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  1. #1
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    Memphis rated among nation's worst for bicycle enthusiasts

    http://www.commercialappeal.com/news...-their-wheels/

    By Tom Charlier (Contact)
    Friday, May 16, 2008

    The song by Grammy-winner Mark Cohn rhapsodized about walking in the Bluff City, but no one's singing a tune called "Biking in Memphis."

    That would be one sad song.
    Bobby Singley, repair manager for the Peddler Bike Shop on Highland, turns off Highland on his way to work Thursday. Bicycling magazine named Memphis one of the worst cities in the nation for bicyclists. "It's not very user-friendly for cyclists," says Peddler owner Hal Mabray.

    Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal

    Bobby Singley, repair manager for the Peddler Bike Shop on Highland, turns off Highland on his way to work Thursday. Bicycling magazine named Memphis one of the worst cities in the nation for bicyclists. "It's not very user-friendly for cyclists," says Peddler owner Hal Mabray.

    Memphis, along with Dallas and Miami, has been named one of the nation's "worst cities for cycling" by Bicycling magazine.

    Citing the absence of designated bike lanes and other facilities, the magazine criticized Memphis city government and its "layers of bureaucracy" for figuratively running cyclists off the road.

    For many local riders, the city's new dubious distinction comes as no surprise.

    "We believe it," said Hal Mabray, an avid rider and co-owner of the Peddler Bike Shop. "It's not very user-friendly for cyclists."

    The best cities for cycling, according to the magazine, are Portland, Ore.; Boulder, Colo.; Seattle; Chicago; and San Francisco.

    It's not as if Memphis doesn't have a lot of enthusiastic riders. The Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club counts 400 members with another 300 who participate in rides and other events, said club president Bill Abney.

    "There's a strong cycling community here," Abney said.

    City engineer Wain Gaskins said Memphis is working to better accommodate the cyclists.

    "Historically, we've been behind the curve," he said.

    A major reason Memphis has no bike lanes -- while suburbs such as Germantown and Lakeland do -- has to do with storm-drain grates, Gaskins said. The ones traditionally used have had slots running parallel to the curb, meaning bike wheels could fall into them.

    "We were not going to put the city in that kind of liability situation," he said.

    However, the city has begun replacing the older grates with "bicycle-friendly" ones. The new grates will help pave the way for new "bike facilities" -- possibly designated lanes -- in the Shady Grove-Brierview area, Gaskins said.

    The city also is working on the design of the Wolf River Greenway, which will include paths for biking.

    The lack of facilities might help explain why Memphis, along with four other cities, ranked next to last in the percentage of commuters using bicycles to get to work, according to Census Bureau estimates released last year. Of more than 279,000 workers in Memphis, only 214 -- less than 0.1 percent -- commute by bike.

    Thursday was national "Bike to Work Day," and one commuter who pedaled to a job was Bobby Singley, repair manager at Peddler. He uses side streets for his almost mile-and-a-half commute each way and says that if care is taken, it's not too difficult to bicycle in Memphis.

    With gas now topping $3.50 a gallon, Singley saves money by cycling. But there are other advantages.

    "A lot of it is the personal freedom -- freedom from the gas pump, freedom from being inside," he said.

    -- Tom Charlier: 529-2572

  2. #2
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Who does this kind of survey and how can I get paid to do it?
    Mike

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    Has anyone thought of simply writing emails to the chamber of commerce in Memphis stating that as a cyclist, you will not be a tourist in a town so blighted in the head. Money makes change.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    "The lack of facilities might help explain why Memphis, along with four other cities, ranked next to last in the percentage of commuters using bicycles to get to work, according to Census Bureau estimates released last year."

    infrastructure leads to cyclist numbers leads to increased cyclist safety

    is the common course of events, proven time and time again in infrastructure intensive cities around the world. Memphis IS behind the curb, i mean curve.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampaCommuter View Post
    Has anyone thought of simply writing emails to the chamber of commerce in Memphis stating that as a cyclist, you will not be a tourist in a town so blighted in the head. Money makes change.
    "I ain't gonna bicycle in your city no mo'"

    Uh oh, better get those bike lanes put in quick!
    Mike

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    Memphis was one of the worst cities that i have ever lived in. I hated it there. Hot, humid, full of crime, and definitely not bike friendly. The roads are dangerous to ride on at many levels.

