Tagged: Greenline

The miles keep adding up

Last week was a pretty damn awesome week on the bike.  I managed to commute to and from work and around town four days out of five and ran a boatload of errands to boot.  Let’s review …

Monday was easy.  I biked to work in the morning, then home in the afternoon.  Nothing terribly exciting to report about that.  I did have a pretty full load in my panniers, as I had to pack in my suit for an on-camera interview that morning.  Otherwise, easy peasy.

However, I had been noticing that my car was overheating and its engine was revving when idling, as if to run the fan and cool the motor.  Given that I needed to drive on Thursday, I had to take my car to the shop on Tuesday to make sure it was repaired on time.  So that morning, I loaded up my gear and my bike and drove to Barton’s on Overton Park Drive.  I had to be on campus by 8:30 AM, so I left the house super-early (for me, anyway) at just past 7.  After dropping of my car, I biked to campus.

What made the ride so enjoyable, other than the opportunity to watch the sun rise over Memphis as I headed to work, was that I followed a new route to campus.  From Barton’s I biked through Overton Park, east on Broad St., then south on Tillman to the Greenline.  I rode the Greenline east to High Point Terrace, which I followed south to campus.  It was a really great ride, and faster than I expected: just over 30 minutes.  (I’m sure the two double cappuccinos I had that morning helped.)  After class and a few meetings, I biked home.  Here’s the map:

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The loop at the end was courtesy a trip to the bank.  11.5 miles total.  Whee!

My car was ready that afternoon, so Wednesday morning I biked to Barton’s, stopping at Black Lodge on the way, picked up my car, and drove it home.  Then I biked to campus, had my day at work, and left in the afternoon to run a few errands.

From campus I biked to Poplar Plaza and bought a few things at the soon-to-be-replaced Kroger.  Then I rode to Busters for some vino, even biking on Poplar during rush hour for a spell.  From Busters I headed west to the Memphis Public Library on Poplar, then biked home.  I was going to go to Home Depot, but the hour was growing late and I was hungry.  Once again, here’s the map:

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Another 14.5 miles.  Awesome.

What I enjoyed most about the week was the variation in routes.  Normally I follow pretty much the same route every day.  Sure, I could mix it up, but like a lot of commuters (of the two-wheeled and four-wheeled varieties), I mostly just want to get where I’m going.  Being pushed into new routes was really nice.

Friday was super easy.  I biked to and from Otherlands, my normal Friday routine.  So easy, I didn’t even bother with cycling gear.

Altogether, I logged around 30 miles last week.  That’s roughly two gallons of gas I would have otherwise burned, meaning that I saved … um … how much is gas these days?  I can never remember.

Anyway, more news later this week.  I hope to see you on the road soon.

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.

March Cyclist of the Month: Kyle Wagenschutz

My people.  (Man, it feels like a while since I’ve typed those words.  Hopefully my writing deficit will come to an end soon, but that’s for another post.)  I am pleased to present to you the March Cyclist of the Month, none other than Mr. Kyle Wagenschutz.  Never heard of Kyle?  Oh come on … he’s the city’s very first Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, the Director of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop, and … well, just read the interview.  It’s a good one.

KW

Photo credit: Nathan Berry

1.  You’re the city’s first Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator and have been in that position for about a year and a half.  What was it like to accept a job where there was no previous officeholder?  How has your idea of what the job would be like changed over time?

Taking the job was at first very overwhelming. Because there had been no previous officeholder, there was no precedent to follow, no established work schedule to fit into, and no expectations of what I was supposed to be accomplishing. I spent the better part of the first year just trying to figure out where and how a Bike/Ped Coordinator fits into the inner-workings of Memphis governance and operations. That being said, I have also been able to mold the bicycle and pedestrian program without restraint or restrictions on where we can take this movement. Almost any idea is possible and any program doable as long as I can find the resources and people to make it work.

Because of this freedom to create the first bicycle and pedestrian program, my roll has transformed somewhat over the last year and a half – but really in a good way. I’ve made some real progress not in just having more (and better) facilities constructed, but have also been able to address some of the systemic causes of bad decision-making as it relates to accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians in the city. I’m not sure the job has really changed – more that I have been able to find my stride and my roll in the process.

2.  Where do you see Memphis in five years, in regard to accessibility for cyclists, pedestrians, and people with disabilities?  In your opinion, what are the greatest opportunities and challenges?

