Monday, November 24, 2008

Critical Mass "Burn the Turkey" Bike Ride Friday 11/28/08 - New Meetup Location

New Meetup Location: Cooper & Trimble @ Overton Square
6:00 PM Friday 11/28/08
Helmets and Lights Mandatory

No easy hike to park: Access from west to Shelby Farms problematic for walkers, bikers

By Michael Kelley (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, November 23, 2008

The master plan is done, and it's only a matter of time before Shelby Farms Park is declared a world-class destination. Of course, a lot of people who use the 4,500-acre East Memphis park think it already is, with its shaded trails, its wind-swept lakes, its rolling hills and those clear lines of sight that stretch across acres and acres of wide-open spaces.
What the park has never had, and still doesn't, though, is easy access from the west, unless you're in a motorized vehicle or in the middle of a pack of swift cyclists in bright, attention-getting jerseys who know what they're doing.
That's a shame for residents of East Memphis, Midtown and other neighborhoods that lie to the west, who still need a car to negotiate the recently widened stretch of Walnut Grove between Interstate 240 and the new bridge over the Wolf River. Read more...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bicyclists benefit from bailout, eligible for stipend

By Rachel Gordon
San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, October 10, 2008

The bailout bill crafted by Congress and the White House to stop the tailspin of the nation's financial sector also includes federal tax benefits for people who commute by bicycle.

Starting in January, workers who use two-wheelers as their primary transportation mode to get to and from work will be eligible for a $20-a-month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bicycle-related expenses.

In return, employers will be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes.

"It significantly legitimizes bicycling and elevates it to a credible commute mode, like riding a bus or train," said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The money could be used to purchase, store, maintain or repair bikes that are used for an employee's commute.

Bike advocates had been trying for seven years to get such a provision passed, but came up short until Congress rushed through the Wall Street bailout package last week and lawmakers squeezed in pet projects. The bicycle benefit was championed by members of the Oregon delegation on Capitol Hill.

Backers estimate that the federal tax rolls may lose out on about $1 million a year because of the new employer write-off, according to the advocacy group League of American Bicyclists.

Trailing a new trend

Commercial Appeal Editorial
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Suburban living hasn't always been accommodating to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Many suburbs around the country seem to have been designed to discourage all forms of transportation except automobile traffic.

But that's changing.

Bartlett city workers have been finishing up the first phase of what is expected to eventually be a network with 30 miles of walking/bicycling trails connecting neighborhoods to parks, community buildings and open spaces.

Similar efforts are under way in Germantown and Collierville. These trails within communities can be a nice complement to larger projects like the planned Greater Memphis Greenline, which would create a linear park stretching between Midtown and Cordova.

Trails can greatly improve our quality of life.

They provide safe places to get exercise and socialize. It never hurts to save money on gas, either.

Dare we say it?

Trails really can make us happy.

Greenline for Green Jobs targets rail line potential

By Pamela Perkins (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Transforming an abandoned railway overgrown with weeds and kudzu will do more than create a landscaped haven for bikers, walkers and nature lovers.

Supporters say it will help create jobs.

"Part of what you see is a recreational opportunity. But it's also an economic opportunity," said Sid Lerner, board member of the Greater Memphis Greenline, a nonprofit group working to turn the old CSX rail line into a 13-mile string of park area from Midtown to Cordova.

He was speaking Saturday to 20 or so people at a local event organized to observe the "National Day of Action" for Green Jobs Now, a campaign for job creation and training in projects that help fight oil dependence and sustain the environment.

"The bottom line was to build consensus across the country to take to politicos to get them to fund green jobs initiatives," said Lynn Strickland, a local representative of Green For All "The Dream Reborn" program and who said many of those jobs would pay living wages.

Also, as the proposed Greenline lures people away from gas guzzling over to bicycling and hiking, it could create hundreds of new customers for business in communities it cuts through.

"A business like this would see tremendous benefit," said Lerner at High Point Terrace Pizza, where the group met before escorting them to the rail line at High Point Terrace near Johnwood.

A coalition of environmental, labor and architectural groups released a study earlier this month stating that a two-year, $100 billion national green energy and economic recovery program could create create 2 million jobs nationwide and 44,942 jobs in Tennessee.

The nonprofit Memphis Community Connector Inc. has proposed paying CSX Transportation $5 million for rights to the railway.

And Shelby County Commissioners last week approved using a $324,900 federal grant to conduct an environmental site assessment on the rail line.

The other local "National Day of Action" event was the Healthy Home Performance Analysis in the Riverview-Kansas area. The day was also locally observed at the Memphis Zoo Harvest Festival and by the Sierra Club at the Bartlett Festival.

-- Pamela Perkins: 529-6514

Plan aims to aid pedestrian, traffic flow in Germantown Parkway, Fischer Steel area

Artist rendering of Raleigh-LaGrange transformed
into a parkway beside Shelby Farms Park.

By Pamela Perkins (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Monday, September 29, 2008

Better road connections between Germantown Parkway and Shelby Farms Park. Safer connections from one Cordova shopping center to another. And friendly neighborhood pedestrian and bicycle connections to everywhere.

Those ideas are in a preliminary plan on what should be done with a 600-acre wedge of land around the Germantown Parkway and Fischer Steel intersection.

"It's a blueprint for a great facelift," said Cordova resident Anthony Culver, who attended a series of public forums called the "Fischer Steel Road Area Planning Charrette" that helped shape the plan. They studied the area roughly bordered by the CSX rail line, Raleigh-LaGrange and various roads just east of Germantown Parkway.

The plan includes a pathway under a widened Raleigh-LaGrange road into Shelby Farms, better pedestrian and traffic flow between shopping areas along Germantown Parkway and a walkable neighborhood with bicycle lanes.

"I'm really impressed, particularly with the design for Raleigh-LaGrange Road. I can ride my bike to church," Culver said. Now, "there's no shoulder on Raleigh-LaGrange and getting across Germantown Parkway is not easy."

Memphis and Shelby County planners and Austin-based planning consultants Code Studio hosted the forums to analyze land uses that are allowed and should be allowed in the area, which is mostly zoned industrial.

After finalizing the plan, the firm could be ready to make zoning recommendations sometime in November that could lead to permanent zoning changes and road improvements.

Replacing industrial zoning with more restrictive zoning could bring neighbors and developers the comfort of predictability when new businesses move in.

It might have given more comfort to neighbors who had learned over the past two years that a topless nightclub owner was building a restaurant across from GameDay's baseball fields. Despite Steve Cooper's denials, many Cordovans still believe the structure may become a strip club.

At the final forum last week, Lee Einsweiler of Code Studio said any developments in the study area should complement and connect to the park, which has a multi-million dollar facelift planned. The plan also complements the proposed Greater Memphis Greenline, a redevelopment of the CSX rail line into a landscaped urban trail.

