Friday, June 26, 2009

On Herenton's Resignation, A.C. Wharton, and the Upcoming Mayoral Race

As news of Mayor Herenton's resignation settles in, we can begin to think about the future of our fair city in a new way.

Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton, likely to be a fierce contender in the emergency mayoral election to take place within the next 180 days, will be an important candidate to watch.

Where does he stand on cycling issues?

In March of 2008, Mayor Wharton commissioned seven committees to develop a sustainable agenda for Shelby County. "What does a sustainable Shelby County look like" the committees asked; "How do we go about creating a sustainable Shelby County?"

Taking seriously the idea that the bicycle fits neatly into a sustainably developed city, I began service as a member of the Traffic and Transportation committee.

This was the consensually agreed upon "goal" of the Transportation and Traffic committee:
We envision a transportation system that respects its impact on land use,
provides efficient and safe choices for users, and enhances and supports the
use of all transportation modes while educating the public on their benefits.
Our group distilled its "values" as such:
1. Mode Choice
(we envision) A transportation system that provides access to various forms of transportation (car, transit, bike, pedestrian, etc.) for individual’s daily trip needs.

2. Safety/Security
(We envision) A transportation network that provides a safe environment to its users and whereupon can be free of fear of violent action against them or their community.

3. Efficiency
(We envision) A transportation system that provides reasonable travel time and reliable service for both goods and individuals

4. Education
(We hope) To develop an information system that helps the public realize

a) the impacts of their transportation decisions;

b) the value and benefits of changing how they travel; c) how the development of residential, commercial and industrial land uses affects the transportation system, and d) to provide a clearinghouse for various transportation users and providers.

5. Land Use
(We hope) To encourage land use development practices that incorporates different forms of development (single and mixed use; residential, commercial, industrial), and a context sensitive transportation system which helps in creating livable communities.
Our committee then named seven long-term strategies for increasing the presence of our transportation values in Shelby County. Among them were to:
3. Create complete walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.

5. (and to) Improve/enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities a) ensuring that future development is walkable and b)
reknit the pedestrian network in existing developments.
Our short-term recommendations were to:
  • Educate bicyclist, pedestrians, and drivers on how to safely share the road.
  • Create (and) enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities:
  • Identify routes that can easily be striped for bicycle lanes.
  • Install “share the road” signs.
  • Integrate park and ride locations with transit and bicycle and pedestrian routes.
  • Create/enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities.
Which means to...
• Identify routes that can easily be striped for bicycle lanes.
• ensure dedicated funding through capital improvement program for the above identified routes.
• Install share the road signs.
  • Create a dedicated funding source for bicycle and pedestrian improvement.
It's also worth noting the committee's commitment to:
19. Reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per household per day /Reduce the number of trips and distant of trips taken by automobiles.

The committee also sustained a commitment to creating transportation that balanced efficiency with environmental stewardship:
29. (We hope) to Educate the public about the impact of transportation on the environment and the benefits of active living such as biking and walking.
Considering the Sustainable Shelby Initiative was finalized and completed just under a year ago, it may yet be difficult to gauge the project's effectiveness.

Still, I think the initiative is clearly committed to including bicycles as part of the county's sustainable policy.

In fact, rounding out the top ten recommendations for a Sustainable Shelby County is this:
Create/enhance bike routes and pedestrian facilities to identify routes that can easily be stripped for bicycle lanes, ensure dedicated funding through capital improvement program for the above identified routes, and install “share the road” signs.

All told, Sustainable Shelby was a nice experiment in bringing to the same table for discussion very different people with very different priorities. While we haven't seen a dramatic increase in bicycle facilities this year, increasing bicycle infrastructure did make it into the top ten priorities for a Sustainable Shelby county. Perhaps for this reason, Memphis' Engineering Department recommended nearly a dozen routes be striped as bicycle facilities this past March.

I think A.C. will be a Mayor who support bikes, largely because he worked to secure the CSX Greenline, commissioned the Sustainable Shelby Project, and is a Mayor with the vision to see the ways in which increasing bicycling benefits both bicycle riders and the wider Memphis community.

It is also becoming clear that City Councilman Jim Strickland will be on the mayoral ticket--whether in the emergency race or in the official race in 2011. Councilman Strickland has been a a friend to cyclists, and frankly I'm confident he too would exercise good leadership in making Memphis a sustainable city that goes by bike.

For now, both Councilman Strickland and Mayor Wharton appear to be the most bike friendly candidates. Regardless of who wins, we ought to have the next mayor commuting to City Hall by bike....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ghost Bike in Little Rock

TOP OF THE ROCK -- June 21, 2009

By Kyle Brazzell

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The ghost on the corner: A tale of two bikes

When Cynthia Shavers’ car broke down on Friday, June 5, she h
ad no way of knowing that the failure of the compact, champagne-colored coupe would, two days later, turn her husband, Christopher, into a martyr.