What is interesting is how these different users – bicyclists, walkers, runners, persons in wheelchairs, etc. – often get lumped into the same category and fight for similar funding sources, but the needs of each of these groups couldn’t be more different.

The short answer is that I think bicycling will continue to grow in popularity over the next 5 years. As we continue to construct more bicycle lanes, more shared-use paths, and provide more bicycle parking at local businesses and civic centers, we’ll see more and more people choosing to take a bike rather than drive a car. We can already see that happening over the last year and a half and the momentum is going to continue to carry bicycling forward. To best part is that bicycle facilities are often times very cheap and can be constructed in conjunction with ongoing road repaving and maintenance projects.

Serving pedestrian and persons with disabilities is going to be a much more complex (and expensive) change to see happen. So much about building better cities to encourage more walking, or providing safe and convenient travelways for persons with disabilities leads back to development patterns and urban design. The new Unified Development Code sets the stage for better urban design that would produce an environment conducive to safe pedestrian travel, but it has only been in place for about a year. We can’t undo 60 years of bad urban design, annexation, and development patterns in just 5 years – It’s going to take a lot of time and more importantly it is going to take private/public collaboration and cooperation to make it happen.

We’re also going to have to review some of the legal liabilities that make improving pedestrian travelways more difficult. For instance, in the City of Memphis (and most cities around the country) it is the responsibility of property owners to maintain the sidewalks adjacent to their property. This means that if the sidewalk outside your house is broken, uprooted by trees, or otherwise impassable, it is your responsibility as a property owner to make and pay for the repairs needed to make it safe. I’ve done a rough calculation and the total cost of repairing all the damaged sidewalks in the city would be around $1 billion dollars, and that doesn’t include the areas that don’t have sidewalks and need them. Getting a better understanding of how to address sidewalks is literally the billion dollar question here.

Finally, to really make bicycling and walking a viable transportation choice in Memphis, we are going to have to figure out how to integrate with MATA on a more consistent and efficient basis. I really believe that the mangers at MATA are doing the best they can, with limited resources, to address some of the public transit complaints Memphis is known for. I expect to see some really good changes occur as they begin to finalize and implement their new short-range plan, but being able to link trips to MATA via bike, walk, or wheel chair will be crucial to the success of each other. Our city is more than 300 square miles and it isn’t going to get any smaller anytime soon. Residents on average travel more than 20 miles to work each day which for a majority of the population is an unachievable feat by biking or walking. Being able to provide more alternatives to driving your car is going to mean that people are going to need to combine multiple types of transportation – and it needs to be easy and as efficient as driving your car. We’re already beginning to see this happen with bike trips (all MATA buses are equipped with bike racks and MATA has a very lenient policy about bring your bike on buses or trolleys), but a more concentrated effort is going to have to take place.

3.  I know you commute to your job downtown from Midtown via bike.  My commute is from the same neighborhood, but in the opposite direction, to campus.  How is the daily commute downtown? Is commuting during rush hour particularly vexing?

I don’t really have any problems. I have developed a few alternative routes that I can use that allow me to change up the scenery as often as I like. I get to see a nice cross section of the city going from residential neighborhoods, through some more industrial warehousing spaces, and finally into the more dense development of downtown. The arrangement of the buildings and proximity to the river can sometimes make for interesting headwinds, but other than that I’m pretty comfortable with the commute.

I mostly encounter heavy traffic when I encounter school zones. About 25% of morning rush hour congestion occurs because of parent dropping off their kids at schools. I also typically travel in hours before or after traditional vehicular rush hours times. In general, our data collection indicates that “rush hour” for cyclists actually occurs about 30 minutes before the normal vehicular “rush hour” times. Presumably, cyclists arrive at work earlier to clean up, shower, change clothes, etc. and a such have to leave home earlier. 
Typically, if I end up riding when there are a lot of cars on the road, I alter my route to help avoid some of the potential conflicts and relieve some of the stress associated with riding with large volumes of cars.

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

10. In my opinion it has been, by far, the most influential infrastructure investment in Memphis in the last 10 years.

5.  In addition to being the city’s Bicycle/Pedestrian coordinator, you’re also the Director of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop.  Tell me about the impact Revolutions has had on the city.

In a lot of ways, I think Revolutions has been quietly influential in improving the physical conditions and more abstract acceptance of cyclists in Memphis while also providing for the basic needs of a large population of cyclists. Over the last 10 years, Revolutions has helped to put over 3,000 bikes back onto the streets of Memphis and has helped repair countless more.

Revolutions has always been concerned with making sure that all cyclists had a seat at the table in Memphis. Largely, this was brought about through our extensive work with individuals that don’t have enough money to afford the routine maintenance needed to keep their bicycle running properly and safely. Educating cyclists about basic bike repair and providing the tools and parts needed to make those repairs has always been one of the goals of the program and continues to drive the activities today. More importantly, Revolutions has become a place for “voiceless cyclists” to take part in the dialog about improving conditions for cycling in Memphis. These aren’t what people would think of as “typical” bike riders – they don’t wear spandex, they ride heavy bicycle often weighted down with parcels they are carrying, they don’t wear helmets, they don’t have the latest gear or gadgets – but to me they represent more of what a “typical cyclist” is than many of the publicly portrayed images of cyclists today and making sure they have an opportunity to participate in the public processes and discussions that continue to shape the future of bicycling in Memphis is a major interest of mine.

Personally, my involvement at Revolutions is what prompted me to get my planning degree and pursue the line of work I am doing now, and I can see similar story lines emerging in the lives of other past and present Revolutions volunteers. Some have gone on to establish community bicycle shops in other cities, some have taken up active roles in advocacy groups that promotes cycling, others have begun work, much in the same way as I did, with governments, planning agencies, and transportation firms – attempting to work within the system to improve conditions. It’s really great to see what has come about from a bunch of folks gathering 10 hours a week to work on bikes. These folks remain some of my closest friends and nothing can beat the community building aspect to what Revolutions does.

6.  Members of the cycling community take it for granted that more and better access for cyclists makes a city better.  If you were making that point to someone who wasn’t already a cyclist, what would you tell them?

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the cycling community takes improvements for cycling for granted. I think this past year and a half has demonstrated, on a real level, that cyclists are willing to fight for better cycling accommodations, and in turn a better city. If you look at the public battles that occurred over the ARRA spending plans and then Madison Avenue after that, you’ll find that cyclists were at the forefront of those skirmishes and their support ultimately provided the city with the momentum it needed to make some drastic changes to its road development policies and procedures – both in terms of how decisions are made and ultimately how to build better public places and roadways.

Now, if someone questions how more cyclists makes for a better Memphis I ask them to consider a few things:

First, cycling in and of itself will not solve the societal and economical qualms plaguing our city. In fact, there is no silver bullet that will repel crime, blight, failing schools, high taxes, and poor public health. There are no magic solutions to any of these problems. They all require multiple holistic solutions that addresses short term needs and long term systemic change simultaneously. While no single program can impact any of these problems on its own, the small impacts from each of the programs can begin to add up and make change more real and lasting as time progresses.

Second, with the understanding that cycling cannot act alone as a change agent – cycling has the ability to positively impact many of these problems in real and measureable ways. Need to revitalize an older commercial/retail corridor? – take a look at improving bicycling and walking conditions. Concerned about the health of your neighbors? – start a weekly bike ride or walking group that gets people moving. Aggravated about parking availability at a certain Mid-South university? – ride a bike and park ride outside your classroom. Real impacts occur when enough people begin to think about the possibilities and act of them.

Finally, diversity (and the activities derived from that diversity) are what make cities great. Diversity of architecture, neighborhoods, demographics, public art, parks, culture, festivals, food choices, and even transportation choices help make a better city. Being able to wake up in the morning and choose from a variety of ways to travel to work is the mission. We’re not forcing people to ride bikes to work, we’re not forcing people to walk to the store, we’re not forcing you to use the bus – what we want is for you to have the choice to choose any of those options and be provided the same level of safety, efficiency, and accessibility regardless if you are using a car or not. Our city will only be as good as the choices we have available to us.

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

I’m a daily bike commuter – While my wife and I do own a car, I am seldom the driver of the car during the week. I handle most weekly errands just using my messenger bag and/or rear rack mount top bag on my commuter bike. I haven’t invested in panniers yet, but plan to in the near future.

For bigger cargo I have access to a nice Burly flatbed trailer that I use on occasion. Once, I staked two complete mountain bike frames on the trailer and hauled the bikes from Cooper-Young to Shelby Farms Park for an event that was taking place. I’ve even used the trailer to haul camping gear when going on overnight bike trips.
I’ve also made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of stuff I carry on a regular basis to avoid back-breaking loads in my bag. Generally, just being smart about what you have to carry will help eliminate some unneeded weight.