Proposed road improvements are also meant to improve traffic flow to and from GameDay Baseball's 10-diamond First Tennessee Fields baseball complex on Fischer Steel just west of Germantown Parkway. It is planning an $80 million expansion.

-- Pamela Perkins: 529-6514

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Memphis Cyclists Claim Police Brutality On Beale Street - Video

Why is it that it seem like it is always us against them and vice versa? Let's thank the antagonist from the staff and management of Rum Boogie Cafe. That jerk deserves a real pat on the back. Especially with his convenient blanket statement during this segment that we cyclists ride through Beale Street chasing kids and causing chaos. Does this jerk think that's what adults on bicycles do? What an ass? I certainly will not ever patronize that cafe again. Let's boycott Beale Street and especially Rum Boogie Cafe.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Getting trail wary: Critics and supporters of rails-to-trail plan have questions as development nears

Development of a running-cycling trail from Midtown to Shelby Farms and beyond has been such an elusive goal for so many years that recent progress has left Shelby County government feeling like the dog that caught the car.

Very soon, decisions will have to be made about what to do with the thing.

Shelby County, with Mayor A C Wharton leading the charge, is responsible for turning the long-time dream of a multi-use, cross-town trail into a reality.

The dream will come true along an idle CSX Corporation railroad right-of-way that stretches for 13 miles from the Poplar and Union viaduct to a point near Houston Levee Road.

The private group Memphis Community Connector has agreed to purchase rights to a section of the right-of-way that runs from the viaduct to the north edge of Shelby Farms Park.

The $5 million sale is expected to be completed within the next three months, at which time county officials are expected to begin some in-house preliminary design work running up to a formal search for a project designer, developer and manager.

So far, the project has been financed by private money.

It's not clear if and when public funds will kick in, but the development has left Memphis' rapidly growing cycling and running communities more hopeful than ever. They've been lusting for years for an unimpeded, no-motorized-vehicles, multi-use trail that would connect Midtown to Shelby Farms Park and every neighborhood in between.

What's creating ecstasy among runners and cyclists, however, is making people nervous in neighborhoods along the trail's route, where CSX has been busily removing tracks and ties in the last few weeks.

That's not surprising. Anxiety has been the mood surrounding virtually every one of the 1,534 open rails-to-trails projects that stretch out across 15,346 miles of America's exercise highway. There is no reason Memphis should be any different.

An announcement of the preliminary purchase agreement just over a week ago stimulated a lively debate among residents over trail issues ranging from "Who's going to cut all the kudzu?" to "Cutting all that kudzu's just going to give burglars easier access to my backyard."

There is a lot of skepticism about national studies that have found positive effects on property values when trails are blazed through urban neighborhoods.

A typical study, conducted eight years ago along what was then a 67-mile system of trails in Omaha, Neb., found 65 percent of the nearby residents confident that the trails made their homes easier to sell and 77 percent believing that the trail enhanced their quality of life.

So what, the skeptics say. Maybe real estate agents are giving tours from the seats of their bicycles in Boulder. But Memphis?

"We really don't want the trail here in High Point Terrace," said Mary Alice Inzer, a vocal opponent of the CSX trail who lives a few blocks north of the right-of-way. "It would just be another inlet for criminals. I think it would open up this area to an undesirable element."

Inzer looks back with more than a little doubt on a community meeting at which trail advocates predicted higher property values and lower crime rates for her neighborhood.

"You know, in these Power Point presentations they're only going to express the point that they wish to endorse," she said. "They're not going to tell you the negatives."

The project has allies in the neighborhood, as well. Carol Stout, whose backyard abuts the south side of the right-of-way in High Point Terrace, is looking forward to the day the trail opens.

"I'd like Memphis to be in step with Dallas and all these other places that have trails," she said. "It would help the city tremendously."

It's not so much that her neighbors are overwhelmingly against the plan, Stout said. But many have questions. Will the trail have police officers on bicycles like those you see on big-city trails? Will it be lighted at night? Will its elevation be lowered to block views into people's backyards?

To the west of High Point Terrace and on the south side of the railway, the Poplar-Highland Community Association is "strongly in favor of the old CSX railway being converted into a trail for bikes and walkers-runners, as long as the trail is maintained," said president James Stubbs.

That means cutting the grass, picking up the litter, making sure trees and bushes are not allowed to grow out of control and the kudzu is eliminated, "and there is some guarantee of safety on the trail, especially on the section in our area," Stubbs said.

All along the trail's path, in fact, from Binghamton on the north bank of its western sector to the leafy affluence of East Memphis, there is guarded support but also many questions about what the trail will look like, how it will be maintained, how it will be lighted and what the police presence will be.

Advocates at Memphis Community Connector and Greater Memphis Greenline expect to be able to answer those questions in time. There is little doubt, however, that when planning for the trail begins there should be vigorous efforts to engage the public in the process.

"Residents of the neighborhoods can get involved early by participating in decisions about the trail itself -- seating areas, recreational areas and the like," said Katie Test, manager of public relations for the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. "Promoters should encourage members of the community to have meetings around the trail design. They'll also become more comfortable as they see the same people on a regular basis -- walking their dogs, running, etc.

"Some neighborhoods have developed trail ranger programs with volunteers to keep an eye on things. Trails need solid friends groups. They can help with maintenance, light installation, brush clearing and other tasks."

If the history of Memphis' only other rails-to-trails project, the 10-year-old V&E Greenline in Midtown, is an accurate predictor, a lot of change will come to neighborhoods along the route.

Renate Rosenthal, whose home abuts the 1.7-mile V&E, was "highly skeptical" about the project when the right-of-way was purchased by the Vollentine & Evergreen Community Development Corporation in 1996.

When the line was abandoned in the early '80s, she said, the path became a dumping ground for tires and building materials, and vagrants moved in. They climbed over people's fences, stole lawn mowers and started fires.

"They used a stolen ladder from my house to climb over the fence and steal more. They were brazen," she said. "One of their fires spread to my backyard. Someone was back there throwing cigarettes down."

Neighbors communicated little about crime or anything else. "People came out saying we've had this problem and it's just going to get worse," Rosenthal said.

But the trail was built, and after 10 years it is getting steady use by neighborhood dog walkers, Midtown runners and people simply looking for a nice place to take a stroll. Trees, brush and tall fences obscure most of the backyards.

A committee of the Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association is in charge of the trail. Its chairman is Rosenthal, the former skeptic, who says the neighborhood is united more than ever now, and not just by a trail.

With the trail, she says, has come a new commitment among neighbors to communicate and work together to make sure the trail is more of an asset than a liability.

