Tagged: Madison Avenue

Weekend Wrap-Up

Greetings from beautiful Heflin, Alabama.  I’m here for the weekend visiting relatives and enjoying a few days of constrained options.  One of the best parts of spending a few days away from home is the fact that I can’t do much else except read, work on a crossword puzzle, or write.  All of my work is at home and I have practically no choice but to relax.  Too bad my bike is at home too.

Anyway, I don’t have much to share with you this week.  I’ve been gone since Wednesday morning and have barely touched my bike since last week’s Cycle Memphis ride.  But a friend of mine shared this link with me.  These are some seriously awesome cargo bikes and the videos are quite entertaining too.

Speaking of cargo bikes, Cort over at Fix Memphis posted this about a new cargo bike the Peddler is “renting” out for interested riders.  I plan to sign up for a day and write about it.

Also, here’s a flickr set of pictures from the Cycle Memphis ride.

And lastly, the petition to support dedicated bike lanes on Madison has amassed over 1000 signature, four times its original goal of 250.  Let’s keep spreading the word and show that the momentum is on our side.

One more thing: do you like the band Wilco?  Do you like bikes?  Well, here you go.

Have a good weekend, everyone.  I can’t wait to come home and enjoy the cooler weather.

(Very delayed) Weekend Wrap-Up

First of all, as I indicated at the end of my next-to-last post, I had planned to participate in a bike polo match for the first time tonight, having been invited by local bike polo aficionado Brett Edmonds.  As it happened, I decided to bow out, instead choosing to spend a day getting stuff done and hanging out with the wife.  It was a day much needed and well spent.  (Even “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was not as abysmal as I thought it would be.)

But beyond that, I have quite a few links and articles to share with you.  So let’s get started.

First, here’s a great letter to the editors of the Commercial Appeal about the need for improvements to Madison Avenue.  While the letter does not explicitly mention bike lanes, the fact that it was written by a Midtown business owner gives it additional credence.  Let’s hope that the writer’s vision comes to fruition.

Did you ever think that Car and Driver magazine would endorse alternate transportation systems?  Well, they have.  And kudos to them for that.

Some really awesome (and adventurous) people are cycling across the U.S. in super-awesome velomobiles.  While they won’t be stopping in Memphis, I am impressed with their efforts. Especially considering this book, which I finished a few weeks ago.  I will likely complain many times about the state of roads in Memphis (Cooper Street just north of Central, in the far-right southbound lane; Linden Avenue heading into downtown … the list goes on), but I will do so with the understanding that many past cyclists had it far worse than I ever will.

This woman is awesome.  I don’t know that I would have had the guts that she did.

It’s hard to believe that the Shelby Farms Greenline is less than one year old.  Honestly, it feels like it’s been around for years, and I haven’t even biked it that many times.  Whatever the case, there is a half-marathon scheduled for Sunday, 2 October to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its (official) opening, plus a day-long party on the Greenline the day before.  I’ll be at the latter for sure, but probably not the former.

Cort over at Fix Memphis continues his heroic and awesome quest to chronicle every bike rack in the whole damn city.  That’s a lot of pedaling.

My wife and I have no immediate plans to have kids, but if/when we do, I want a cargo bike like this lady has.  How ridiculously awesome/adorable is that?

Charles McVean is also awesome.  The CA agrees.  So does this cyclist.

In other Cort news, here’s a great discussion on bike cargo transportation-solutions.  Makes me want a bike trailer even more.

Yep.

If the Harahan Bridge project should go through, here’s a snapshot of what it might mean for Memphis.  Granted, the mid-south is not the mid-west, but drawing more tourists to the area can only be a good thing.  Here’s more about the project.

I’m glad to see that slow biking is getting some attention.  Granted, I had not heard of this idea before reading that article, but it’s good that some people are recognizing the benefits of biking, in terms of allowing (if not encouraging) us to slow down and take in our surroundings and communities.

The awesome people at Livable Memphis are sponsoring a discussion on Portland, Oregon and it’s livability.  It’s scheduled for Tuesday, 16 August, from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM at the Benjamin Hooks LIbrary on Poplar.  I don’t know if I will be there, but maybe you should be.

Biking to work keeps getting more awesome.

People, be careful out there.

OK, that’s all for now.  I’m heading out of town on Wednesday so my biking (and blogging) this week will be somewhat limited.  But I’ll be back soon.  Thanks for reading.

Today’s Ride

One of the best parts of being an academic is that, for a precious few weeks in the summer, my schedule is my own.  For most of the rest of the year I am expected to answer emails from students at all hours of the day and night, to say nothing of weekends.  Plus, for at least four weeks during each semester I am inundated with piles of exams and/or term papers to grade which, depending on how many students are in my charge that semester, can easily number over 300.

OK, I’ll stop kvetching now (believe me, I could go on for hours).  The point here is that I am really happy (and lucky) to be able to spend a few hours on a summer afternoon biking around town, running a few errands.

Tops on my list today was Home Depot.  I needed to pick up a few items for the garden, plus some bolts and nuts to secure a rear bike light that has been falling off my bike of late.  But first I needed a haircut.

I’ve visited the same stylist almost exclusively since I moved to Memphis five years ago, but since she moved on to a salon much further from Midtown than I feel necessary to bike to, I’ve been looking for a new home for my hair-styling needs.  And I think I’ve found that home at Empire Hair Studios.  Sorry for the blatant endorsement, but when I biked there early this afternoon I noticed a lack of decent bike parking facilities.  I mean, not even a nearby street sign or lamp post that would do.  So after a few moments of struggling to lock my bike to a light pole, one of the employees came outside and told me I could just bring my bike into the lobby and park it there.  How awesome was that!  Here’s a picture.

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So I like this place.  After leaving Empire I biked west on Harbert to Rozelle, then west again on Eastmoreland.  After that I crossed Union (with no traffic light) and Madison until I reached the HD.

I almost forgot: just at the intersection of Harbert and Barksdale, I came across this beautiful sight.

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I have no idea whose bike and trailer this is, but kudos to you, my fellow Memphis cyclist.  It’s always great to see artifacts of other bikers around town.

Also, just before I arrived at Home Depot, I saw this sign affixed to the door of an empty building at the corner of Madison and Avalon.

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I love this.  Rise up indeed.  I then noticed these lovely tiles.

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I would have never noticed them had I not been biking.  I do love finding hidden treasures around town like these.

Anyway, after making my business happen at the HD, I biked home on Madison.  No major drama; the drivers on Madison were mostly respectful (although I did get honked at on Cooper and Peabody).

Finally I arrived at home, twelve miles and several gallons of sweat later.  Here’s a screenshot of my ride that day.

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And here’s that clickable link I know you all love.

For the record, this ride actuallty happened yesterday (Tuesday, 26 July) but I began to nod off before I could finish writing about it last night.  Today’s ride was very uneventful: to school and back, about 6.5 miles total.  The heat notwithstanding, it was a nice day.

Alright people, it’s bedtime here.  Have a safe day out there and I’ll see you soon.

Mid-Week Interlude

I’m actually working at my office today – those of you who are not academics apparently have to do this every day, correct? That blows my mind … – and since my P.O.S. desktop decided to be barely functional today, thus greatly limiting my ability to actually work on my research, I thought I’d knock out a blog post.

First, I have good news about the cyclist who was hit by a car over the weekend.  Apparently she’s fine, other than some bumps and bruises.  I’m really glad to read that she was wearing a helmet at the time she was hit.  I think the longest I’ve ever biked without wearing my helmet is about three blocks, when I biked home from Victory Bicycle Studios after picking up my bike (I had forgotten to bring my helmet).  It always bugs me when I see people biking without helmets.

Anyway, perhaps not surprisingly, some local cyclists are using the accident as a example of why we need more bike lanes around town.  While I support bike lanes on every street all over town 100%, I don’t think that bike lanes would have helped here.  It looks like the main causes of the accident were driver inebriation – he apparently blew a B.A.C. of 0.155, almost twice the legal limit – and the time of day.  She could have been riding in a bike lane or in the middle of the road, but if it’s late and the driver is hammered, it’s really not going to matter too much.  But yes, we need more bike lanes anyway.  Especially on Madison.  Ahem.