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?

Most of what I know I learned from hanging out and riding with other cyclists. Even before the city began making investments in bike lanes, there were a dedicated group of cyclists that commuted by bike, hung out by bike, traveled the city by bike – we basically did everything by bike. Through that we learned about good routes, about new gear, and about each other. I met most of these folks through Revolutions and other bike shops.

I regularly check Fix Memphis and Biking in Memphis blogs. I also like to take a look at Cycle Chic and Streetsblog on occasion.

9.  Have you had any fun cycling adventures, like riding from Shelby Farms to downtown or from midtown to T. O. Fuller State Park?

It seems like the last 5 or 6 six years have been nothing but fun cycling adventures. Riding in South Memphis and further down towards TO Fuller are some of my favorite rides. There are always people outside to say hello to. There is an intrinsic friendliness when riding in neighborhoods where people are present and you can speak to, even for a brief hello. To me, it’s much more pleasant riding in these areas of town rather than a neighborhood where everyone is shuttered up inside avoiding contact with the outside world. Oh – and there is little traffic to deal with down in southwest Memphis.

I’ve ridden north along the MRT a couple times. In fact, the week before I took the job with the city, three friends and I rode to Fort Pillow State Park and back. That was a really great time.

10.  What kind of bike(s) do you have?  Are there any biking accessories you can’t live without?

I have a Fuji Sagres fixed gear that I have been using for my daily commute lately. This was the first bike I ever built at Revolutions and I hold it in a special place.

I also have a Magnolia Cycles bike that I am currently working on that will become my new multi-speed commuter bike. I had it built by former Memphian Mike Crum and he tweaked it out for me so I could put some racks on and use it for commuting/touring purposes.

I also have a Marin mountain bike frame that I converted to a single-speed for playing bicycle polo. My wife and I had a son five months ago though and I haven’t been able to play polo since he was born. I’m eager to get back on the court though.

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

Generally speaking, no problems. Whenever I do see some mayhem occurring it usually involves the driver using a cell phone. I’m always on the lookout for the “cell phone swerve.”

My biggest qualm is when drivers do silly things to help better accommodate cyclists – like waiving them through stop signs when it isn’t their turn. One time, I was stopped at a stop sign waiting for cross traffic to clear and a driver came up behind me and rather than waiting in line, he moved to my left and stopped equal with me, blocking the other lane of traffic and completely blinding my view of traffic on my left. He had his window down and I asked him what he was trying to do here. He said that he wanted to make sure to give me enough room to wait. I had to explain to him though that he had now blocked the entire intersection and that I couldn’t go anywhere until he did. I think he got it, but it was screwy nonetheless.

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

Maybe so, but now that I am a representative of the City of Memphis, I’m not sure I can share them here …

>>>>>>

Thanks Kyle; what a great interview.  And thanks to you, my people, for reading.  I hope to resume writing again very soon.  In the meantime, I hope to see you biking in Memphis.

 

Sunday’s ride

My people.  Several times last week I had planned to have a mini biking adventure, deviating from my normal there-and-back-again ride from home to campus to home, but the weather kept thwarting my attempts.  Also, I had planned to actually do some writing last week, but my schedule and workload kept thwarting that as well.  But finally, we have a week of really nice weather ahead of us, and I have practically nothing on my to-do list.  So let’s go.

After cramming a pile of eggs and potatoes into my face at Boscos Sunday morning, I decided the time was right for a bit of biking fun.  I knew that I had several errands to run, beginning with a stop at Otherlands.  No, not for coffee, to drop several pairs of jeans into a collection bin for Thigh High Jeans.  Founded in 2009 by photographer Ann Smithwick and artist Kerry Peeples, the company accepts donations of used jeans and embroiders them with inspirational quotes and other finery.  I’m not a huge fan of their product – I guess I prefer my jeans unadorned – but I appreciate that they are recycling unwanted clothes, and that it’s a local business.  So there you go, Thigh High – four pairs of my old jeans are yours.

Here’s a shot of my cargo just before leaving the house.

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And here’s one of all the bikes parked behind Otherlands.

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Yes, that is my shadow in the picture.

After that I stopped at Easy Way for mushrooms for dinner.  Here I am, parked outside.

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Then, I stopped by the Redbox outside Ike’s to return a couple of movies – sorry, Black Lodge, but my wife picked them out.  I doubt you carry the type of chick-flick she likes anyway.

