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.

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