    Dallas was not so good either. There was a lake in Dallas that was fun to rid around, but 4 months out of the year it was too hot to go outside. Also Dallas is one of the worst cities for allergies. That alone ruined it for me.

    Wisconsin was surprisingly a good state for riding and there were lots of trails that had been converted from old rail lines. There it was often frigid in the winter. Being dressed for that, it was not a problem, but the salt eats up bikes.

  7. #7
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Linus_S View Post
    Wisconsin was surprisingly a good state for riding and there were lots of trails that had been converted from old rail lines. There it was often frigid in the winter. Being dressed for that, it was not a problem, but the salt eats up bikes.
    Why would Wisconsin be a "Surprisingly good state for riding"?

    Wisconsin has for many years been known as one of the best bicycling states in the USA. Wisconsin does an excellent job of maintaining even the many thousands of miles of low-usage county roads. Almost any place a bicycle tourist wants to go in Wisconsin is accessible by a lonely country road (in addition to heavily trafficked freeways).

    In addition to the many miles long rails-to-trails bicycle paths, Wisconsin is one of the few states that has a well maintained bicycle trail that goes all the way accross the state!

    Very cool indeed.
    Mike

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    Wisconsin now has one of the most extensive statewide networks of bike trails, and they are so successful that every community in the state seems to want one. Wisconsin had the nation's first converted rail trail, the Elroy-to-Sparta trail. It has three tunnels, and passes through scenic woodlands and rural areas that the glaciers missed. Check it out here:

    http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=zinniftfaxspgrki

    Have a look at the trail and others through Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth.

    It isn't quite true that there is a complete trail across the state. The Henry Aaron trail (under construction in Milwaukee now) will complete most of the trail system from Milwaukee to Madison, via the Glacial Drumlin Trail as well. See http://www.gpsies.com. I have been geo-marking the trail system in northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana using gpsies.com and several other sites. I grew up in Wisconsin, but live in northern Illinois.

    Many of the Wisconsin and Illinois trails are made of hard crushed limestone, well drained, on old railroad beds. This is a surprising good surface to bike on, for all but the skinniest tires. It drains well, maintains itself well, and is softer if you fall. It helps when the entire southern half of the state is built on a layer of such rock (which is called dolomite).

    One more state to check out ... Missouri with the Katy Trail. It traverses most of the state.

    Howard
    Last edited by metzenberg; 05-17-08 at 06:42 PM.

  9. #9
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Wisconsin has a state policy of providing a minimum 3 foot shoulders on rural 'main' roads (don't know how it's codified) and a minimum 5 foot shoulder if the road carries significant bicycle traffic. don't know how that's codified either. This makes Wisconsin more 'bike friendly' than tennessee, for sure.

    however, Wisconsin's rails to trails conversions, unless they perhaps are in Milwaukee along Lake Michigan or Crossing Green Bay's urban metropolis, likely have little effect on 'transportational' bicycling.

    that said, Seattles most useful MUP for bike commuting - the Burke Gilman Trail - is a rails to trails conversion.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 05-17-08 at 06:59 PM.

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    Hardly surprising that Memphis is ranked where it's at.

    The drivers suck. Hard. Worst drivers I've ever had to deal with.

    That said, there's a small and healthy cycling scene there, thanks to Hal amongst others.

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    Wisconsin great state for riding

    I said earlier that Wisconsin is a surprisingly Great State for Riding. Let me clarify:
    I moved from Memphis to Milwaukee in 2001 and I thought WI would be not bike friendly because of my New York experiences with roads and weather. I could not have been more wrong. As others state, there are loads of rails to trails that have been put into use. The roads are among the best. There are no unpaved state roads in WI.

    WI is the state where I started to ride again after living in two really bad cities for biking (Dallas and Memphis). I got my recumbent in WI.

    The only negatives like I said earlier were the cold and the salt on the roads. I could deal with the cold (often my water bottle would freeze during rides), but the salt required constant cleaning and lubing after every ride.