After that, I continued north on Cooper, turned left at Poplar and pedaled furiously to the entrance of Overton Park.  I was going to cruise around the park for a bit, but I decided to make a bee line for Broad Street and my next two destinations.  First up, Victory Bicycle Studios.

Co-owner Clark Butcher, photographer Nathan Berry, and some other folks were hanging out in the shop that afternoon, so after perusing the lovely merchandise, including this absolutely sick Merckx …

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(I know.  Day-um.)

I hung out and drank beer for a while.  It was great: cold beer, bikes, and good people.

After draining my High Life, I biked east on Broad to Hollywood Feed for a new tag for my dog.  Here’s my bike outside:

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And here’s the engraving machine inside:

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Then, I biked down Broad to Tillman to the Greenline, then south on High Point Terrace, around the golf course, to campus.  I had a plastic bag of recyclables to drop off.  BTW, did you know that U of M recycles damn near anything now?  Everything the city takes, we take, plus electronics, all types of plastic (not just #1 and #2), keys, cell phones, styrofoam, light bulbs, batteries, you name it.  Seriously, if you have a pile of any of that crap sitting at home and you want to get rid of it, leave a comment below.  We’ll make it happen.

OK, after the office I biked home.  Twas a lovely day on the bike.  Twelve miles total, I believe.  Here’s a map of my ride.

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Later that day I installed some interesting new bike lights, which I’ll write about later this week.  Until then, be safe, and keep biking in Memphis.

 

February Cyclist of the Month: Matt Farr

Hi everyone.  I’m proud to post this interview with my February Cyclist of the Month, Mr. Matt Farr.  Matt is the Manager of Education and Outreach at the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, where he has directed the community engagement for the implementation of the Shelby Farms Greenline, designed and executed Bands, Bikes, and Block Parties (the Greenline grand opening event), and developed and implemented youth programs, including the annual holiday bike recycle with Revolutions Community Bike Shop and the YMCA.  He is also a the Community Engagement Chair of the Memphis-Shelby County Sustainability Advisory Committee, MPACT Memphis, the Wolf River Conservancy, Memphis Hightailers, and has lived in Costa Rica, China, the Philippines, and Singapore.  (Busy guy, right?)  He’s also a good friend of mine and is one of the most active people I know in making Memphis and Shelby County more sustainable.  Read about Matt’s experiences biking in other countries and Memphis, and how bikes make cities better places.

BicyclePotato

(Photo credit: Nathan Berry)

1. Tell me about your bike commuting habits these days. Do you bike to work? If so, what route do you take?

I ride my bicycle to work daily.  My commute is about 2 miles and extends the length of the Wolf River Greenway, crossing the new Wolf River Pedestrian Bridge into Shelby Farms Park.  The Wolf River Connector trail then takes me straight up to the Visitor Center, where my office is located.  Some days it’s a leisurely spin, other days, when I’m feeling especially sassy, I’ll ride my mountain bike to work and pop off a few laps on the Tour D’Wolf or Wolf River Trails on the way in.

2. I know that for years you were a bike commuter on the Shelby Farms Greenline.  What was that like? How was it biking on the Greenline at night?

I commuted on the Greenline from its opening in October of 2010 until just recently, when we moved to be closer to the Park.  I was actually the only person on a bicycle at the groundbreaking of the Greenline in February of 2010, so it could be argued that I was officially the first person to ride a bicycle on the Shelby Farms Greenline.  
The Shelby Farms Greenline closes at sunset.  I would never think of riding on it at night O=-)

3. Where do you most like to bike around town?  Are there any favorite routes or neighborhoods you have?

It’s always a thrill to ride downtown.  I especially like coming in on Madison.  When you’re coming down the hill from the over pass at Danny Thomas Blvd., the downtown skyline stretches before you and—if you time it right—you can stretch your arms out just far enough to give the city a big ol’ fat bicycle hug.  (Watch out for the trolley tracks at the bottom of the hill, unless you have a proclivity for making out with asphalt)

4. Given your place of employment, I can guess what your answer to this question will be, but since I’ve asked everyone else, I have to ask you too: On a scale of one to ten, how awesome is the Shelby Farms Greenline?

Um. 10. million.