"The trail has become a catalyst for neighbors to talk about what is going on in our backyards," Rosenthal said. "When it was first cleaned up, there continued to be a concern about what was it going to do now that it's open. Will things get better? Will things get worse? There continued to be sporadic issues about people coming in over the fences.

"That was nothing new. But we became much more aware of it. We talked to each other about it. There was a core of about 15 people, and then various groups of volunteers at different times would show up.

"There was a committee that oversaw planning and development and one for day-to-day things. 'There's a fallen tree. Who can come with a chain saw?' People started to notice things.

"The neighborhood became like a family -- everybody up and down the green talking to each other."

There are still people in the neighborhood who don't care much for the greenline, Rosenthal said, and people who won't venture onto it alone. There are areas along the trail that can feel isolated at certain times of day and night.

The trail along the old CSX line will be no different. Some people will use it, and some won't. It would be futile to expect unanimity of support in neighborhoods that lie along the path.

For a lot of people the trail will be a dream come true. Hopefully, it won't be anybody's nightmare.

Michael Kelley is an editorial writer for The Commercial Appeal. Contact him at 529-2785.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bicyclist Attacked By Memphis Police Officer

Last night I saw a bicycle rider attacked by a police officer. 

Around 11:30 p.m., a group of riders headed south on Second Street to the intersection of Second and Beale. With foot traffic very light and no police prohibition at the edge of Beale, the riders rode down Beale to Third Street. Upon seeing further bike traffic as prohibited, the riders turned to head south to bypass the busy section of Beale St. When the cyclists reached Third and Beale, a police officer turned and began waving his arms. To avoid the policeman, who would have otherwise been struck by the bicycles, riders headed south on Third up the sidewalk. 

After six riders passed the officer, he became angry. As the seventh rider passed the officer, the policeman grabbed the cyclist by the shoulder and threw him to the ground. Shocked, I slowed to a stop, worried my friend had broken his arm. When my friend pulled himself from the concrete, the officer stepped as close as he could to my friend, who was now bleeding, and screamed into his face: “Didn’t I tell you to stop?” 

Officer Woodward, badge number 842, had the number “06” pinned to his lapel. After the officer ceased yelling, I asked the him if we were free to go. “You are!” he screamed. “But not your friend! He’s getting a citation!” And after a moment’s pause, he screamed “You’re all getting citations! For hanging around!” We calmly replied that we were concerned that our friend was injured, to which the officer said nothing. After 30 minutes, my friend who was assaulted by a police officer and the three of us that stayed around to be sure he was alright ended up with tickets. 

While we waited, three eyewitnesses offered their phone numbers to us and offered to testify against the police in a court of law. Our court date is set for the 21 of October at 1:30 p.m. 

The citation reads that we had been warned many times before, and had been seen on Beale riding bicycles before. I have never once been warned about riding bikes on Beale St., and had never in my life seen any of the police officers on duty that night. The police report was falsified. 

This type of un-checked violence from police to citizens is not new. This summer, a transgendered woman was assaulted by local police inside a police precinct, and security forces on Beale have been in the news repeatedly for using excessive force. 

In court, we will challenge the charges. We are now investigating a suit against the city for assault and excessive force. Our friend almost broke his arm, and whether it is right or wrong that bicycles are not allowed on Beale St., violation of a pedestrian or bicycle law does not warrant violent force to subdue citizens. 

On Saturday, September 27, a ride will leave from Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop at First Congregational Church and proceed to Beale Street. We will dismount from our bicycles and walk the entire length of Beale St. 

Please forward this message along to interested parties. For more information or to share similar stories, please contact Anthony Siracusa: 901.949.1201 or
Photo above is demonstrative in purpose and does not actually depict this said incident.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Life Cycles: Road safety responsibility of cyclists too

By Anthony Siracusa, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Monday, September 1, 2008

Scott Wilson has been commuting by bicycle in Memphis since 2003.

On July 19, Scott left his job at Spindini restaurant around 1:30 a.m. He glided down South Main toward the intersection of Vance and Main, when suddenly, a car slammed into his right side. The car had run a stop sign.

Though some eyewitnesses reported seeing a beer bottle in the car, the responding officer chastised Wilson for requesting a Breathalyzer test for the driver.

The final police report stated that the driver was charged with not yielding at a stop sign and driving without insurance.

There is no Tennessee ordinance that speaks plainly to what happens when a bicyclist is struck by a car.

The Tennessee Bicycle Protection Act of 2007 protects cyclists when passed by a car, stating that a car "shall leave a safe distance ... of not less than 3 feet and shall maintain the clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle."

The law in Tennessee says bicycles are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle, but three colleagues on bikes have been hit by cars in the past month, causing some in the cycling community to feel that bicycles are not treated as vehicles in such situations.

Danny Fagden, a cyclist of 30 years, was seriously injured after being struck by a car on July 3.

For officers investigating the scene of such accidents, without laws specifically governing a collision between cars and bicycles in the roadway, determining fault and appropriate citation within a legal framework is difficult.

Cyclists do not ride for health, fitness, recreation and transportation more often because they do not feel safe or protected in the road. A lack of laws and understanding among officials only heightens the lack of protection for bicyclists.

Safety is the number one factor in whether people will ride bicycles, and maintaining roadway safety is a two-way street. More than 70 percent of bike-car collisions result from unsafe bicycle riding.

A gap in education and awareness for cars and bicycles exists in Tennessee, and this is reflected in Tennessee law governing bicycles.

When a cyclist is at fault in a crash, a class on safe road sharing between bikes and cars should be required.

The same should be true when a car is at fault.

With more bikes on the road than ever before, safely sharing the road must become a priority.

Your turn

Got a comment for cyclist Anthony Sircusa? Have something to say about biking in Memphis? Do you commute by bicycle to work? Share your story.

Go to our Healthy Memphis blog at and join the conversation.

Memphian Anthony Siracusa is a student at Rhodes College, a member of Memphis' Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, executive director of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop and a daily cycling commuter. Contact him at

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Memphis Critical Mass Is Seeking Stories, Comments, and Photos From The Aug. 29th Ride

Greetings. I hope all those who could make yesterday's ride had a safe and good time. Thank you for participating. I am seeking stories, comments, or photos of yesterday's ride. Please leave your comments below and email any stories or photos to I intend to further spread the word of our collective efforts to bring attention to the bicycle as a viable recreation and sport, and a green gas-free mode of transportation. My goal is to grow our Critical Mass and collective presence on the streets of our city.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mid-South man pulled over while riding his bike

Mid-South man pulled over riding his bike

Reported by Lori Brown
Mid-South man pulled over riding his bike

Updated: Aug 25, 2008 03:26 PM

David Williams rides his bicycle 5 1/2 miles to work and 5 1/2 miles back practically every day.

He started biking to work four years ago to lower his cholesterol and he knows the rules of the road.

