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Sunday, May 4, 2014

The month of May is a time in Memphis for music, barbecue, and cycling

The month of May is a time in Memphis for music, barbecue, and cycling
By:  Michael G. Lander
Memphis Bike/Pedestrian Coordinator, Kyle Wagenschutz, at the Spring Roll: Bike Gate
Grand Opening at Overton Park in Memphis, TN on April 19, 2014.  The event was
attended by dignitaries who recognized Tylur French and others who helped him create
the iconic bicycle arch and all of those who are helping make Memphis a cycling city.

For Memphians, the month of May is usually associated with Memphis in May events, the Beale Street Music Festival, the AutoZone Sunset Symphony, beautiful spring weather and flowers, and the internationally renowned World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Along with that, our river city, and for the rest of the nation, the month of May has also been recognized, for over 58 years, as National Bike Month.  The idea or concept for this originated with the League of American Bicyclists in 1956 as a way to raise awareness for the many benefits and for the positive aspects that cycling can bring, not only for the individual, but to the entire community as a whole.

The time and attention that is given to National Bike Month is especially meaningful to a city like Memphis since cycling is really growing in popularity as the city goes from one of the worst to one of the most improved cities for cycling in the country.  This is due much in part to the combined efforts of our city and county government officials, business leaders, and a vast number of our community activists.  In less than a decade, Memphis and surrounding areas have become the envy of other cities that aspire to be where we now are in such a very short time.

In May 2012, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Jr. signed a joint proclamation promoting their support of cycling by officially declaring the Month of May as National Bike Month.  Both mayors have been outspoken advocates for cyclists and Mayor Wharton appointed the very first Bike/Pedestrian Coordinator, Kyle Wagenschutz,  for the city of Memphis shortly after being elected to office in 2009.

One of the most distinctive and positive changes that the city of Memphis and the surrounding areas have seen is the significant increase in the number of bike lanes, paths and trails.  Together, these have connected communities with one another and they not only bring them together in a physical sense, but they connect and unify people from all of the neighborhoods in a more intimate way than roads can do.

In a car, you can drive by so quickly that you may hardly notice anything around you, but on a bike it is completely different.  You become a part of your surroundings on a bike.  You stop, look, and see other people on a more personal, closer, one-on-one level.  You are not shielded and insulated from your environment and those around you.  You are very much a part of it in the most intimate way.

 A big part of the National Bike Month is to promote a more alternative to driving and more environmentally-friendly means of transportation in the  Bike-to Work-initiative.  While the Bike-to-Work programs vary from city to city, in Memphis it takes place on Friday, May 16 of each year.  To learn more about the city's bike-to-work efforts, click on this link to the Bike-to-Work Downtown Memphis at http://www.biketoworkmemphis.com/.

If you would like to read more about National Bike Month, you can visit the League of American Bicyclists website or their facebook page, Bicycling Magazine, or the Safe Routes website.

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