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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Southaven Mississippi resident and alderman-at-large candidate is passionate about cycling

Southaven Mississippi resident and alderman-at-large candidate is passionate about cycling
By:  Michael G. Lander

Steve Dodd often rides one of two bikes that he owns in his Southaven neighborhood, but he enjoys riding the Memphis greenline whenever he can.

In the stillness and the quietness of his Southaven, Mississippi neighborhood, Steve Dodd enjoys getting up, before most of the world around him wakes up, pulling out his bike, and getting out for an early morning bike ride.  For him, watching the sun slowly rise and taking in the cool morning air and seeing the beautiful scenery around him is one of the simple pleasures that he has in his life.

Like so many others, Dodd grew up riding a bike and continued to do it through college, but then, as with so many other people in our fast-paced world, many other things in life, such as a career and family, took over and drew him away from his bike riding.  He did not return to it until 2005.  It was that year that he bought a hybrid bike simply for recreation and slowly started to experience the same enjoyment that he had for it when he was younger.

After he fell in love with cycling again, Dodd soon found another reason to ride that had even more meaning and gave him an even greater motivation than ever before. 
"I heard about a two day, 150-mile bike ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society from a friend of mine at FedEx," Dodd said and he knew immediately that it was something that he wanted to do.
Knowing someone who had the disease was all the more reason he needed to do it he said.  Since then, he has participated in five of these events and was the inspiration for several others to ride for the same cause too.

Within the last couple of years, Dodd's passion for cycling has crossed over from the city streets into discussions that he has had with city leaders.  It is also something that has been an important issue for him now that he is currently running for the Southaven Alderman-At-Large position.  He is in a run-off election that is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 21.

"For three years now, I have been petitioning the city leaders to install bike lanes," Dodd said.

Dodd has talked with the city planning director, Whitney Choat-Cook, about a master plan for bike lanes, but found that the Mississippi Department of Transportation has a $850,000 federal grant that is on hold due to the city not having a clear financial audit.

"If elected, I will want to work toward getting the audit cleared so that the grant can be received.  Then I will work closely with the planning director to have multi-purpose lanes installed," Dodd said.  "I will also work toward getting Central Park connected to Snowden Grove via a greenline type of path.  From there, we will work on getting some lanes throughout the city," Dodd added.

Olive Branch and Tunica have gotten a head start over Southaven with either bike lanes or bike trails being put in and with many to the north in metropolitan Memphis and surrounding areas.

Choat-Cook has compiled a map that places street bike and pedestrian paths on the wider street systems that currently exist in the city of Southaven. 
"Due to the city being primarily built out, we are having to utilize existing street systems with 30 foot or more widths and restripe them for bike access," Choat-Cook said.  "In addition to that, the remaining undeveloped areas are required to submit plans with mandatory bike and pedestrian paths incorporated into them.  We have also applied for grants through state and federal outlets for bike and pedestrian enhancement programs."

Whether it is cyclists or vehicles, the safety of those on the roads is an important issue for Dodd.
"I absolutely think that all cyclists should be very well-versed on the rules of the road," Dodd said.  "You are out there in traffic and need to obey the same rules as cars do."

Dodd is currently serving on the DeSoto County School Board, which he has done for 18 years and has been employed by FedEx for 27 years.  He is a member of the Memphis HIghtailers and he says that, while riding his bike, he often gets a quite a few second looks, smiles and waves because of his beard and Santa Claus-like appearance.  He is a professional real-bearded Santa and it's not every day that you see Santa on a bike, unless of course, you live in Southaven, Miss.

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