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?)