Speaking of bike lanes on Madison Avenue, here’s an editorial from last week’s Flyer about that very topic, written by Eric Vernon, the owner of the Bar-B-Q Shop.  While I agree with many of Mr. Vernon’s statements, particularly that the city could have done a better job informing the business owners about the proposed changes to the street at the outset, it’s hard for me to swallow this:

The reality is that nobody representing Madison Avenue business interests has expressed absolute opposition to the concept of bike lanes.

I mean, maybe that’s not an inaccurate claim because he so carefully chose his words.  “Absolute opposition”?  Maybe, maybe not.  But people who are not at least very opposed to something don’t participate in letter-writing campaigns to local officials to that end.  Especially letter-writing campaigns that are laced with inaccuracies.  I do recall from the meeting back in February that Mr. Vernon seemed like a reasonable guy, so maybe I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on some of his points.  But I find his allegation that “bicyclist and pedestrian groups have been kept informed about plans for bike lanes since 2009 … ” really hard to believe.

I also don’t think the portrayal of the controversy about the bike lanes to be the media’s fault.  (It’s a common response, it seems, to blame the media when statements made by you or your allies incite the very reaction a reasonable person could have guessed they would.)  I have no doubt that the businesses on Madison have in fact “spent decades developing long-lasting relationships with families in Midtown.”  But Mr. Vernon fails to describe what about the reporting was inaccurate.  Frankly, I can’t recall a single public statement issued by the concerned businesses on Madison where bike lanes were ever presented as a reasonable alternative.  It’s always been shared lanes, i.e. the status quo.  If I’m wrong here, please correct me in the comments.

In other local cycling news, this letter appeared on the CA’s website this week.  It’s loaded with common misconceptions: cyclists don’t obey the law, cyclists don’t pay for roads.  The fact of the matter is that, yes, cyclists do obey the law (at least, as much as drivers do) and we do pay for the roads, via state and local sales and property taxes.  Just because we don’t pay gas taxes … oh wait, we do, because almost every cyclist I know also has a car.  And drives it.

Meanwhile, here’s a much nicer letter explaining why we need bike lanes in Memphis.

I’ve discovered a couple of new biking blogs you should check out.  The first is Bike Fancy, which is mostly a photo blog of stylist people on bikes.  The second is Bike Commuters, which appears to be a catch-all site for (duh) bike commuters.  I’ll be digging into each this week.

Also, it’s time to vote for the Best of Memphis over at the Flyer.  You can do so here.  I’ve already cast my vote for best local bike shop (top secret!) and favorite local blog (same!).  This blog is not listed in the blog category, and I’m not saying you should write it in and vote for it, but you certainly can.  Just sayin’.

Alright people, that’s all I have for now.  See you all soon.

Wednesday’s Night’s Meeting

I have to be honest here – I’m getting a little tired of writing about meetings about what to do with Madison Avenue.  I’m not going to pretend that I’m alone in this; I’m sure most of Midtown is sick to death of waiting for a decision to be made.

That said, I do think the meetings of the last three weeks were very helpful and much needed.  I wish we had had meetings like this back in February.  In that spirit, I have to give major props to the architects and planners at Looney Ricks Kiss, who moderated each of the meetings and did some fantastic analysis of the road bed and environs around Madison.  Over the course of the three meetings, the attendees were guided through and discussion and deliberation process, first to figure out what we wanted done with Madison Avenue, then to identify what was feasible, and finally to hear about the options we have (as LRK sees it) and to deal with some final issues.

What I appreciated most about the dialogue is how much of it was grounded in the language of economics.  The speaker at each of the meetings talked often about trade-offs (in my mind I could hear him take the next step and say “opportunity cost“) and about how, for most of the length of Madison Avenue, we only have 60 feet of road bed to work with – the very definition of scarcity.

I also appreciated how much the community around Madison was involved in the process of deciding what to do.  It seems that a feeling of a lack of prior notice was the source of the ill feelings on the part of business owners at the meeting back in February – more than once I’ve heard that the business owners felt the city was trying to “ram [the bike lanes] down our throats,” not inconspicuously borrowing a phrase from the Republican opposition to health care reform – although it’s worth noting that the opposition has not abated one bit.  The city has held a series of proper meetings, with numerous break-out groups, plus a website with a survey, but it doesn’t seem to have moved the needle much, at least as far as some business owners are concerned.