It is why he was shocked to hear a siren and see police lights behind him on his ride to work Thursday.

The car was unmarked, and the man inside in street clothes.

"When he got out put on his lanyard and I saw that it was a sheriff's badge, I realized then that he was an officer," Williams said.

Williams did not get the officers name or badge number, so the Sheriff's Department can not determine if he is one of their officers or not.

The man claiming to be an officer went on to threaten Williams.

"If he caught me again he would give me a citation and if caught me a second time he would throw me into jail," Williams said.

According to the Tennessee Driver handbook, bicyclists have the same rights as drivers do.

Bicyclists are required to ride to right side of the road, except to avoid unsafe conditions. They are also allowed to get in place for left turns.

"What frustrates me the most is that here an official was indicating that I was violating the law," Williams said. "It's so unfortunate that people don't understand bicycles are vehicles."

The Sheriff's Department's spokesperson said all of its deputies are familiar with traffic laws when it comes to cyclists.

He did follow up with Williams, but there cannot be any investigation since the officer was in an unmarked car and Williams didn't get his name or badge number.

(Video Coming Soon)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Memphis Critical Mass Website Is Up

The Memphis Critical Mass website is up and running. Mind you, that this is a work in ongoing progress. Please bookmark this website and check back often for updates.

Benefits of a Bicycle

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Memphis Cyclist Pulled Over by Shelby County Sheriff

It’s about 9 am Thursday, August 21. I am cycling to work down Germantown Road as I have safely done daily for four years. The traffic light is red for the southbound traffic at the Trinity intersection. I am stopped in the outside lane (next to the right-turn only lane) when the light turns green. (I ride in the shoulder of Germantown Parkway where there is one. Otherwise, I am within 3 feet of the lane edge.) There are no cars behind me. A lane over, a scruffy looking guy in a plain gray car rolls down his window and shouts “Get off the road.” This happens occasionally, so I shout “No” as I ride off, signaling that I am merging into the new outside lane formed at that intersection.

Suddenly, the plain gray car starts flashing his police lights and sounding his siren as he pulls behind me. It’s an un-marked sheriff’s car. I stop in the driveway of Wal-mart and Target. He gets out of his car, slips on his lanyard with a star and asks, “What did you say?” I admitted that I said “No”. “You don’t tell an officer no in the line of duty,” he says. I apologized and admitted that I was wrong to do so.

He says that I can’t ride on Germantown Parkway. He asks, “How long have you lived in Memphis?” I told him that I have lived here for the last 27 years, as if that mattered. “You can’t ride on the road. You don’t have a tag and registration. You’re impeding traffic.” I explained that traffic is impeded if there are four cars behind a slow moving vehicle, and they have no safe way to pass. I carry a copy of T.C.A. 55-8-171 to 174 and I offered to show these to him.

“I don’t come into your office telling you how to do your job, don’t tell me how to do my job. I don’t want to see the law. You can’t ride on the road. Your bike has to be registered. Consider this a warning. If I see you on the road again I’ll give you a citation. If your still riding on the road, I’ll throw you in jail.”

Unfortunately, I was so rattled that I failed to get the officer’s name or badge number. I had no way to know he was a police officer being scruffy sitting in an unmarked car a lane away. I am shocked how ignorant of the law he was, unwilling to see the law. He was more upset that I said “no” to someone who looked like a day laborer.

I am e-mailing you to publicize this mis-treatment and ignorance by an officer of the law.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sign of the Times!

Submitted without comment.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bike lanes can enrich city's image

Commercial Appeal
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Letters to the Editor

The momentum of bicycling for recreation, sport and green, gas-free transportation is reaching critical mass. No other time in recent American history has the bicycle been so pivotal as a solution to many of our problems that exist today. Riding a bicycle is the one of the most patriotic activities that we Americans should embrace, but we do face obstacles. We, the people who ride bicycles, need safe places to ride our bicycles. We need bicycle lanes. Not just any bicycle lanes. We need safe bicycle lanes on well-thought-out routes that connect public places, schools and neighborhoods.

The bicycle has been around for over 100 years, yet Memphis does not have one single bicycle lane. I know efforts are under way to make this change, albeit a little too late. It's time that this city becomes more progressive. Cities without such amenities are cities most people chose not to live in or relocate to. Bicycle lanes make cities more attractive and, yes, more progressive. They prove that cities are more forward thinking and more modern.

Having bicycle lanes and routes designate a safer space to ride. Having space to ride bicycles encourages use of these spaces. Use of these spaces gives more visibility and awareness of bicyclists to drivers. This visibility and awareness among drivers becomes more commonplace and usual. Bicyclists become more tolerable and respected and everyone shares the road which becomes the norm.

Daniel Duckworth


Click here to view readers' comments in the Commercial Appeal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beijing by bike: Culture from the slow lane

By Geoff Calkins (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BEIJING -- So I was riding my bike to work ...

What's that, you ask? Don't they have buses over here?

Yes, they have buses. Buses for the media. But do buses have cute little bells?

My bike had a bell.

Ding! Ding!

See? A bell.

Ding! Ding!

Absolutely, I became addicted to the thing. Also, I wanted to live. As I rode my bike to work. In China. When in China, do as the Chinese do.

The Chinese ride bikes. I would ride a bike to Tiananmen Square with a couple reporter friends.

"Thirty dollars," the man said.

"To rent?"

"No, buy."

I had myself a bike. A basic, black, upright Chairman Mao one-speed. But, wait, did it have a bell?

"Here," the man said.

"Let me try," I said.

Ding! Ding!

Mile one

An IT guy named Jim said he had ridden in Beijing before. He would go along.

"The first rule is make eye contact," he said.

"Is there a second rule?"

"Yes, go with the flow."

Make eye contact. Go with the flow. Riding a bike in China sounds a lot like life.

Off we go. The wind blowing through my hair. No, I did not wear a helmet. What do you take me for?

The Chinese do not wear helmets. Ever. I have seen more Chinese carrying dangerous chemicals on a bike (1) than I have seen Chinese wearing bike helmets (0).

You wonder what they think they're doing at the Chinese bike helmet-making factories. You wonder how the conversations go.

Says Hu: "Another day of work finished."

Says He: "Yes, another day of making those strange American flower pots."

Mile two

We cross a street. We wait for the light. What's that, is it, could it be ...

Yes! It is a little bicycle. Lit up in red or green. Chinese have separate crossing signals for bikes.

This is so cool. This is a society that loves bikes. There are big, broad bike lanes. There are ramps up and down. And there are separate crossing signals for bikes.

Stop bikes, go bikes, caution bikes.

So very cool.

Mile three

The Chinese do not wear Lycra. This makes me feel good. Lycra is intimidating.

