Hi everyone. Â It is with great pleasure that I post the first in a hopefully long series of entries about local commuter cyclists. Â Our first cyclist, Tina Pierce Sullivan, works at the University of Memphis (like me) and cycles to work on the Southern Avenue bike lanes (like me). Â We met last week at Brother Junipers for breakfast and conversation about cycling, Memphis, and the Greenline.
Letâ€™s start at the beginning. Â Why did you decide to begin cycling to work? Â Had you been cycling around town already at that point? Â What was your first ride like?
I had been riding a cheap, crappy old hand-me-down bike for more than a decade. I promised myself if I got a new bike, I would start using it for my commute. Iâ€™ve been cycling around town for a while, mainly in Midtown. My first ride to work was so easy I was embarrassed that I hadnâ€™t done it sooner. Even on the old bike, it wouldâ€™ve been relatively easy.
What were the main concerns or fears you had when you first started cycling? Â How has your actual experience on the road compared to your expectations of what it would be like?
I thought it was going to take so much longer than driving. It essentially doubled my commute time, but only from 10 minutes to 20, which is still a very reasonable commute. I also thought the heat and road grime on Southern Avenue would offend my aesthetic sensibilities and make me cranky, but that didnâ€™t happen. I ride early and shower at work, so itâ€™s quiet and pleasant in the morning.
How long is your commute to work? Â What route do you follow? Â Do you cross or ride on any roads that are particularly well suited for cycling? Â Any that are not so well suited?
The commute is less than five miles. I ride on Southern, from Cooper to U of M. I really didnâ€™t expect to like Southern, but the â€œroad dietâ€ makes the bike lanes feel somewhat roomy and comfortable and somewhat safe. There are fewer cars than I thought there would be, even at rush hour. I live less than a block from Cooper, so I look forward to having bike lanes on Cooper. I would like to go from four lanes to two lanes plus a turning lane on Cooper.
On a scale of one to ten, how awesome is the Shelby Farms Greenline?
Itâ€™s a 50. I am SO proud of our Greenline. I think itâ€™s a catalyst for many positive things yet to come.
If you could identify any single road where you would like to see bike lanes installed, which one would it be? Â How would that make your life as a commuter cyclist better?
I live less than a mile from Overton Square, so I really hope we get some bike lanes on Madison. I tend to ride to restaurants in Cooper Young more often than to restaurants on Madison, even though some of my favorites are on Madison. I know this is simply because the ride is safer and more pleasant. I think bike facilities on Madison would enhance redevelopment efforts there. Iâ€™m also looking forward to some lanes connecting midtown to downtown.
Do you run any errands on your bike? Â If so, how do you handle cargo? Â Have you invested in any panniers?
I use the bike for trips to Easy Way and the Cooper Young farmers market, and also for the occasional beer/lottery ticket run. I have a simple rack over the back tire and I mostly just use a heavy canvas bag and some bungee cords. When I go to the farmers market, I use an old wooden box that fits perfectly on the rack. I might do panniers later on. I had a bungee cord mishap the first day I rode my bike to work, and I had a bruise over my eyebrow for a week. Felt like such a dork.
Where do you go for information about bike commuting? Â Are there websites you consult? Â What about friends in the area who are experienced cyclists?
I use mapmyride.com to determine distance. I do know several people who are experienced cyclists, and they are all so encouraging! Itâ€™s a great sense of community. I feel like Iâ€™m in a club.
Have you had any fun cycling adventures, like riding from Shelby Farms to downtown or from midtown to T. O. Fuller State Park?
I did the Midnight Classic last year with friends to ring in my birthday, and now that I have a new bike, I feel I can tackle the longer rides. Iâ€™m really excited about that.
What kind of bike do you have? Â Are there any biking accessories you canâ€™t live without?
I just got a Trek FX. I couldnâ€™t live without the cargo rack. It gives me a good feeling of self-sufficiency to know I can go get groceries, or take a cooler to the Levitt Shell for a concert.
What about drivers in Memphis? Â How friendly are they to commuter cyclists?
Iâ€™ve heard stories, so Iâ€™m very cautious and expect the worst, but I havenâ€™t had any serious problems. People could be a little more thoughtful navigating turns at intersections, or pulling out of parallel parking spaces, but I havenâ€™t seen any outright hostility or recklessness.
Any other stories youâ€™d like to share?
Iâ€™d like to say how grateful I am for all the bike advocates currently working to make Memphis more bike-friendly. I moved back to Memphis a year and a half ago from San Diego, where I did a fair amount of cycling. I didnâ€™t expect to catch the fever in Memphis. In fact, when I attended my first Walk Bike Memphis meeting, I was actually motivated to go because I wanted to support making Memphis more walkable. My husband and I bought our house mainly because of the walkability of the neighborhood, which was at the top of the list of priorities. But with all the momentum and excitement around biking here, weâ€™ve both fallen in love with it all over again, and weâ€™re rediscovering Memphis from this new perspective. The work being done now will influence generations of Memphians for years to come. What a legacy!
And there you have it, readers. Â The first of many interviews with Memphis cyclists. Â Are you interested in being interviewed? Â Leave me your information in the comment section or email me at doug (at) bikinginmemphis.com. Â Thanks!