Of course, I am now as ever sympathetic to the concerns of the business owners.  It’s one thing when your favorite local store closes; no one likes to see that happen.  But it’s something else entirely when your livelihood shuts down.

So I’m really interested to see what happens in the wake of this week’s meeting, because it was then that we finally saw some estimates of actual traffic volumes on Madison.  Up to this week, all of the talk about the current capacity of Madison and what adding bike lanes would do to that capacity did nothing to quell anyone’s concern.  At the meeting on Wednesday it was revealed that even peak traffic on Madison is below the capacity the street could sustain, even with bike lanes.  That’s right: traffic volumes could grow by an estimated 36% before Madison would be “full” – and that’s with bike lanes, two lanes of traffic, and a turn lane.  At a growth rate of 2% per year – which is actually a pretty solid growth rate – it would take something like 15 years before Madison started to feel too crowded.  Considering that traffic on Madison has basically been flat for the past decade, after peaking in the mid-1990s, I’m not too concerned about capacity being reached any time soon.

Not that I don’t want Madison Avenue to improve – I desperately do.  And if we transform the street from an under-developed thoroughfare to a unique Memphis destination, one that will draw tourists (and their dollars) to Memphis, we could see that happen.  But sticking with the status quo will not.

If all we do is repave the street, nothing will change.  What we need to do is make Madison Avenue a destination that is safe and fun for all Memphians and visitors, however they choose to move around town.  Yes, drivers must have adequate lanes to use, but so must cyclists and pedestrians.  Improving sidewalks, adding plants, benches, and trash cans, repainting crosswalks – this is all good stuff.  But adding bike lanes will help to slow traffic, making the businesses and improvements on Madison more visible and the street safer.  This is what we need.

I understand that change is hard and sometimes scary.  I also understand that accepting such change when your very livelihood is on the line (or is perceived as such) is even more difficult.  Don’t take my word for it – read it for yourself in this article.  (The relevant part is at the end.)

But it’s clear that we need to do something to make Madison better.  Bike lanes can and should be a part of it.  There’s just no good reason to conclude now that bike lanes will harm businesses.  If anything, by being a part of an overall improvement to the street, they will help.

At the very least, we’ll know soon.  The Mayor’s has to decide on something by the end of the month or it risks losing the stimulus dollars needed to pay for the project.

(Slightly Delayed) Weekend Wrap-Up

Lately I find myself wanting to start every new blog entry by remarking how busy I’ve been this week, by way of explaining why I haven’t posted much recently.  In reality, I just haven’t been biking much lately.  My summer course ended the week before last, and other than a few errands here and there, I haven’t been on the old Gary Fisher much.  I guess that’s what happens when one is primarily a bike commuter; no commuting = no biking.

But I am really excited about what the guys over at Cycle Memphis are doing.  I know I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m really happy to see other Memphis cyclists organize events and generally promote the cause of biking in our fair city.  I missed the first Cycle Memphis group ride, but I will most definitely be at the next one, scheduled for Saturday, 6 August, at 8:00 PM. The meeting place is the gazebo at the intersection of Cooper and Young.  I really hope that even more people attend this event; apparently over 60 cyclists participated in the first ride.

In a recent blog post I wrote about this article and rightly took the author to task, as many other writers have.  In all fairness, here is a link to his response.  And another response from him. Overall, he does raise some interesting points in his responses, but I must to his defining biking advocacy as purely an interest-group driven activity.  Wanting to get from home to work (or anywhere else) is not specific to cyclists.  Everyone wants that.

For another perspective on this discussion, have a look here.

In more local news, it looks like the Greenline could actually get a proper link to Overton Park and Midtown.  I missed the meeting where this was discussed, but I’m really excited about it. Read more here.

Also, I’m happy to report that Memphis has been selected as one of six cities for a pilot project called “Strong Cities, Strong Communities.”  I don’t know what this could mean for biking in Memphis, but it’s good news nonetheless.

And, local bike shop Midtown Bikes posted this article about bike commuting.  I’m really glad to see more Memphis people writing about cycling as a means of transportation.

Did you ever wonder if you could wear a skirt and still comfortably ride a bike?  Have a look here for an answer.

Unfortunately, some people in Congress are not so friendly toward cycling.  Please take a moment and contact your local legislator about this issue.

