Tagged: Midtown

Biking at night … ?

Hi everyone.  I received a message from a friend on facebook.  She asked about good routes in Memphis for biking at night.  Apparently she and her brother biked on Madison the other night and both got flats.  That sucks, no doubt.

I recommended many of my favorite routes and neighborhoods: Linden, Chickasaw Gardens, Cooper Young … Midtown in general.  But I thought that you all, my readers, might have some suggestions for her.

So, my people, what are your favorite routes or neighborhoods when biking at night in Memphis?  Don’t forget to mention destinations.  I remember a Cycle Memphis ride a few months ago that paused at Martyr’s Park overlooking the Mississippi River.  That was pretty epic.

As always, share your stories in the comments.  Many thanks.

August Cyclists of the Month: Memphis Pedicab Company

Hi everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is certainly in the cards.

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

I also race as a Cat 3 cyclist.

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

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

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

Friday’s Ride [UPDATED]

I’m happy to report that, having misplaced it for a week or so in early July, I have found my productivity.  This is good, because for the week after we returned our niece, who had visited with us for most of June, safely to her mom in Atlanta, I didn’t really do a damn thing other than show up.  Looking back at my calendar for that week, I can see that I had numerous appointments and meetings, even a conference call, but I don’t really remember doing much else.  I did bike that week, I remember that.  Oh, and I mowed the yard.  That was fun.

It is good to have my productivity back for several reasons, which are, in no particular order, as follows:

  1. Earlier this year I initiated a research project concerned with the effectiveness of the academic early intervention program that U of M uses to improve the performance of at-risk students. Basically how it works is this: faculty report to the University their students who are under-performing relative to their peers.  The University then contacts these students and encourages them to seek help, tutoring, and so on.  This is kind of a big deal, as the program is part of the University’s overall effort to improve its retention and graduation rates.  I generated my first round of results last week, and while the results are very preliminary, it appears that being reported for intervention actually lowers student’s grades, rather than raising them.  I imagine that this is not what U of M would like to hear.  Perhaps some additional analysis will change the results.  Of course, the upside of finding shocking conclusions is that my chances of getting this paper published just went way up.
  2. I have yet another semester staring me in the face.  Classes don’t start until the very end of August, but if I don’t preparations now, it will bite me in the ass later.
  3. Oh yeah, and I’m about to get a great big promotion at work.  Starting in the spring I will take over as the Director of the Center for Economic Education at the University of Memphis.  The Center was started about ten years ago by my colleague Julie Heath and in that time has grown to reach nearly every corner of the state.  The mission of the Center is to promote education in financial literacy and economics to children from kindergarden through high school.  I’m really excited and honored to have been chosen as the new Center director.  I have some ideas for new programs I’d like to try and I’m eager to get started.  Julie will also be facing new challenges, as she will be taking over the Center for Economic Education at the University of Cincinnati.  You can read more about the Center at U of M here.  (First order of business: revamp the website.)

So as you can see, I have a lot on my plate right now.  Normally at the end of each semester I spend a day or two watching the Lord of Rings Trilogy in its entirety, but it’s now late July and I still haven’t done so this summer.  Maybe the week after next I’ll do so, but for now I am content to spend my days reading, writing, and working.  Not a bad existence.

OK, enough about me.  My ride on Friday was pretty uneventful, and by that I mean it was ridiculously hot.  Broiling, boiling, searing, baking … whatever descriptors you can conjure up, it was hot.  As I’ve written before, this is the first year that I’ve been an all-seasons cyclist.  Biking around town in the winter wasn’t that bad; as long as I wore enough layers of clothes, I was fine.  Biking in the more-comfortable seasons is a joy, but biking in the summer heat is something else entirely.  Not to gross anyone out, but normally I shower around every other day.  It just seems like a waste of water to shower every day, even if I bike to work daily.  Once I arrive home, drink some water and cool off, I don’t feel particularly dirty, nor do I stink.  (At least, my wife doesn’t complain if I do.)  And considering that unless I teach, I really don’t interact with anyone at the office, so a little sweat is no big deal.

Those days are gone for now at least.  I’ve been taking up to two showers a day lately, especially if I do yard work in the morning then bike to work in the afternoon.  Gone also are the days of wearing the same cycling shirt for more than one day.  Man I can’t wait for fall to get here.

But really, biking in the heat hasn’t been that bad.  As long as I keep moving, I’m generally not that uncomfortable.  My rides tend to be about 12 M.P.H. on average, and a nice breeze like that will substantially cool down the hottest day.  It’s when I have to stop for more than a minute, especially outside of the shade, that the weather is really uncomfortable.

This happened on Friday afternoon at about the hottest part of the day.  I had biked to campus in the morning on my normal route, Southern Avenue, and left campus around 4:30 PM to run some errands on the way home.  I needed to stop at a package store, and rather than visit that store at the corner of Madison and McLean, I decided to bike to the one at Union and Kimbrough.  Mostly I did so because I wanted to spend some time biking before my weekend began.  I left campus and took the Chickasaw Gardens route west, and just as I turned north from Lombardy onto Humes, I heard the whistle of a train approaching the crossing at Garden Lane.  I sped up a bit to try to beat the train, but just as I turned left on Garden, I looked ahead to see the crossing guards descend and the train enter the crossing.  Sigh.

Normally I would have biked south on Plainview, to Higbee, Lombardy, then Central, scooted underneath the railroad overpass, then biked north again on Flicker.  But that day I decided to wait and see how long it took for the train to pass.  I figured it would take five minutes tops.

Seven minutes later the train finally cleared the crossing.  It wasn’t that bad of a wait, except that I had the full force of a late-July afternoon sun pounding down on me.  Drinking water helped, but it was still pretty miserable.  I did wait for a minute with another commuter cyclist, a guy about my age that I didn’t recognize.  Normally I would have chatted with a fellow cyclist for a bit about bike commuting, but it was so hot I wasn’t feeling chatty.  After the train left we both continued on our ways, me heading into the welcome shade of Midtown’s residential streets.

Several times in my ride, I felt water dripping from my face onto my arms and legs.  By the time I got home, after the package store, Black Lodge, and the quickie mart across the street, my clothes were pretty well soaked.  Normally I like to relax and have some water before I hit the showers, but sitting in a chair and feeling my clothes clinging to me was not terribly comfortable, so I showered right after getting home.

Here’s a screenshot of my ride.

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And here’s a clickable link you can explore.

I’ll probably bike 3-4 days this week, depending on how much I need to be at the office.  My wife is going out of town this coming weekend, so if anyone is up for a Saturday night beer and bike ride, let me know in the comments.

Have a good week Memphis, and try to stay cool.  It ain’t easy, I know.

HOLY CRAP I just realized this is my 100th post!!!  Woo hoo!!!  Break out the champagne, yo!

EPIC!

My friend/former student/fellow music afficionado Stacy and I have gone on several bike rides together in the past few months, some with the U of M Cycling Club, others just the two of us.  She happens to live really close to the Greenline, so we’ve biked that together at least once or twice.  Recently we had talked about biking out to Mud Island together from her place near campus, and since she’s moving to Nashville at the end of the week, we decided to make it happen this week.

Just in time for the brutal heat that is a Memphis summer of course.  Actually, it wasn’t too bad, as long as we were biking on bucolic Linden Avenue (the section between Rozelle and Cleveland) or the shadier portions of the Greenline.  But Linden Avenue downtown?  Forget it.

But what’s a little sunburn (and a wicked farmer/cyclist tan) when you have an epic bike-ride-map like this.

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And here’s that clickable link you all love.

But seriously, check that out?  I love the wide variety of neighborhoods we passed through, everything from the U of M campus area to the north end of Mud Island.  I got to see parts of Memphis I’ve never seen at all, even from a car, all from the comfort of my Gary Fisher.  It was really great.

As you can perhaps tell, I began my ride from Cooper-Young that morning, then biked down Southern (gotta love those bike lanes) through the East Buntyn community to campus and grabbed Stacy.  From there we biked through the Joffre area, to Chickasaw Gardens, past Tobey Park, behind Christian Brothers University, over East Parkway, and through Midtown on Harbert, Rozelle, then Linden.

Linden took us downtown to Third Street, which we followed north past I-40, where we picked up Second Street and biked north to Mud Island Road, which we followed south to the park.