In fact, Lycra is the number one reason that more Americans do not ride bikes. We think about going for a bike ride. Then we see seven guys speed past, in green and gold Lycra, and sunglasses, and bike shoes, and we decide to take a nap.

In China, everybody rides bikes. There is no dress code. If you wore Lycra, they would laugh at you.

We stop for directions. A man speaks broken English.

"Go that way," he says.

Jim the IT guy checks the GPS he has strapped to his wrist. For the record, I disapprove.

We start down an alley.

"No!" yells the Chinese man. "THAT WAY."

Mile four

A man is getting his hair cut. This is not so strange, really. Except the man is getting his hair cut as he sits in a chair on the sidewalk. There is a small shop, too. With all sorts of parts to Chinese bicycles.

We stop. Of course we stop. When's the last time you saw a combined bike repair and barber shop?

The woman cuts hair. The man fixes bikes.

I approach the woman.

"Can you take a little off the top?"

She has no idea what I am talking about. She cuts my hair as the man raises my bike seat.

I pay them 10 yuan, or a little less than two bucks.

Jim checks his GPS again. It says we are in 1958.

Mile six

A partial list of things I saw transported by bike: Empty beer bottles, flowers, brooms, water jugs, cabbages, propane tanks, mops, and chlorine canisters.

Oh, and families. Mother, father and the requisite one child.

The Chinese use bikes for everything. If you can do it with a car, they can do it with a bike. You know that Chinese woman who performs at the halftime of NBA games, riding a unicycle and tossing dishes on her head with her feet?

Believe me when I tell you: All 1.3 billion Chinese can do that.

Mile eight

The sad truth is, the Chinese don't ride bikes like they used to. Now they drive cars.

In 1978, there were 77,000 cars in Beijing. Now there are 3 million. With all those cars, it's a lot harder to ride a bike. So more people want cars. And it's even harder to ride a bike. So even more people want cars. And, really, we could go on like this forever or until we pass out from the fumes.

We ride by an official-looking building. Look, it has a sign.

"Institute of Atmospheric Physics," it says.

Mile nine

The traffic is thickening as we get deeper in the city. We weave and bob and nearly get crushed by a bus.

The big, broad bike lanes are fabulous. Except buses pull into them when they make their stops.

There are no motorcycles in Beijing. But there are scooters, zillions of scooters, crowding the big, broad bike lanes.

A scooter is caught behind us.

"Beep, beep, beep!"

It sounds oddly familiar.

"Bike rage," I say.

Mile 10

"Organic Vegetable Cuisine," a sign says.

We have arrived in the snazzy part of town. Grand hotels. Plush shops. Organic vegetable cuisine.

"HEL," a sign says. "Healthy Enjoy Living."

The place sells nutritional supplements. It is China's GNC. Of even greater significance: I have now ridden to HEL, if not back.

Mile 12

We have made it! The famous boulevard! The famous square!

With Chairman Mao, presiding. I think he would like my bike.

It has done me well. It has delivered me to work. I send up the universal sign of happiness.

Ding! Ding!

To reach columnist Geoff Calkins, e-mail calkins@

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Summer Streets - No Traffic on a Saturday? Well, No Cars, Anyway.

Bicycles and pedestrians filled Lafayette Street at Canal Street on Saturday, the first day of the Summer Streets program.
Published: August 9, 2008 - New York Times

At Grand Central Terminal, the trains ran as usual on Saturday. Tourists studied maps, vendors hawked water and magazines — but outside, something was off. On one side of the station there were no cars, taxis or delivery trucks. Instead, the street was filled with pedestrians and bicycles.

Jason Phelps, 34, stepped off the curb, tilted his sunglasses and froze. “I’ve just walked into a swarm of bicyclists,” he told someone on his cellphone. “I don’t know what they want,” he joked, “but I’m going to close my eyes and pray.”

The ding of bicycle bells and the chatter of people on foot replaced the usual automobile noises along 6.9 miles of Manhattan for six hours on Saturday. It was the first day of Summer Streets, the city’s experiment in car-free recreation modeled on similar efforts in Guadalajara, Mexico; Bogotá, Colombia; Paris; and several American cities.

On a path that extended from the Brooklyn Bridge north to Park Avenue and the Upper East Side, thousands of people filled the streets, taking part in activities like street-side tai chi or salsa dancing. Others simply enjoyed the chance to stroll in normally car-clogged streets. In a city where walkers, cyclists and motorists must share limited space, having a major thoroughfare through Manhattan free of cars created a giddy sort of excitement.

Deborah Fried, 48, a tourist from California, rented a bicycle outside the Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue. Ms. Fried said she regularly rode her bicycle at the beach near her hometown of Pacific Palisades, but she had never bicycled on her visits to Manhattan .

She said the Summer Streets path felt safe.

“You don’t have to worry and be killed by a taxi,” she said. “To me, this beats bicycling on the beach because you get the flavor of the city.”

The route was broken up by three rest stops, where water, maps and first aid were available. The stops also featured music and dance performances, and yoga and other exercise classes. Police officers directed traffic at 24 streets crossing the route.

Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, 47, took advantage of the break in traffic for a walk with his children before morning services. He said he appreciated the early morning quiet on Park Avenue.

“It gives the city a certain calmness that it doesn’t have otherwise,” Rabbi Feldman said.

The city may make Summer Streets, which continues the next two Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., a regular event if it proves to be a success (city officials have said that this would be a subjective measure).

Although Department of Transportation officials said they did not yet have an estimate of how many people turned out on Saturday, Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner, praised the debut. “Summer Streets really struck a chord this morning,” she said in a statement.

The plan to close off streets had drawn criticism from shop owners, who feared it would hurt business. But the city assured skeptics that Summer Streets might bring more customers to their stores.

On Saturday, the economic impact remained unclear. Martha Barzola, 37, manager of a Papyrus stationery store on Park Avenue, said that the area around the store during summer weekends can sometimes resemble a ghost town. Because of the increased foot traffic, however, her store achieved its sales goal of $600 for the day within two hours, she said.

But Ibrahim Hamzah, an assistant manager for an Edison ParkFast lot on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Streets, said he had not had a single customer, in contrast to the 30 or 40 cars that is typical for a Saturday in summer.

“The number of times this is going to happen should be minimal,” Mr. Hamzah said. “We’re losing money, and it makes the job boring.”

There were other complaints. One woman, who declined to give her name because she was in a rush, said she had to park several blocks away to get to a medical appointment. Other pedestrians said that some novice riders, still learning to control their bicycles, were a danger to those on foot. Delivery of food to restaurants was disrupted because trucks could not get in.

Taxi drivers had also worried that Summer Streets would reduce the number of people hailing cabs. But Ali Sada, parking his cab for a few minutes at Park Avenue and 57th Street, praised the event.