That’s all I have for now.  I’m planning to bike to work at least three days this week, plus to the meeting about Madison Avenue on Wednesday.  Hope to see you all biking in Memphis.

Last Night’s Meeting

Hi everyone.  I had planned to attend last night’s meeting about the proposed improvements to Madison Avenue but decided not to; our six-year-old niece is visiting us this summer and this is her last week with us.  So we a nice family night at home instead, complete with sandwiches from Lenny’s and yogurt from Yo Lo.  Yum.

But Ty over at Living Loud in Midtown took some rather comprehensive notes which you can read here.  Some of the notes are rather cryptic but overall I like what I see.  It looks like 80-90% of respondents to last week’s survey want protected bike lanes.  I also see a reference to slowing the speed limit on Madison from the current 35 M.P.H. to 30.  Slowing traffic on Madison should allow for more cars on the road, perhaps alleviating concerns from the business owners about bike lanes.

Also interesting was the data about actual traffic levels – not capacity – on Madison.  It looks like total volume was 12,000 to 13,000 cars per day, well down from the early 1980s, when volume was nearly 28,000 per day.  Peak times were the evening, where 700 cars per hour traveled the road.  Installing bike lanes and turn lanes would reduce capacity to around 17,000.

I’m really optimistic for the future of Madison Avenue, and very hopeful that bike lanes are part of that.  You can read more about last night’s meeting here.  Please take a moment to fill out this week’s survey once it is posted, and I’ll see you at next week’s meeting.

P.S.  Forgot to mention this before – if you were at the meeting last night and have any information to share, please do so in the comments.  Thanks!

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hi everyone.  It’s been yet another busy week here at Biking in Memphis.  My summer semester ended on Friday, a week earlier than the rest of the university, as I’ve been teaching an economics course at the Governor’s School for International Studies.  GSIS is one of the dozen or so Governor’s School programs across the state and, in my opinion, is the best.  Some of you might have attended a GS when you were in high school; if so, you know how much fun they are.  I count myself as very lucky that I’m able to teach there every summer.  My students this year were exceptionally smart and funny.  (CORN!!!)

OK.  Onto the weekend wrap-up.  I’ve already written about the meeting last week about Madison Avenue.  Here’s an article about the same from the Memphis Business Journal and, hot off the presses, an editorial from the CA in support of bike lanes and other improvements.  I’m really excited for the second of the three meetings this week on Wednesday, 6 July, at 5:30 PM at Minglewood Hall.  Don’t forget to complete this survey about the future of Madison Avenue.

To get an idea of what bike and pedestrian lanes can mean to a city – one in Tennessee no less – have a look at this picture of Chattanooga’s amazing river walk.  I really hope that planners in Memphis use this as inspiration for what our river front can look like.

I heard that the inaugural Cycle Memphis group ride was very well attended – apparently over 60 cyclists rode from Cooper Young to downtown and back.  Here’s a map of the route they followed.  I had really wanted to attend the ride, but given the fact that I’ve been at work late several times over the past few weeks (for the aforementioned GSIS) and that my six-year-old niece is visiting from Atlanta, I decided that having some family time at home was more important.  But next month I will most definitely be there.

I’ve long suspected that cycling is not any slower than driving, especially over relatively short distances or in urban traffic, and can even be faster in some circumstances, and this article about Congressman Earl Blumenauer lends some credence to that conclusion.  Of course, an sample size of one does not make for good predictions – the article really should not have claimed that Mr. Blumenauer’s experiment proved anything; it does however strongly suggest that cycling can be faster than driving – but my 3.25-mile commute to campus takes about 15 minutes by bike and about 10 minutes in a car (not accounting for time spent driving around my parking deck looking for a parking space), further suggesting that cycling car be just as fast as driving.  I’ve also noticed when driving around town that cyclists riding along with traffic keep pace with cars for surprising.  Also, the Portland NPR affiliate replicated Mr. Blumenauer’s experiment and – drumroll please – bikes won.  At least one participating cyclist was not surprised.

This does make me wonder about the expected trip length over which cycling is as fast or faster than driving.  Is it one mile?  Two?  Are we talking about point-to-point travel, or would this include time spent looking for parking?  If one included that, I imagine that the maximum trip length could be quite a bit longer than expected.