The trail itself if great, but what excites me most is how the Shelby Farms Greenline has spurred Memphians to re-imagine how their city could look if improved access to bike/ped opportunities started popping up all over the place.  The Overton-Broad Connector, the Harahan Bridge Project, the Chelsea Greenline, the South Memphis Greenline, and the eastern expansion of the Shelby Farms Greenline—these projects didn’t exist prior to the opening of the Shelby Farms Greenline in 2010.  Add on top of that 35 miles of freshly striped bike lanes, and now people are beginning to see how an interconnected network of urban greenways and bike lanes can literally change the face of our city.

The Shelby Farms Greenline and all of the resulting trail projects that have followed represent much more than just a way for people to get outside and exercise.  In an urban landscape marred by socioeconomic segregation, widespread racism, and general mistrust, greenways and bike lanes offer an opportunity for community members to get in front of each other in a low-pressure, non-threatening environment.  As more and more of these amenities come into being, more communities will be connected and more members of the Memphis community will have the opportunity to experience face-to-face interaction with people they may not have ever had the chance or the impetus to get in front of.  For most, the realization will begin to occur that “hey, those folks are just like me.”  I recently travelled to Montreal with some colleagues from the University of Memphis to present a paper on just that—that’s right, legitimate academic research on BICYCLING coming straight out of the 901.  Greenways and bike lanes aren’t a magic bullet, but they can go a long way in addressing many of the societal ills that have kept Memphis down for years.

5. Madison Avenue has recently been repaved and prepared for the installation of bike lanes.  What are your thoughts on the controversy that surrounded these lanes?

In spite of all of the controversy, I am grateful for the amount of community involvement that the issue rustled up.  Some really great conversations took place throughout the year or so that the bike lanes on Madison were being discussed.  Though both sides of the controversy were guilty of leveling some unnecessary low blows, we ended up coming together and, as a community, envisioning a Madison Avenue that was about much more than bicycle lanes.

One thing is for sure, the bike/ped advocacy community learned a lot from the Madison Avenue dialogue; we have a clearer impression of the learning curve that our community must overcome when it comes to transforming Memphis into the livable, vibrant city that I know it can be.  Though bike lanes and access to safe bicycling opportunities have been proven to improve the health, economic vitality, and environment of cities around the world, I understand that this is a new concept for the Memphis community and it will take some time for everyone to get their heads around it.

6. You’ve lived in quite a few countries, like Costa Rica, China, and the Philippines.  What were your cycling experiences like there? How does biking in Singapore compare to biking in Memphis?

It’s been fascinating to see how bicycles fit into different cultures.  In places like Costa Rica and the Philippines, bicycles provide a livelihood for many people and are an integral piece of everyday life.  That trend has shifted in China; though you still see bicycles around, the old pictures of thousands of cyclists plying the streets of major cities is a thing of the past.  Snarling traffic jams and widespread pollution are now the norm.

Singapore is a great city: super clean, ultra modern, efficient, safe.  But I can’t say it extremely well-suited for bicycle commuting.  For recreational cycling, it’s great, though.  There are miles of multi use trails on the coastlines, and a great national parks system (to call it “national” is a little confusing because the city is the nation).  There’s an island called Pulau Ubin that’s about a 10 minute bumboat ride off the northeastern shore.  The island is the last “rural” place in Singapore and is home to dozens of miles of trails.  The island is also home to a sizable population of wild boar, not the friendliest creatures on earth—I’ve heard stories of boar barreling through the woods and knocking cyclists off their bikes. You usually smell them before you see them.

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

I bounce all over town on my bicycle, so I’m always picking things up or dropping things off somewhere.  I invested in some Ortlieb Back Roller Plus rear panniers last year and they have made all the difference in the world.

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?

Bike shops are great places to gather information; many of the mechanics are commuters themselves and are usually happy to fill you in on the best routes or give you pointers on what gear you might be interested in (and then try to sell it to you).

There are some really great resources out there on the interwebs.  The League of American Bicyclists (http://www.bikeleague.org/) has a great website, as does the Alliance for Biking and Walking (www.peoplepoweredmovement.org) .  A couple blogs that I follow are Taking the Lane (www.takingthelane.com) by Elly Blue and Urban Adonia (www.urbanadonia.blogspot.com) by Adonia Lugo.  Of course, my favorite blog of all time is Biking in Memphis.

I do keep company with a healthy cohort of experienced cyclists in Memphis.  If you’re looking to make some friends in the cycling community, it’s pretty easy. Step 1: get on your bike.  Step 2: ride around until you find some other cyclists.  Step 3: start talking to them.