    After moving away from WI to WA I miss the mostly flat terrain compared to WA. Here in Washington, I like the weather. It is so mild here in the winter and the summer. The weather is great because it is just cool enough so that you can ride and not get too hot. The hills took some getting used to on a recumbent, but now I am not restricted by them anymore. Also the Public Transportation in Seattle is pretty bike friendly.

    Oh and one other thing. I would recommend the Elroy Sparta Trail in WI. It is top notch. I did the whole thing from beginning to end and back again.

    Linus

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    I have to say hats off to some of Wisconsin's neighbors too.

    Minnesota also has hundreds of miles of rail trails, although they are not quite as practical as Wisconsin's trails. While Wisconsin actually has trails that are useful for getting into and out of its major cities, Minnesota's trails are more remote, recreational trails. But you see cities in Minnesota like Minneapolis and Rochester than have a network of commuter trails through their parks.

    Iowa has good quality rural roads, although it has few trails. Everybody knows about RAGBRAI.

    Missouri has a truly magnificent tourist trail across the state, the Katy Trail. It is possible to ride most of the way from St. Louis's west suburbs to Kansas City on this smooth, straight trail, mostly on crushed limestone.

    Illinois is at work on several long distance trails, and Chicago has improved wonderfully as a bike city.

    Indiana has a lot of work going forward, although I found when I crossed the northern part of the state on my bike last summer that it has a lot of gaps in its trails.

    Howard

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    Please chime in with counterexamples, but my perception, based on admittedly limited data, is that the west coast, the Rockies, the upper Midwest, and parts of New England tend to be best for cycling, whereas the south, from Texas eastward, is generally bicycle-hostile territory.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Please chime in with counterexamples, but my perception, based on admittedly limited data, is that the west coast, the Rockies, the upper Midwest, and parts of New England tend to be best for cycling, whereas the south, from Texas eastward, is generally bicycle-hostile territory.
    Based on my experience, I tend to agree.

    I have a theory that the more educated the population of a state is, the more likely it is to vote Democratic, and the more likely it is to be friendly to cyclists.
    CycliStats.com - Software for Cyclists
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    I'll give one counterexample. New Jersey (the urban areas) is terrible for cycling. I have bicycled in many of the states of the northeastern United States.

    The problem with New Jersey is that it only recently became a "blue" state. New Jersey has high income levels and high educational levels. But it still is the New York metro area's tax haven, and as a consequence, the people who live there are not the kind that like to spend on public goods. For example, New Jersey probably spends less on higher education than any other northeastern state (per capita) other than New Hampshire. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and it used to be a joke that the University of Wisconsin, Madison, was the University of New Jersey.

    New Jersey highways tend to be substandard, without shoulders. There is an expensive tollway, so the kind of people that want to save a few dollars don't go on the tollway, but take the free roads nearby. And they are angry if a cyclist gets in their way.

    One of the most nightmarish rides I have ever had on a bicycle was riding from Jersey City to Newark across an elevated highway, over the marshlands. You could see the railroad right-of-way that is supposed to become the East Coast Greenway. Fat chance the state of New Jersey will ever appropriate money for the Greenway.

    Howard
    Last edited by metzenberg; 05-23-08 at 02:16 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SSP View Post
    Based on my experience, I tend to agree.

    I have a theory that the more educated the population of a state is, the more likely it is to vote Democratic, and the more likely it is to be friendly to cyclists.

    You do know that almost all, if not all, elected officials in Memphis are Democrats.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Please chime in with counterexamples, but my perception, based on admittedly limited data, is that the west coast, the Rockies, the upper Midwest, and parts of New England tend to be best for cycling, whereas the south, from Texas eastward, is generally bicycle-hostile territory.
    If this is a discussion about the relative merits of different states for bicycling, I think we should also compare what these states have done with what they have. In about two weeks, I am going to ride across the state of Massachusetts to Boston, which I have never done before. (I have ridden in western Massachusetts, but only in a relatively unpopulated area.)