“All these people are going to be tired when they put their bikes away,” he said. “We’re going to make a lot more money.”

Jason Grant contributed reporting.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Memphis has the potential to be one great cycling town.

Photo by Photo illustration by Michael McMullan / The Commercial Appeal

I'm a cyclist. My wife and I got into it about six years ago, mostly for our health and for the fun of it. Now it's actually starting to pay dividends, with gasoline approaching $4 a gallon. I'm used to pedaling to the store and just to run errands around Midtown. We also take our bikes on vacation and use them to see the sights; you can cover a lot of ground in places like Washington, D.C., Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., on a bike, and parking is never a problem. Memphis has the potential to be one great cycling town, too, if we could provide the infrastructure to do so. The terrain here is perfect, as we have few really extreme hills. The riverfront and Mud Island are great biking environments. It's good to see city engineers giving serious consideration to marking bike lanes on our city's streets. Paving a greenway from Downtown to East Memphis, where cyclists could avoid the dangers of traffic, would be an even more ideal solution. There's also the all-too-frequent question of crime. Having been assaulted and robbed while on my bike, I know it's not just the traffic that can be hazardous. If we're to have greenways we'll need police to patrol them. And it wouldn't hurt Memphis to take a lesson from cities like Kansas City, Mo., where they have bicycle squads of police on their streets. Finding new enthusiasm for an old form of transportation could be a win-win for our city, not only by attracting tourists here for our scenic bike routes but also getting Memphis off the list of America's most out-of-shape cities. "1,000 Words" is a weekly pictorial commentary on events in Greater Memphis and around the world. Today's "1,000 Words" was written by Michael McMullan, a picture editor for The Commercial Appeal.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Does Beijing Stink? Cyclists Arrive for Olympics Wearing Masks

A US Olympic cyclist arrives in Beijing. Officials may relocate endurance
events if smog levels become dangerous. Photograph: Yves Herman/ Reuters

Four American cyclists who arrived in Beijing airport wearing facemasks to protect against air pollution have apologised to the Beijing Olympics Organising Committee (Bocog) for any offence they have caused. The athletes, world keirin champion Jennie Reed among them, were said simply to have been overly concerned about the extent of the air-pollution problem.

"They have written letters of apology to Bocog," said the United States Olympic Committee chairman Jim Scherr, "and they now understand that it wasn't in the best judgement." It was made clear that the athletes had not been forced to apologise, but had done so of their own volition "upon realising how what they'd done had been perceived by the host nation".

Wearing masks through the airport was certainly over the top, but then two of the athletes even wore them on the plane. "Why we wore the masks is simple: pollution," Mike Friedman, another of the masked athletes, told the New York Times. "When you train your whole life for something, dot all your i's and cross all your t's, why wouldn't you be better safe than sorry? They have pollution in Los Angeles, and if the Olympics were in Los Angeles, we would probably wear these masks, too."

When pressed, the USOC confirmed that they had actually issued the athletes with the masks "at the request of the national governing bodies". Around 200 of the USA's athletes are believed to have brought a mask with them. "We're not chastising anybody for wearing a mask," Scherr continued, "and we would not forbid athletes [from wearing masks] if they felt it was in their best interests to do so."

Given that the USOC reiterated the line that Reed and her fellow cyclists were simply being too cautious in their desire to protect their lungs and maintain a competitive edge over their rivals, it seems the athletes did believe it was in their best interest. However erroneous their decision was - Beijing airport is pristine - it seems that in this case the desire to be diplomatic has overcome the athlete's wishes.

"Obviously we have to balance their right to do what they want with how those actions are perceived," Scherr said. "You never want to go to someone's house and cause embarrassment, and in this case I think they did."

Still We Ride Video

On Friday August 27, 2004 just days before the start of the Republican National Convention, a massive police operation was underway. By the end of the night 264 people were arrested. It marked one of the largest mass arrests in New York City's history - and the arrested had done nothing illegal.

For many New Yorkers, August was the first time they heard of what has become a monthly ritual for New York City's bike community; a free-forming ride called Critical Mass.

Still We Ride is a documentary that captures the joyous atmosphere of this August ride before the arrests began and the chaos that followed. It recounts how this ride first started in San Francisco over 10 years ago and chronicles the police crackdown and resulting court battles in New York over the last twelve months. The movie takes on issues of civil liberties, surveillance, the power of mainstream media, and the benefits of alternative means of transportation. Click here to watch this video documentary.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

August 16 Ride for Awareness 2008

This summer has brought a lot of attention to cyclists in Memphis. In the Month of July, alone, bikes, cyclists and cycling infrastructure have been central parts of the Memphis metro dialogue about safety, health and sustainability.

But still we feel invisible and vulnerable on our streets. Many drivers remain convinced we have no place on their roads.

The terrible results of this obscurity are collisions such as the one that broke Danny Fadgen's back on July 3. We all fear this, but ride nevertheless knowing that doing so does make a difference in our lives and the life of our community.

This is why we will ride on Saturday, August 16 - to build awareness. to build courage, to build community, and to build hope for cyclists.

Please join us as we ride to raise awareness of our place on the streets as traffic. This ride will not be a Critical Mass ride in protest of a city and county that has failed us, but to demonstrate our place as users of a community's shared infrastructure. We will ride to build confidence for those scared of the streets and for those scared of an oil-dependent future. We will ride to build awareness of a community that sees hope in change through cycling.

So, please ride with us as we ride for awareness at 12 noon on August 16.

The ride will begin and end at the lake house at Shelby Farms. We will ride 10 miles through the park to Raleigh-Lagrange Road. From there we will join Trinity, to Germantown Parkway, continuing south to Wolf River Blvd and Humphries, where we will loop west around Shelby Farms returning to the Lake House via Walnut Grove. We will obey all traffic laws and signals on this ride and will proceed at a leisurely pace (probably taking an hour to complete the loop). Please bring a helmet and water and anything else you may need to be safe and comfortable as we raise awareness of cycling in Shelby county.

Contact for more info.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The 2008 Legendary Legend Of Stanky Creek TT & XC Is ON!

It's Legendary.

That's right, I'm crappin' you negative.
The events are set for August 16 and August 17 of 2008,
in the heartlett of Bartlett.

Here's the flyer with all the low-down on the hoe-down.
Go the trails page for trail maps and descriptions. A few pics too.

This race is a regional favorite and there is always a great turnout.
Expect a fast race, good times and maybe a burger and a beverage post-race.
This year's race is jointly sponsored by Stanky Creek Cycling, Wood N Wave,
and lettuce so you know it's gonna' be good.

Come for the heat. Stay for the bugs.