Needing transportation, Christopher took to riding a bicycle that Cynthia would later describe, somewhat wistfully, as “antiquey,” as though the outmoded curves of the vehicle — wide-wingspan handlebars that gave name to a mustache, chrome wheel hubs arching like surprised eyebrows — had been a harbinger of an ending way of life that nobody had thought to read.

The Shavers home sits a few blocks off Roosevelt Road, along the western boundary of the sprawling Calvary Cemetery. From there, on the evening of Sunday, June 7, Chris Shavers had faced a circuitous but not impossible route in finding himself pedaling east on Seventh Street, in the Stifft Station neighborhood, toward Woodrow Street.

By the time of the late-night television news, the riderless bicycle, preserved in a crumple behind crime scene tape but visible to curious onlookers, sent neighbors sensitive to cycling rights home to their computers to speculate. Had the city suffered another bicycle casualty?

The police report would fill in some details: According to a witness, the driver of a pickup truck rounded the corner at Woodrow in a hurry to beat the light. He dragged Shavers about 30 feet before stopping to inspect the source of an impact. Then he called for an ambulance. Shavers’ obituary told the rest — wife, three kids, age 26 — too old to be biking for play, too young to be biking no more.

The following Tuesday, Cynthia and her sister-in-law, along with a few other relatives, gathered at the corner of Seventh and Woodrow to rest Mylar balloons and teddy bears — all in red, Christopher’s favorite color — on the sidewalk.

It would be another week, Christopher’s burial in between, before the street memorial would take on the conceptual quality of an art installation, courtesy of a bicycle painted entirely in white that seemed to materialize there at the corner overnight, no clue as to its depositor.

Cynthia Shavers dressed her husband in red and black and laid him to rest on Saturday. When she revisited the memorial the following Monday evening, the arrangement was just as the family had left it, balloons, bears, candles, a photo of Christopher on which Cynthia had written, “RIP, my love.”

But by rush hour the following morning, there was the all-white bicycle, an inscription of its own — “A Cyclist Was Killed Here.” Chris Shavers had taken on meaning beyond domestic mementos of loss, even if it’s unlikely that, in life, he had thought of himself as a “cyclist,” the way bike-lane boosters and helmet comparison-shoppers do.

“A guy doesn’t have to dress up in Lycra or ride a fancy bike to be a cyclist. He was still one of us,” said Tom Ezell, of the Arkansas Bicycle Club and an officer with Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas.

Reluctantly, Ezell revealed himself as the memorialist who crept to the corner of Woodrow and Seventh streets this past Tuesday morning carrying a bicycle he had fished out of the back of a barn on his property and spray-painted white.

Each morning, Ezell drives from Scott to North Little Rock, parks his truck and then bikes to his job in the Northshore Business Park. He keeps a supply of what he calls “project bikes,” useful for parts or tinkering back to optimal function when a need arises. The project bike he conscripted into memorial service for Chris Shavers originally came from a police sale in Columbia, Mo.

Technically, its arrival at the corner of Seventh and Woodrow was one of the city’s first episodes of the “ghost bike” movement. A ghost bike, painted an ethereal white, is placed at the scene of a cyclist’s death, whether the deceased was known among a city’s active biking constituency or not. The color scheme — or colorless scheme — is meant to be “very stark, very plain,” said Ezell. “Like a ghost sitting there on the corner.”

Of course, every ghost has its temporal precursor, the body the spirit once occupied. It took a few days for the police department to relinquish Chris Shavers’ actual, antiquey bike back to his wife from the evidence locker. She took it home and turned it, too, into a shrine. The white paper tag marking its police inventory still dangled from one of the handlebars, which had been pretzeled in the accident like a breadbag tie.

Cynthia recovered only one of her husband’s sneakers, a black Nike Air Jordan, which she attached to one of the bike’s pedals and placed in it a red rose that was beginning to blacken into velvety decay. To the seat she fastened a pair of gold-plated hands, clasped in prayer, surrounded by more red flowers.

When she learned of the ghost bike, left at the memorial by a stranger, Cynthia Shavers drew her hand to her mouth absent-mindedly and smiled a half-smile. “That’s nice,” she said. “I like that.”

By Thursday morning, the plaque with the golden, praying hands and red flowers had been transferred from Chris Shavers’ home to the corner of Seventh and Woodrow, where it rested above the seat of the white bicycle as a kind of meeting of memorials, a brief flush in the cheeks of a ghost.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Beginning the Watson

These are the bike shops listed on Google Maps for the greater Copenhagen region.