After chillaxing at the park for a minute and stopping by Miss Cordelia’s for water, we crossed the bridge at Exchange Street and headed south on Second.  We retraced our path through downtown and Midtown but forked left on Humes and headed north to the Greenline, which we followed to High Point Terrace, then south to campus and Stacy’s soon-to-be-former house.  After more rehydration, I headed home.

The total mileage was 32.4 for me (slightly less for my biking buddy) and a whole lot of fun.  Once I get settled into summer school next week I am definitely going to plan more epic morning rides, at least one a week.  Summer heat be damned.

What a difference a day makes

Hi everyone.  Thanks so much for visiting my site over the past two days.  I knew that my blog (and me) being featured on I Love Memphis Blog would increase traffic, but I never imagined it would make such a huge difference.

Here’s a screen shot of my Google stats for Thursday morning, just before my profile was posted.

Before

Notice the numbers on the y-axis.  My site visits peaked at just over 120 twice in the last week, both times when I wrote something about the bike lanes on Madison.  There was a smaller peak in early April, I think when the Hightailers promoted my blog in an email.  (Thanks!)

After

But look at my stats as of this morning. Continue reading

Bike Lanes on Madison: Update

Hi everyone.  I’ve written recently about the need for action on the proposed bike lanes on Madison Avenue. Unfortunately, I don’t have any update beyond reporting that Mayor Wharton still hasn’t made a decision.  Apparently he’s received reports on the impact of bike lanes on Madison, and hopefully he’ll make a decision soon, but for now, all we can do is write letters and wait.

If you haven’t yet written one, please do so.  Here’s some information you should know about the proposed lanes and their impact. Continue reading

Bicycle Facilities Meeting: 23 March 2011

After skipping the second in the series of meetings about plans for biking and pedestrian facilities in Memphis – the one that actually focussed on bike lanes, no less – I attended the third and final meeting this week.  Like the first two it was hosted by the Church Health Center and took place on Wednesday, 23 March.

The meeting was sparsely attended compared to the first one; mostly it was the “true believers” (people who already bike around town) and several representatives from the Memphis MPO, including the inimitable Kyle Wagenschutz, the city’s bike/pedestrian coordinator.  There was no presentation, just a large number of colorful and informative maps showing the proposed and scheduled bike facilities around the area.

I was heartened to see many such facilities in Midtown, where I live, as well as in north and south Memphis, areas long held in the grips of poverty and underemployment.  While I most certainly want every major road in Midtown to be blanketed in bike lanes (especially Madison Avenue!), I don’t want these plans to be a Midtown-only effort.  Considering the extent to which poverty correlates with negative health outcomes, the low-income neighborhoods in Memphis should very much be the beneficiaries of any and all facilities which encourage exercise.

What remains to be seen is what will actually happen.  From looking at the maps, at least some of the proposed facilities appear to be somewhat “pie in the sky” in ambition.  Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see some sort of trail system running along Nonconnah Creek south of Memphis and connecting with the Germantown bike facilities, the Wolf River trail system, and indirectly to the Shelby Farms Greenline, but where the funding (and political muscle) comes from is unknown at this time.  Whatever the case, I am overjoyed to see so many proposed biking and walking facilities in and around Memphis.  It’s really heartening to see how quickly this city has turned around.  I can only imagine what it has been like for the dozens of people who’ve been advocating for better facilities (hell, any facilities) for walkers and bikers in Memphis for years.

One piece of good news to share: after originally coming out against the proposed bike lanes on Madison Avenue, Molly’s La Casita has switched teams and is now supporting bike lanes!  Yay Molly’s!!  Now if only Huey’s and Mercury Valet Cleaners would end their senseless opposition.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Updated links page

I’ve just added a few more links to my Links page.  Of particular importance is a really handy map of bike friendly streets in Memphis compiled by local biking guru Anthony Siracusa.  Also of interest, especially to those in the Midtown area, is a group of people who coordinate commuter rides from the Midtown/Cooper Young area to various points around town. I’ve been meaning to meet up with these folks for a while.  Maybe now that my knee appears to be healed (finally!) after a few weeks of R&R I’ll do so.