9. Are there biking experiences you haven’t had but have wanted to try? Bike polo? Cyclocross?

I’ve done the cyclocross and bike polo thing, and excited to see these sports grow.  After coming home once with a mangled hand after an especially vigorous bike polo match, my wife has since put the kibosh on all bike polo activities until I score some gloves.  
I’ve been on a few short tours, but I would really like to go on an extended tour, perhaps along the spine of the Rocky Mountains or across Europe.

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

I have three bicycles.  My Surly Steamroller is a fixed gear that is fun to pop around town on, but not very practical for running errands or hauling cargo.  I enjoy the level of connectedness to the road that a fixed gear provides, and with such a simple and clean design, maintenance is a snap.

My Gary Fisher Rig is a single speed mountain bike with 29 inch wheels (as opposed to the standard 26 inch) and is the most fun I’ve ever had on two wheels.  Most people don’t realize that you don’t really need gears for the trails we have in Memphis; I find that the simplicity of a single speed on the trail gives you the opportunity to really focus on your line and zen out.

I put most of my miles on my Kona Sutra touring bike.  I purchased this bike last year from Victory Bicycle Studio and the fit is absolutely amazing.  I’ve been riding bikes for decades, but after I got fitted on my Sutra, it was like “man, so that’s how riding a bicycle is supposed to feel.”  My Sutra takes me everywhere, and though it’s heavier than your standard road bike and not quite as nimble as a fixie, it’s built to take a beating and can haul whatever you can throw at it.

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

I treat Memphis drivers like snakes: I don’t mess with them, and they usually don’t mess with me.  There are a couple of rules that I follow.a) Assume everyone is texting and driving, because they probably are.b) Make eye contact with motorists at every opportunity.c) Never place yourself in a position that you can’t bail out of.

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

I could sit here and tell bicycle stories all night long, but those are best told over some adult libations.  I’ll leave it with this.  Memphis is capable of great things, but we’ve got to bring up our collective self esteem in order to do so.  I firmly believe that before we can really hammer out any of the (many) challenges out city faces, we’ve got to start viewing our city and ourselves in a more positive light.  There will always be jackasses and naysayers, but as a city, we must start taking pride in the place that we live.  Bicycles are a great way to build pride of place.  The psychological benefits of the healthy lifestyle that cycling provides does wonders for one’s individual outlook on life.  Whereas automobiles separate you from the city, riding a bike is a much more intimate experience—you’re able to actually see what your city has to offer, rather than mulling around in your misery from the driver seat of a car while the city blurs by.

Think about it—the inherent nature of automobiles is loud and abrasive: honking horns, screeching tires, etc.  Now think about how personal interaction takes place on a bicycle: you actually see the faces of the PEOPLE that you pass by, you might smile, wave, offer a passing hello.  In terms of building a community, bicycles offer more opportunities for positive personal interaction between community members.  Everyone’s heard of road rage. Ever heard of bike rage?  Didn’t think so.  Bikes make cities happy.

>>>>>>

There you have it, people.  What a great interview.  I’m planning to resume writing this week, as the hellishness of the past two weeks has subsided.  Until then, keep biking in Memphis.

 

Mucho biking this weekend

Hi everyone.  I went on two rather long and fun bike rides this weekend.  Here’s a quick rundown of the days’ events.

Saturday evening was the next installment in the ongoing series of Cycle Memphis rides.  I’ve attended about half the rides so far and all have been really great.  The ride was well-attended, despite the weather and the time of year.  It’s always good to run into fellow cyclists and meet a few new people of like mind.  Here’s a picture from the beginning of the ride, at the gazebo at Cooper and Young.

Cmf

Maybe I need to invest in a better camera.

Anyway, the ride went east from Cooper-Young to Muddy’s Bake Shop, then back west via the familiar Shady Grove route.  Here’s a map of the route we followed.

Screen Shot 2012 01 08 at 9 56 52 PM

The ride left around 8:30 PM and arrived back at the intersection of Cooper and Young around 10:30 PM.  I had a really great time, especially hearing this story from the inimitable Cort about a past bike race in Memphis.

On Sunday my wife suggested that we go on a bike ride together and run an errand in the process.  I was very happy that she suggested this; it’s relatively rare that we ride together and, given how busy the past week was for both of us, it was nice to spend some time together.