    It strikes me that Massachusetts, one of the wealthy states, has done very little to create bicycle trails, although the need is great. They paved over a lot of their potential rail trails, or lost critical bridges and pieces of right-of-way. I have been to Boston many times, but never on a bicycle. For a city where 10% of the population is college students, where parking a car is so difficult, where they can drop mega-billions on an automobile tunnel, you would think they could spend a few million more on bicycle commuting to unclog their roads. It reminds me of when Bush Senior discredited Michael Dukakis as an environmentalist for the filthiness of Boston Harbor. Is anybody old enough to remember the bumper stickers that said, "Massachusetts is a Smart State." (After Massachusetts was the only state that rejected Nixon.) For such a smart state, you would think they could do more.

    By contrast, Wisconsin and Minnesota are middle income states, and they have done a lot with the resources they have.

    Tennessee and Kentucky are poor states, with fewer resources and more obesity. You wouldn't expect them to do as much.

    Howard

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    Quote Originally Posted by metzenberg View Post

    Tennessee and Kentucky are poor states, with fewer resources and more obesity. You wouldn't expect them to do as much.

    Howard

    It really doesn't have a lot to do with TN being a poor state as Memphis just doesn't care about cyclist. Some of the smaller suburban cities around Memphis do have bike lanes, though not to the extent they would claim. Take public transportation in Memphis. The city has a nice fleet of buses (MATA) that only the very poor use. Most buses run around empty. When the City of Memphis (gov not people) wants to do something, it gets done, they have plenty of resources. It is just a "car" city.

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    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Not as simple as a bike lane argument, guys. Part of the problem with cycling in Memphis is that you are in a nice neighborhood for two blocks, then you are in Beirut all of a sudden. Memphis is a crap city. I can't imagine wanting to cycle there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KrisPistofferson View Post
    Not as simple as a bike lane argument, guys. Part of the problem with cycling in Memphis is that you are in a nice neighborhood for two blocks, then you are in Beirut all of a sudden. Memphis is a crap city. I can't imagine wanting to cycle there.


    Some of us have no choice. It is not that bad, but it is pretty bad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kennymc80 View Post
    It really doesn't have a lot to do with TN being a poor state as Memphis just doesn't care about cyclist. Some of the smaller suburban cities around Memphis do have bike lanes, though not to the extent they would claim.
    Ironically enough, it's in those 'smaller, suburban cities' where I received the most abuse from drivers.

    Quote Originally Posted by kennymc80 View Post
    Take public transportation in Memphis. The city has a nice fleet of buses (MATA) that only the very poor use. Most buses run around empty. When the City of Memphis (gov not people) wants to do something, it gets done, they have plenty of resources. It is just a "car" city.
    As a born and bred Memphian told me: when you see people walking in Memphis, you figure they must be tourists, poor, or fired from their job.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by metzenberg View Post
    I have to say hats off to some of Wisconsin's neighbors too.

    Minnesota also has hundreds of miles of rail trails, although they are not quite as practical as Wisconsin's trails. While Wisconsin actually has trails that are useful for getting into and out of its major cities, Minnesota's trails are more remote, recreational trails. But you see cities in Minnesota like Minneapolis and Rochester than have a network of commuter trails through their parks.

    Howard
    Hats off to the Rails-to-Trails concept. Wisconsin capitalized on the rails-to-trails conversion of abandoned rail beds to bicycle trails. These trails naturally flow in and out of cities and usually flow right through the center of towns and cities.

    Of course, everybody knows about the Elroy-Sparta trail which is one of the first of it's kind in the nation. However, another really neat Wisconsin bicycle trail is the 83 mile (and growing) Moutain-Bay Trail http://www.mountain-baytrail.org/ that presently runs from Green Bay to Wausau, Wisconsin. It is fun to float through the old farm lands and into all the small towns along the way. One can imagine the views that rail passengers must have seen from their window a hundred years ago. Little has changed for much of the ride.

    As a bonus, there are numerous fruit bearing heritage apple trees right along the trail. Apparently either engineers or passengers threw their spent apple cores out of their windows which produced the nearly wild (and organic) apple trees along the way. There are many especially east of Shawano. It must have been snack-time along the route. I filled up my baskets and pockets with these delicious organic apples on a trip last year. Very cool, indeed.

    Here is a link to some of the particularly good Wisconsin bicycle trails: http://www.wisconline.com/attractions/biketrails.html
    Mike

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