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

Power To The Pedaled

Those who rely on pedal power, rather than gas, relish the plan Anthony Siracusa (left) leads bicycling enthusiasts over the I-240 overpass to a Thursday evening meeting with city planning officials at Christian Brothers High School. Siracusa said they hoped to hear finalized plans for the city's first bike lanes. City engineer Wain Gaskins said one bike lane will be created on Shady Grove between Humphreys and Yates and another will go on Brierview between Shady Grove and Walnut Grove. He said it could be done by autumn. Existing roads would be used; no construction is required.
Photo: Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal