicycle and pedestrian network.

Feel free to pass this information on to anyone that may be interested in attending.

Kyle Wagenschutz
Memphis MPO
Bikeway/Pedestrian Coordinator
kyle.wagenschutz (at) shelbycountytn.gov

I’m planning to go but may have to skip.  My students have their first round of exams this week and I’ll be buried in blue books and spreadsheets for the next few days.  The first meeting was pretty quick, so hopefully I can squeeze in time for this one.

Snowy ride

Today was a first in my time as a commuter cyclist in Memphis: I biked to work in the snow!  Granted, there was little accumulation on the ground at the time, maybe an inch or two, and the roads were mostly clear, just a little slush on the shoulders.  But still, nothing I’ve experienced as a commuter cyclist compares to biking into driving snow.  By the time I got to school, after about 20 minutes on my bike, the lenses of my glasses were almost completely covered in snow and ice.  I should have wiped them off before I got to my office but I wanted to take a picture of the full accumulation.  You can see that picture and a few others below.

What makes me laugh a bit is how days like today create an ever-widening gap between how I see myself and how others see me.  I’ve never been particularly athletic or competitive with others.  The last time I played a team sports was in middle school.  The sporadic exercise that happened in the interim years was largely voluntary and solitary.  For me, biking around town is not a way of proving my manhood or testing myself against Mother Nature – it’s just what I do.

And yet, after I posted the picture of me at the end of my ride on my facebook profile, the responses were overwhelming. “Impressive” read one.  “You are an inspiration” claimed another.  A former student went so far as to say that he will never be the man I am.  OK, well … maybe, maybe not.  I’m not sure how to quantitatively measure manliness, but I guess biking in the snow bumps me up a bit on that scale.

Whatever the case, here are those pictures.  Enjoy.

[slickr-flickr id=”57760946@N03″ tag=”snowy ride” type=”gallery”]