Whatever the case, it looks like bike commuting is becoming more popular and that middle-aged men are leading the way.  Hooray for my demographic!

Not surprisingly, as more bikes are on the road, we’re seeing more conflicts between cyclists and drivers.  My hope is that these episodes are evidence of a maturing cycling movement and that they’ll soon level off if not decrease.  Better education for drivers, cyclists, and police officers can only help.

Hey, need an inexpensive bike trailer?  Have a look at this kludge.

It looks like building bike infrastructure actually creates more jobs per dollar spent than mixed-use or car-only projects.  Have a look at this article for more discussion.

Need something to read at the beach this summer?  Here’s some recommendations from Bike Portland.  I’ve just started reading The Lost Cyclist and I’m really enjoying it so far.  Or, you could always grab some Ludwig Von Mises like Rep. Michelle Bachman claims to do.

[pause for loud, snorting, derisive laughter]

Anyway, have a good week biking, Memphians.  Since I’m off work this week, I’m probably going to hit the Greenline at least once.  Hope to see you there.

Last Night’s Meeting

I attended last night’s meeting about bike lanes on Madison Avenue re-imagining the Madison Avenue corridor and surrounding areas and was very pleased and impressed with how it turned out. The meeting began with some introductory comments by a member of some the architecture firm Looney Ricks Kiss. But unlike the first meeting, back in February, the introduction set a generally positive tone for the meeting and even elicited a few laughs. The speaker made a few points I really appreciated, among them that:

  1. Regardless of what happens to Madison Avenue, not everyone is going to get everything that they want.  Hopefully though, 80% of us will get most of what we want.
  2. Everyone has a stake in the future of Madison Avenue, even people who use it only as a commuting corridor.
  3. The issue of the evening is not bike lanes per se – that one has been talked about enough already – but how to improve Madison Avenue.

At one point in his introductory comments, the gentleman from LRK asked how many people lived or worked within 1/2 mile of Madison Avenue.  About half the crowd raised their hands.  Then he increased that distance to one mile, then two.  By that point, almost the entire crowd had its hands in the air.  He then pointed out that 1/2 mile is a reasonable walking distance, one mile is an easy bike ride, and two miles is a short car trip.  I really appreciated how he asked us to self-identify based on how close we lived to Madison, not whether we were business owners, cyclists, residents, and/or commuters.

He then asked how often and fast we drove down Madison.  Again, the idea appeared to be to recognize that we all had a stake in the future of Madison, regardless of what brought us to the meeting.

After talking a bit about the history of recent developments on Madison – turns out the bike lanes have been in the works since last summer, but whatever – and reviewing the four basic sections of Madison, the LRK representative presented some options for what could be done with the street surface itself.  The first option presented was to do nothing, but every option after that included bike lanes.  The number of lanes and amount of on-street parking varied across the several options, but it was good to see options presented other than bike-lanes-or-no-bike-lanes.

After the initial comments, we split up into focus groups and began to discuss our answers to three questions the architects had posed.  Paraphrased slightly, they were:

  1. What changes would you like to see on Madison?
  2. How will you know when those changes are complete and successful?
  3. What is your greatest concern?

I was really happy with the answers my group (GROUP 3 RULEZ!!) came up with.  They covered everything from crime and safety to accessibility to appearance and identity.  Everyone agreed that we wanted more businesses on Madison and an end to the vacant lots.  Several great ideas were tossed out about bike lanes, but those were by no means the only matters we discussed.

I was particularly happy that a Madison Avenue business owner was in our group.  I really wanted to hear his concerns and thoughts on how to better Madison.  It turns out that everyone agreed on the main points about how to do this, with no acrimony.  Such a nice change.

I’ll blog more about this later – busy week you know – but here’s a few pictures I took at the event.  Cheers, and thanks for reading.

Also, check out this website for more information and to voice your opinion.

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Arriving at the meeting, my little caravan found a number of bikes already there.  Awesome!

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The crowd awaits.

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Our break-out group.  I was very happy with the number of voices we heard and the ideas we discussed.

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One of the other groups.  I think there were five total.

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Leaving the meeting, I saw even more bikes.  Minglewood Hall – where’s your bike rack?