Tagged: the year in biking

Happy 1st Birthday, Biking in Memphis

I can’t believe it, but it was exactly one year ago today that I wrote my very first post for this blog.  Looking back, I had no idea what 2011 would bring in terms of my biking, this blog, and the cycling community in Memphis .  So let’s take a moment and look back at the most significant events in the local scene, in no particular order.

1.  Bike lanes, bike lanes, and more bike lanes. I’ve written about the status of bike lanes in Memphis more times than I can recall, but it’s remarkable to remember that it’s been slightly more than one year since our city got it’s very first bike lanes, on Southern Avenue.  And in the past year we’ve seen lanes installed on North Parkway, Chelsea, McLean, MacLemore, and, after more drama than I care to remember, Madison Avenue.  This year we should see even more lanes striped, continuing the transformation of Memphis to a truly bike-friendly city. Along the way we will no doubt face more obstacles and detractors, but I very much feel that the wind is at our backs.  I’m very excited to see the discontinuous sections of existing lanes connected into a true cycling network.

Not only did we see more bike lanes, but we saw the cycling community in Memphis and its supporters truly galvanize behind this issue.  The Rally for Great Streets in September showed that cyclists can and will turn out in favor of bike lanes, Livable Memphis did an exceptional job of spreading the word and rallying the troops, Matt Farr launched the website bikesmeanbusiness.com and the petition drive on MadisonBikeLanes.com gave names to our numbers.  I’m really proud of my city for this, and very thankful for our local cycling activists for their hard work (Anthony, Kyle, Sarah, and Les, I’m looking at you, among many others.)

2.  The Greenline turns one. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this rails-to-trails project, not just for local cyclists, pedestrians, and runners, but for the idea that Memphis has no greater aspirations than being sedentary.  The success of the Greenline proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Memphians are eager for new opportunities to get out and move, and I’m proud that our city leaders heard those pleas.

3.  The death of Chris Davidson. It’s hard to write with eloquence about someone I never met, but as the outpouring of support for his family and loved ones clearly demonstrates, Chris touched many people and was loved by all who knew him.  The driver of the car who hit Chris has yet to be found, and might never be, which only compounds this tragedy.  I don’t know what lessons there are to be learned from this, other than take care of each other and look out for one another.

4.  Cycle Memphis group rides. Years ago, when I first started biking around town, I attended a Memphis Critical Mass group ride or two.  It was fun, but we were never much of a mass, nor were we particularly critical.  Perhaps it is not surprising, in a city known (rightly or wrongly) for a certain degree of apathy, that it would be hard to get people together for a regular group ride intended to raise awareness about cyclists in Memphis, but I’m glad that Adam and Jason had the brilliant idea of turning a group ride into a rolling party, complete with sound system and a mid-ride snack break.  I’ve ridden on 3-4 of the Cycle Memphis rides and am looking forward to many more, especially once the weather warms up and more people dust off their two-wheelers.  Now if I could just figure out how to attach a disco ball to my bike …

5.  Local bike shops grow. In the past year we’ve seen two local bike shops, Victory Bicycle Studios and Midtown Bikes, significantly expand the scale of their operations and move to new locations, and another local outdoor store, Outdoors Inc., open another bike shop at a new location.  If anyone needed proof that biking is growing in Memphis, there you have it. Best of luck to these local bike shops and all the rest.  Let’s spend lots of money there.

6.  Project: Bike Love. Local photographer and Victory Bicycle Studios employee Nathan Berry began recruiting local cyclists in the fall for a series of photographs.  The images depicted the cyclists in street clothes with their bikes, in an effort to demystify cycling as a means of transportation and recreation.  I was honored to have been nominated for the series (h/t Clark) and proud to see my picture on display with so many prominent local cyclists.  I hear there’s a book in the future from this … sign me up for a copy.  Nathan’s a fantastic photographer.  You can learn more about Project: Bike Love on facebook.

I was also honored to have been suggested for inclusion in the equally-awesome This is Memphis series of photographs.  While not limited to local cyclists, the series did feature such prominent folks as Matt Farr, Anthony Siracusa, and Kyle Wagenschutz.  Visit the website to see me in my power suit of doom.

7.  More bike rides than you can shake a stick at. In addition to the Cycle Memphis group rides, Memphians enjoyed numerous other group rides for cyclists of all ages and abilities, including the Tour de Grizz, Tweed Rides, Rock and Revolution Group Ride, Midnight Classic, and many more than I can remember.  Big props to all those who make these events happen.

8.  National recognition for Memphis. The League of American Bicyclists awarded our fair city two awards for improving our bike facilities and becoming more cycling friendly. Considering the reputation that Memphis had before, this is truly good news, and a long time coming.

9.  Funding for a Greenline to Overton Park connection and Greenline extension. The only thing better than the Greenline?  MORE Greenline!  And soon we will have just that, thanks to funding for connecting the Greenline to Overton Park via the increasingly-awesome Broad Avenue district, and even more funding to extend the Greenline east to Cordova.  Oh hells yes.

10.  Wolf River Greenway to Germantown connection. Announced back in October, by next summer Memphians will be able to ride from Midtown to Shelby Farms across the Wolf River and all the way to Germantown on dedicated bike paths.  This should make my periodic trips to the Apple Store at Saddle Creek far more enjoyable.

11.  The Harahan Bridge. We don’t yet know when bike lanes will be extended across this wonderful old bridge, but it will hopefully happen soon.  Keep up to date here.

12.  More bike blogs! OK, I don’t know when Ty at Living Loud in Midtown or Cort at Fix Memphis or Brett at Gotta Be Gritty started writing, but even if it wasn’t in 2011, I’m giving them a shout out.  Represent!

13.  I know I’m missing something, if not many things, so please remind me in the comments below.

A few more thoughts before I sign off and get ready for the Grizzlies game tonight.  Originally I had planned to continue this blog for a year and document my experiences as a commuter cyclist in Memphis.  One year and 150 posts later, I think I’m going to keep writing.  And riding.  And writing about riding.

Despite all the adventures I’ve had over the last year, there is still so much I have yet to try, so many parts of town I’ve never visited on my bike, and so much I have yet to write about.  So to give you a preview of what to look forward to in 2012, here are a couple of my New Year’s resolutions:

1.  I will try bike polo.  At least once.  I promise.  And hopefully I won’t look like a complete tool.

2.  I will volunteer at Revolutions and build my own bike there.  I’ve been wanting a road bike, something very simple and clean I can take on group rides, and I’ve been meaning to learn more about bike repair and maintenance.  Starting sometime this spring, I’m making it happen.

3.  I will introduce new features to this blog, like … nah, you’ll just have to wait.

I’d like to close by saying thanks to everyone who commented on my posts, agreed to be interviewed, went on group rides with me, and worked hard to make Memphis the bike town we know it should be.  I’ve met a lot of great people in 2011 and I look forward to more of the same in 2012.  In the meantime, let’s all keep biking in Memphis.