My wife is a sporadic cyclist, so I was doubly impressed that she wanted to bike from our home to the Greenline, then to Target, then home.  I could handle a ride like that with no problem, but I wanted to make sure that she enjoyed herself, so I let her set the pace.  She was a champ for the entire ride, although I know that those last few hills on Southern were taxing. Here’s a map of our ride.

Screen Shot 2012 01 08 at 10 03 07 PM

I do love a big, looped route like that.  Plus a couple of hours riding with my wife.

That’s all for now.  I hope your weekend was equally bike-filled and fun.  I’ll be racking up some miles this week, so look for more stories about biking in Memphis.

Today’s ride

I guess it’s the passing of daylight savings time and the impending arrival of winter (despite the lack of anything resembling cold weather – we still have tomatoes ripening in our backyard), but lately my internal clock has been a bit askew.  Right now, it’s 8:15 PM – my wife and I are lying on the couch, listening to Neil Diamond Christmas songs – but it feels like it’s 10:15 PM. As the days shorten and the nights lengthen, the precious few hours of daylight become ever more dear.  These times have always been my favorite part of the year; the weather is cooling, leaves are falling, and the holidays are underfoot.  I’ve always enjoyed the days with the fewest hours of sunlight – and no, I’m not particularly a fan of The Cure.

That said, I knew when I set out on my bike this morning that I would have ever fewer days like today in the coming months.  The high temperature today crested at 72º F, quite a bit above what I would consider normal.  I dressed for cool/cold weather – Icebreaker long-sleeved shirt, a t-shirt over that, plus my trusty Swrve cycling knickers, knee warmers, and sock pulled up far too high.  I also brought a shell but ended up not needing it.

My riding goals today were simple: bike to campus to take care of a little (electronic) paperwork, then ride the Greenline, and finally visit Kroger and Buster’s for some provisions.  I left home around 9:30 this morning and had a lovely ride to campus.  I hadn’t biked in some time, at least a week, so I took it easy.  Traffic was light and the weather was not too unpleasant.

I left campus around 10:30 AM and headed to the Greenline on High Point Terrace.  Here’s what the Greenline looked like as I entered it this morning.

Photo 1

Empty.  Just how I like it.

The traffic was pretty low today.  I guess most people were shopping or rubbing lotion on their bellies, distended from the orgy of food that is Thanksgiving.  I cannot claim to be innocent of such crimes against moderation, hence my ride today.

I pedaled on an on to the Visitor’s Center at Shelby Farms then found a bench for a respite.  The day was rather windy; at times I could feel the wind pushing against my chest as I was relaxing, and my bike as I was riding, making my ride a bit more wobbly than usual.  Here’s a few pictures from Shelby Farms.

Photo 2

Pretty retro clouds.

Photo 3

Angry retro clouds!

Photo 4

Clouds, please stop making faces at me.  Kthxbai.

After half an hour or so of being battered by the winds at the edge of Patriot Lake, I decided to head back to campus.  Biking west, I came upon this lovely mural.

Photo 5

I know, it’s been up for a while.  But having had such a busy fall, this is the first time I’ve seen it!  How exciting.  I must meet the one-legged cyclists who posed for the mural.

After stopping at campus for a moment, I left for Kroger to pick up a few necessities.  Then I left for Buster’s for a bottle of prosecco, which has been shooting up the charts at my home. Then I biked home, just in time to watch my team get destroyed by its archenemy.  WDE, that’s all I can say.

Anyway, here’s a map of my ride.

Screen shot 2011 11 26 at 9 14 13 PM

You can see how I rode on Southern to campus, then through Chickasaw Gardens on the way home.  Altogether, it was a really great day to ride, if not to watch college football.  I hope your day was similarly enjoyable.  Look for more adventures soon …

New Year’s Day on the Greenline

I went for my first ride of the year on New Year’s Day – not surprising, really – and rode the length of the Shelby Farms Greenline.  There’s a new pedestrian/cycling bridge that crosses the Wolf River south of Shelby Farms and connects to the Wolf River Greenway.  Eventually the Greenway will go all the way from the mouth of the Wolf to Germantown and beyond, a distance of around 25 miles.  Also, the Greenline will soon be extended into Midtown, so in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be able to hop on my bike and ride all the way to the Mississippi River on bike trails.  So excited.

Anyway, here’s a slideshow of pictures I took that day.  Enjoy.

[slickr-flickr id="57760946@N03" tag="New Years Day" type="gallery"]