(By the way, did we mention it was Legendary?)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cyclists continue to pedal trail proposal

Unless price derails progress, bicycle path seems back on track

Long before most anyone else awakened to the possibilities, Jim Burress discovered just how much freewheeling fun could be had on an old railroad corridor.

More than 30 years ago, he began riding bikes with his children along dirt paths running parallel to the little-used tracks now belonging to CSX Transportation. The corridor, behind Burress' home on Princeton near Waring, gave them easy access to neighborhoods across a broad swath of East Memphis. Read More...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Law of the Garbage Truck

One day my friend and I hopped on our bikes on our way to work at a local bike shop. We were rolling down the right side of the road just to the left of parked cars when suddenly a driver in a black car jumped out right in front of us. We slammed on our brakes, skidded, and missed 'em by mere inches. The driver slowed for a moment and started yelling at us. My friend just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean he was really friendly.
So I asked, "Why did you just do that? This guy almost took us out and he would have either maimed us or kill us." This is when my friend taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.' He explains that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage (frustration, anger, disappointment, etc.). As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.
The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so.. 'Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't.'
Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pedal Power

Memphis roads not friendly for bicyclists

As gas prices rise, more are using pedal power

For more than a year, Jane Fadgen had been commuting by bicycle from her Germantown home to her job as a registered nurse at St. Francis-Bartlett.

As she would leave early in the morning, well before sunrise, her husband Danny would ride halfway there with her and then return home. Her reasons for making the 10-mile one-way trip by bike were simple: the cost of gas, a love of cycling, and "we're environmentally tuned in."

A few weeks ago, at 4:45 a.m., Jane and Danny Fadgen were riding north on Germantown Parkway. They had just passed the Chick-fil-A on the right-hand side of the road and were crossing the bridge over the Wolf River. Read More...

On bike trip, Carl Edwards gets to be a regular guy

By Craig Wack (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal

It's become tradition for NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Petty to ride his motorcycle across the country every summer. For the past couple of seasons, Carl Edwards has gone a little more low-tech with his ride.

Edwards, who is considered among the most fitness-conscious drivers in NASCAR, rode his bicycle from his hometown of Columbia, Mo., to suburban St. Louis via the Katy Trail -- a trip of more than 100 miles -- in the days before winning last week's Nationwide Series event at Gateway International Speedway.

"I don't know if there's something wrong with my seat, but my butt hurts, my legs hurt and my abs hurt from laughing so much with all the guys that were with us," Edwards said. "It was wild, fun."

It's the second year Edwards has biked the trail, which was carved out of an abandoned rail line. He made the trip with his trainer, Dean Golich, Nationwide Series chaplain Lonnie Clouse and Edwards' motorhome driver, Tom Giacchi. Edwards said his little group had a few adventures along the way, including teaching a kid how to perform his signature backflip off a diving board at a public pool in Washington, Mo. Read more...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Memphis Critical Mass Ride - July 25, 2008 @ 5:30 PM

Meet at the southwest entrance to Overton Park/Memphis Zoo at Poplar Ave and Tucker. Come All Ye Who Pedal.

Monday, July 14, 2008

City of Memphis will move into the late 20th Century

Editorial: Sharing the road should get easier

Well, hallelujah.

Sometime this fall, the City of Memphis will move into the late 20th Century in terms of accommodating bicyclists.

That's when the city's first bike lanes are scheduled for completion. City Engineer Wain Gaskins said one bike lane will be on Shady Grove between Humphreys and Yates and the other on Brierview between Shady Grove and Walnut Grove.

It's a good first step, and long overdue.

But the city shouldn't stop there. There are plenty of roads throughout Memphis that are wide enough to accommodate bike lanes without any additional road construction work.

The city should be making plans to add bike lanes on as many of those roads as possible, as soon as possible.

Unless the city is using road paint flaked with gold, the cost involved should be fairly small.

And bike lanes could actually help save lives.

That alone should put bike lanes higher on the priority list than many of the other uses city government manages to find for taxpayer dollars.

As an added bonus, bike lanes would improve the overall quality of life in Memphis, which could help stem the city's steady population loss.

This is, after all, a time when rising gas prices are forcing many people to consider alternative modes of transportation, including bicycles.

Despite the obvious benefits of bike lanes, city officials have seemed somewhat reluctant to embrace them.

Gaskins has said he's concerned because many storm water grates around the city have grooves that run parallel to sidewalks. That poses a hazard to cyclists because bike tires can get caught in those grooves, leading to accidents.

As a result, Gaskins has said he wants to wait until bike-friendly grates are installed before creating more bike lanes.

His logic on that point seems disconnected.

Because cyclists are already facing one type of road hazard, he's unwilling to take a completely independent step to make the roads safer for them?

That's like punishing cyclists for daring to venture into unsafe road conditions.

The grates do need to be replaced, but that could take a while. An interim solution would be to paint the grates yellow or red to alert cyclists to the potential hazard.

No, bike lanes aren't going to prevent all of the possible problems that could arise between motorists and cyclists.

Some motorists are still going to behave rudely and even dangerously because they just don't want to share the road with anyone moving more slowly than they are.

And some bicyclists are still going to disobey the rules of the road, endangering themselves and others around them.

Lanes just mark where cars and bikes should go. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll be used properly.

Plus, it would be impractical to put bike lanes on every single stretch of asphalt inside the city limits.

If the city's leaders really wanted to be progressive, they would commit to building a network of bike paths that would allow people to travel from Point A to Point B while largely avoiding the roads cars use.

But now we're talking real money.

In the short term, bike lanes are a good common sense solution. We need more of them.

Our Time Is Now!

Life Cycles: Time has never been better for cycling

About 30 years ago, Lewis O'Kelly started riding his bike to work.

By car, it took 15 minutes, he spent another 15 minutes finding a parking space and then needed 10 more minutes to walk from his car to Manning Hall at the University of Memphis, where he taught physics for 34 years.

The entire affair took 15 minutes on the bike. "I've been near-frozen and almost drowned. I've done the trip when it was 10 degrees. It got easier over time, but the problem was I kept getting older." Now 76, O'Kelly doesn't ride anymore. He had one knee replaced years ago, and the other one continues to give him problems. Though he no longer spends time on the bike, O'Kelly remains a passionate cyclist.

His love of cycling in Memphis grew after joining the Memphis Hightailers in 1983. He started riding as many as 50 miles a week. He rode everywhere on a bike, and spent his free time on the weekends riding with the Hightailers.

"It's nothing to get from East Memphis to Downtown on a bicycle," he says. He and the Hightailers would ride a still frequently used "East-West Passage" from Audubon Park to the river. "We rode in Raleigh and Frayser, and even had a route down McLemore all the way to Martin Luther King Jr. Park."