View Larger Map

My initial work in CPH will include visiting each of these shops to meet people and network. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Great Blog on the NY Times

The NY Times has a city bike blog called "Spokes," and it does great job nailing down the issues and concerns that bicyclists face day to day in the city that never sleeps. I just finished the latest article on the blog, a piece on bike parking, and found it to be a nice articulation of a daily commuting cyclists' parking needs. The moral of the story: always lock up your bike.

Still I must confess...sometimes I don't lock up my bike.

If it has gears and freewheels, you can be sure I'll handcuff that bad boy to the nearest set of iron bars (for a lack of bike racks in our fair city). But if it's single speed and its fixed, I'm likely to leave it un-locked if I can keep an eye on it.


Because I've always dreamed about watching a bike thief steal my fixed gear. They're unlikely to recognize the bike as a fixie (at least in Memphis), and as a result they're likely to be surprised by the catapult like motion in their legs that accompanies the backside of the first pedal stroke.

Calmly walking to the bike and the forlorn thief splayed on the ground (in my dream), I would shake my head and wag my finger. "Now don't you feel silly and ashamed" I would say as I collect my bike.

In the real world, who knows if it would go down like that.

A better policy, I think, is to lock up your bike; every time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Great Photo Series from the Times

One in 8 Million - New York Region News - The New York Times
Published: 20090108
New York is a city of characters.

Steven Marmo: The Bar Fighter

An ironworker and bike racer, Mr. Marmo, 26, spent much of his teens and early 20s in and out of jail for vandalism, drugs and bar fights.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jeff Mapes on SmartCity

SmartCity's Carol Coletta interviews author Jeff Mapes. Scroll into the show until you reach 24 minutes to hear Mapes speak. The first part of the show is dedicated to harbor areas in San Francisco being turned into parks.

LifeCycles: June 2009

Life Cycles: Bike Film Festival celebrates role of cycling culture in city

By Anthony Siracusa

Monday, June 8, 2009

In nearly 40 cities across four continents over the next three months, bicycle lovers will watch a slew of independent films featuring bikes used in familiar and unfamiliar ways.

The movies are a part of the Bicycle Film Festival, an international celebration of bicycle culture now in its ninth year. The last weekend in May, Memphis became the first city to host the 2009 Bicycle Film Fest, and the only Southern city scheduled to host the three days of films and festivities.

"I had a dream that people would really feel a presence over the weekend of cyclists," said local organizer Alona Lerman. "One of the most important parts of the festival was the bike valet, because you had 100 bicycles locked up. The statement that all those bikes made was a big part of our message."

Lerman brought the film festival to Memphis as a fun way of promoting the "bicycle as a recognized and accepted form of transportation."

The Brooks Museum of Art acted as the hub for the events, which featured two evenings packed with more than two dozen film screenings, a bicycle block party in Overton Park and a rock show at Murphy's featuring local acts The Warble and the River City Tanlines.

"The Bicycle Film Festival was a celebration of the bicycle culture around the world," said Kyle Wagenschutz, director of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop. "It was a celebration of what the bicycle can do as far as creating community and changing people's lives. It showed us how other cities are using bicycles, which for Memphis -- a city on the precipice of many (bike-friendly) changes -- was encouragement. It was sort of a fire-starter."

For many, the Bicycle Film Fest made concrete the potential of the bicycle. Used for laughs, for competition, for art's sake and for transportation, the bicycle was employed in film after film, country after country, in ways that pointed to the diversity within bicycle culture. As a result, the film festival struck a chord within a variety of people. The event's Web site boasts, "we are into all styles of bikes and biking. . . . What better way to celebrate these lifestyles than through art, film, music and performance?"

Because Memphis' bicycle culture continues to expand its boundaries, growing in popularity especially among young people, the city appeared attractive for festival organizers.

Memphis was also an apt setting for the festival according to co-organizer Corey Kennedy. "We do have a very diverse bicycling culture here. Cycling, in general, crosses many lines. It doesn't matter (what your occupation), if you ride a bicycle, there is a common bond. We had so many people from different walks of life and different states (at the festival). The bicycle is kind of a barrier breaker."

By all accounts, the film festival was a grand slam, and one organizers plan to duplicate and grow next year. Amidst the flowers showing off their beautiful colors in Overton Park, Memphis' bicycle culture appeared also to be in full bloom.

