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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cycling has few boundaries and it breaks down barriers and helps unify communities

Cycling has few boundaries and it breaks down barriers and helps unify communities
By:  Michael G. Lander

As popular as bike and pedestrian trails are, cyclists have a seemingly endless
number of places where they can ride so long as they have the appropriate bike
to handle whatever terrain that they plan to ride on.

It almost seems like there are no limits, boundaries, or barriers where you can't ride a bike.  From the roads, to bike paths, to dirt trails, up and down hills, and even alongside mountainside cliffs, there just doesn't seem as if there are many types of terrain that a bike can't handle. 

With virtually no land that can't be crossed, circumvented, or overcome in one way or another, bicycles can almost give you a sense of invincibility and can often be adventure that can take you just about anywhere that you want to go. 

Beyond the places that a bicycle can ride through or on top of, bikes also seem to enable cyclists to move even past the more intangible boundaries and barriers that we oftentimes encounter in our daily lives. 

For many of us today, we live in a world full of fences, barriers, borders, and boundaries that have separated and divided us and have kept us apart from one another.  Bicycles, however, may very well be one of the things in life that may bring people together. 

Anyone who wants to ride is welcomed to do it and, on a bike, everyone is equal.  Differences between people do not matter.  Cycling can help bring people together and it can unify them as a community.  

Cycling gives people an opportunity to come together where they can
join others in the community.

In bike-friendly cities like Memphis, the ever-expanding bicycle lanes, paths, and trails are not only open to all and can benefit all, but most importantly, they are helping to tear down the walls that separate us from one another.  Through all of these, neighborhoods are being brought together and are becoming inter-connected across the entire city.  They are no longer tied together by roads alone, but in a way that we can all enjoy on both a recreational level and as a practical and economical means of transportation. 

On a single bike ride now you can traverse across dozens of different neighborhoods and eventually, in time, you will be able to go from one end of the city to the other.  This is giving all of us an opportunity to meet and to engage others from various other parts of town and to share a common interest in a cycling and what could be a shared pursuit for a healthy lifestyle.  It can and likely will further enhance our collective appreciation for a city that we should proudly call home. 

In addition to connecting communities and people together, in the future, the city may also have bike share  programs and amenities like intermodal passenger transport facilities.  If these ever come about, they will provide greater flexibility and options for people, which will allow them to easily go from their car, to a bike, to rail or bus, thereby reducing or eliminating the difficulties that they might currently face in switching to multiple forms of transportation in order to get around.  With that barrier removed, visitors and Memphians alike will benefit and will no longer be hindered in being able to get around town and beyond.

Cycling can be a fun and recreational way to spend a day with your family
and it can even take on an even greater and more practical role as the city
expands bike programs and cycling-related amenities in the future.

With this enhanced accessibility, cycling will undoubtedly begin to take on a greater role, becoming an alternative solution that can be a viable means of transportation in the lives of those in and around our city.  For many , it is already something that has become a big part of their lives.  Some already commute to and from work and some run errands and make trips to go to the store and even pick up a few groceries on a bike.

There are really no limitations on who can ride or what they can do on a bike.  It can be done alone or with others, it can be enjoyed by the young and old, men and women, and those who are physically fit and those who are not.  Even a physical disability does not necessarily prohibit or restrict people from riding a bike since many bikes can now be made or modified to accommodate the rider.

As most cyclists see it, cycling is also one of the things that can show some of what is good in all of us.  Even though there is great diversity among cyclists, they do share a common bond and camaraderie with one another and most  look out for their fellow cyclists.  This is especially evident on group rides, where they will try to stick together and will point out hazards along the way, many times stopping to assist a cyclist when they pull a flat or when they run into some other problem while cycling.

Cyclists share a common bond and it is an activity that can offer
a sense of freedom for those who do it.

In so many of our lives that are restricted or tied to work, schedules, and commitments, cycling offers a way to experience a sense of freedom  that you might not find in other parts of your life.  On a bike ride, you feel like you can go anywhere and be out as long as you want.  Nothing else seems to matter.  It's just you, your thoughts, and the road that you're on.  It can be incredibly liberating. 

Historically, bicycles have also provided freedom to various groups of people such as women in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  It was especially instrumental to the suffragettes, providing women with the ability and freedom to put aside the traditional roles and to get out of their homes and to transport themselves to any place that they wanted to go.  One of the leading suffragettes, Susan B. Anthony, once told Nellie Bly of the New York World that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

Cycling can serve many purposes for people from different walks of life
and it may be what ultimately brings many of us together as a community.

Today cycling is something that can be enjoyed by anyone anywhere, of any background, and across the entire socio-economic spectrum.  This is especially significant in a city like Memphis where Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, was killed, but where his dream could find new life and promise with a community that is brought together on a bike.  It is something that all of us could at least hope and strive for as we move forward together for a better world, with fewer boundaries and barriers, for all of us.

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