Riding bicycles is as much about socializing and building relationships as it is working out and burning calories. O'Kelly remembers that his friend Charles Finney encouraged him to stay in the saddle. "Charlie would ride by my house at 6 a.m. and whistle just to make me feel guilty for lying there."

Finney, who I knew as "Mr. Bicycle" during my early days as a Memphis bicycle mechanic, founded the Memphis Hightailers in 1963. Finney has been cycling since at least 1938, when he was hired to work as a delivery man for Western Union. He was riding his bike everywhere anyway, so why not get paid for it? After starting a family, Finney put the bike away for awhile, only to find his love for cycling was rekindled after a ride to Sardis Lake with his son in the 1950s.

When Finney founded The Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club, it was a resource for bicyclists. In the 1960s, only one bicycle shop was operating in Memphis and riders had to help one another plan routes, find equipment and complete repairs. The foam bicycle helmet common to our time had not even been invented.

O'Kelly and Finney are in the company of more than a century of bicycle commuters. While bicycling is nothing new in Memphis, today more Memphians are looking to the bike as they look away from the gas pump.

The gas crisis actually offers Memphians an opportunity. O'Kelly and Finney fell in love with riding when bikes were heavy and a comfort bike was an oxymoron. Today, the equipment is better than ever, we have actual helmets, and in Memphis it is possible to take back roads almost everywhere.

In fact, though Memphians have been bicycling for decades, the time has never been better to be on a bike.

Memphian Anthony Siracusa is a student at Rhodes College, a member of Memphis' Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, executive director of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop and a daily cycling commuter. Contact him at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bicycle use indicates people-friendly town

Join the conversation on our Healthy Memphis Blog at /health. Look for Anthony Siracusa's latest post on the blog and add your thoughts.


In early June, Tennessee passed a law requiring motorists to pass bicycles with at least a 3-foot berth. The law reflects the increased value local governments are placing on bicycle-friendly communities. It is a perk for both motorists and cyclists, as increased bicycle use translates to safer and more desirable cities.

We've joined cities and states worldwide in thinking about bicycles as an asset.

Still, some Memphians were less than enthusiastic about the legislation. A letter to the editor on June 9th said that bicycles, like golf carts or mini-bikes, should be restricted from roadways and viewed as toys.

But unlike motorbikes or golf carts, bicycles are human-powered vehicles with the carrying capacity of a small coupe (just add a trailer). They require no petroleum and run on calories.

Unlike most toys, the bicycle is a source of transportation for a future beset by skyrocketing petroleum prices and transportation dilemmas. For good reason, bicycles have a staying power beyond the Barbie doll.

Bicycles are indicators that communities have become people-friendly environments supporting a healthy lifestyle.

For example, Boulder, Colo., is America's most bicycle-friendly city. It spends 15 percent of its transportation budget on bicycles and has created bicycle lanes on more than 97 percent of its arterial roads. Twenty-one percent of the population commutes by bicycle.

In 2003, Boulder recorded no murders. That peaceful, bicycle-friendly city stands in contrast to a June 6 letter to The Commercial Appeal. The writer cast cyclists as troublemakers tearing through neighborhoods. In fact, cyclists lend a peaceful aesthetic to neighborhoods, often getting smiles and waves from those they pass.

I spoke recently with a colleague about bicycling in Memphis. "I'm a cyclist, too" he said, "but not like you." His point was that he refused to navigate the high-traffic streets of North Parkway or even Cooper on a bicycle. It's understandable.

Memphis does not have a single bicycle lane. This keeps many cyclists off the streets. But all over America, recreational bicycling is gaining in popularity.

The specter of global warming and the steady rise of gas prices have inevitably urged Americans to consider going by bike.

In Memphis, even without bike lanes, we are seeing more and more bicycles in the roadway. And this is a good thing, as are laws which protect cyclists. Such laws are direct investments in the health and safety of our cities.

The latest cycling law says that our state values its people and their health. Protecting cyclists is an indication that our streets are being reclaimed for a healthier way of life.

Memphian Anthony Siracusa is a full-time student at Rhodes College. He is a member of Memphis' Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, executive director of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop and a daily cycling commuter. Contact him at

Gas prices fuel bikes' favor

Memphis-area cyclists say they're pleased with the steps under way to create the city's first bike lanes, although the move comes far behind other communities when it comes to supporting commuter biking.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Anthony Siracusa, executive director of Revolution Community Bicycle Shop. "But let me be clear in what kind of step it is: It's a very small step."

City officials met Thursday with members of the cycling community to share plans for the city's first bike lanes along Shady Grove and Brierview. The lanes are scheduled to open this fall.

"My personal opinion is it's slow going," said Cort Percer, a sales associate at The Peddler Bike Shop. He also runs the Fix Memphis biking blog.

"I appreciate the effort and ultimately what we're working on, but it could be going faster," Percer said.

Even newcomers know how far behind Memphis is.

Josiah Newton moved to Memphis earlier this month from College Station, Texas, where bike lanes were in abundance.

"I've only heard bad things," Newton said, quoting Bicycle magazine, which in May named Memphis one of the worst cities for bicyclists.

"I'm really happy to hear they're putting in bike lanes. The sooner they do it, the safer it is for me and other bikers," he said as he browsed in the Midtown Bike Co.

The lanes are the first of what will be a network of commuter bike routes throughout the city, said city engineer Wain Gaskins.

The city will follow preferred routes laid out in a revised major road plan, adopted several years ago.

"Those are not necessarily the only locations, those are the recommended locations," Gaskins said. "We're going to focus on those areas first. Long range, we're going to be including more streets as options."

The need for bike lanes is growing, according to bicycle shop operators who say soaring gas prices have been good for business.

Repairs at The Peddler on Highland have almost doubled since last year, when they got from three to five bikes a day, Percer said. Now, it's six to eight.

Sales and repairs at Midtown Bike Co. are up by about 35 percent, said manager Daniel Duckworth.

"Before gas peaked, we thought we were going to have a bad year," Duckworth said.

Instead, people are bringing in 10- or 20-year-old bikes to be restored and repaired, or buying new ones.

They're selling bags and baskets, and traffic on the Web site has doubled, he said.

"That kind of indicates people are looking for alternatives," Duckworth said. "And I think that's how it's going to be for a while, if not indefinitely."

With more two-wheelers sharing the road, bike lanes will be a necessity, riders say.

"What we're talking about here is providing a safe space for for bicyclists," Siracusa said.

Just last week, Daniel Fadgen, a 47-year-old bicyclist, was hit on Germantown Road near Wolf River Bridge by a driver who left the scene.

Thomas Ruffin, 26, of Cordova, later returned and was charged with failure to maintain a safe lookout, failure to notify police of an accident immediately and proof of auto insurance.

-- Linda A. Moore: 529-2702
Commercial Appeal
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Photos by Britney McIntosh/The Commercial Appeal