Memphian Anthony Siracusa is a graduate of Rhodes College and founder of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop. He has been awarded a fellowship from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation to travel for a year to study bicycle communities on four continents. Contact him through

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tracking Bikes in Copenhagen

I like the numbers from this article: 18,000 bikes reported stolen annually. While any bike theft is never a good thing, that number quatifies bicycle culture in Copenhagen.

I've heard some Western European folk talk of an informal exchange program in places like Copenhagen, cities saturated with bicycles. If you can't find your bike you take an unlocked bike in its place.

I've also known some native Dutch folk who militantly lock up every part of even their city bike so as to prevent the bike from gettin' got.

Regardless, with 18,000 bikes stolen in a city of roughly 600,000 one can safely assume someone is making a living dealing black market bikes.

All that to say nothing of the chip program. Sounds like an expensive and questionably effective solution to a big problem.

The Copenhagen Post

Combining technology and patience to stop bike theft


Hundreds waited in line to receive one of the sensors (Photo: Kyle Wheeler)

The chance to get the latest weapon in the fight against bike theft for free drew a crowd yesterday

Hundreds of bicyclists waited their turn on Town Hall Square yesterday to receive one the first 600 tracking and registration chips being given away by the City Council

The sensors are inserted in the bikes rear reflector and can reveal its location should it be reported missing by the owner.

Some 18,000 bikes are reported stolen in Copenhagen each year.

The city is giving away 5,000 sensors in all. The next event is scheduled for Monday, 22 June, at a location to be determined in the coming weeks.

See related story: Bike chip project rolls out

Saturday, June 6, 2009

London looking to Copenhagen's Cycling Culture

The Copenhagen Post

Architect to push London bike culture


London city officials are hoping a Danish exhibition promoting cycling can help create a bicycle culture in the capital

Architect Jan Gehl has agreed to an offer from Greater London Authority to try and adapt the English capital into a bicycle haven.

Gehl previously assisted city officials in New York last autumn in their quest to make the US city more bike-friendly, and is also currently part of Australia’s ‘Sustainable Sydney’ project.

In September, London plans to present an exhibition on Danish bicycle design and Gehl’s own efforts to tailor big cities more to bicycle culture and pedestrians, together with the support of Boris Johnson, mayor of London.

Lone Britt Molloy, Denmark’s cultural attaché to the UK, said the city’s mayor is extremely interested in promoting bicycle culture.

It was obvious we had to get a dialogue going with the city council and arrange an exhibition where they had the possibility to influence its content,’ she told financial daily Børsen. ‘I also think it makes it more interesting for Londoners that the exhibition is put forth purely as a Danish phenomenon.’

But Gehl said adapting London to Copenhagen standards is a big challenge.

‘The sad thing about London is that nothing’s really happening with its bicycle culture right now,’ Gehl said. ‘But there is some tailwind for cyclists because organisations and architects are putting serious pressure on the city, and due to it hosting the 2012 Olympics it will have everyone’s eyes on it.’

Gehl added that many big cities are looking to Copenhagen for input in their city planning because of the need to minimise fuel consumption.

The London exhibit is expected to conveniently coincide with the city’s annual London Freewheel day, where large sections of the city are closed to traffic.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An 11% Increase in Recreational Cycling

An interesting fact from the National Sporting Goods Association and Outdoor Foundation:

More Americans rode bicycles
for recreation and transportation in 2008 than in any year since the turn of this century, according to the National Sporting Goods Association and the Outdoor Foundation. According to the NSGA, 44.7 million people age 7 and older rode a bike more than 6 times last year, up from 40.1 million in 2007 and 35.6 million in 2006. The 11% increase is attributed to factors such as record high gas prices last summer, a growing green movement and increased funding for bicycle infrastructure. Overall, bike riding placed 6th in the NSGA's participation list, behind exercise walking, swimming, exercising with equipment, bowling and camping, in that order.

A national increase of 11% is pretty good, especially considering the city of Copenhagen aims annually for a 10% mode share increase amongst commuters city wide. Still, 6 times a year is hardly a habit, and lumping the commuting lady that rides 300 times a year in the same category with the commuting fellow riding 6 times a year seems a little rash.

I also love that bowling as excercise beat out bicycling. I think that means we still have a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Josh's Rapha Ride

Josh Gorman took a few good fellas from California on a Ride through the Mississippi Delta.

I think it hurt them a little bit.

Click on the picture and follow the link to a story detaling the ride.

Road Guardian

This is a neat site from a gentleman committed to making streets across the world safer for bicycling.

It's a user based sharing program that allows cyclists to report trouble spots on the roadways, close calls with cars, and even reports of bicyclists killed by motorists. It's a pretty fantastic resource. Upload site areas, license plate numbers, vehicle descriptions etc. to create a forum of public accountability for reckless motorists.