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Thursday, June 26, 2014

In downtown Memphis, cyclists will find what makes Memphis great

In downtown Memphis, cyclists will find much of what makes Memphis great
By:  Michael Lander

A portion of Riverside Drive is marked and designated exclusively for
both cyclists and pedestrians, which allows them safe and unrestricted
access and travel along one of Memphis' most scenic roadways.

Downtown Memphis..... If it's not high on your list of places to ride a bike, it really should be.  With all that there is to see and do, especially with a strikingly beautiful skyline set against the breathtakingly grand and awe-inspiring mighty Mississippi River, downtown Memphis offers a distinctively unique experience for just about everyone.  The only thing that might make it even better is being there and seeing it all on a bicycle.

For those who decide to ride, one of the best vantage points for really taking in a view of downtown and the Mississippi River, in all of its grandeur, is from Riverside Drive.  Recently the city of Memphis set aside a portion of this most scenic roadway with dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes that, in time, will tie into an ever-growing network of bike lanes and trails in our River City and beyond.

Even though cyclists will find a lot of vehicular traffic on the streets downtown, that includes horse-drawn carriages, and trolleys, they may find that they can easily navigate and get around, depending on when and where they decide to ride.

Main Street is one of the safer streets in downtown Memphis with virtually
no vehicular traffic for cyclists to contend with.

The best times to ride through downtown may be on the weekends and holidays, when there are not any big sporting or other events taking place.  For the most part, you will find a relatively light volume of vehicular traffic on Sunday and, in some cases, you may even find that you have some of the roads to yourself. 

Some of the best and most scenic streets to ride, other than Riverside Drive, are Main Street and the road along Mud Island, but there are countless other picturesque streets in and around the downtown area that have magnificent historic and contemporary buildings, great restaurants, stores, entertainment, and more.  Here is a list of the many places that you can find downtown and throughout the rest of the city.

If you're a little adventurous, and not easily intimidated by some heavier traffic, you can try venturing out and exploring the sights and sounds in the heart of Memphis by riding through downtown, even on the weekdays.  A little familiarity with the downtown area can really help in avoiding those city streets that are the busiest and most congested and the times that they experience their highest volume of traffic.

The Orpheum Theater is one of the many Memphis landmarks that
cyclists can see while riding in and around downtown Memphis.

Because of the potential risks involved with riding in traffic, it is important to be visible and predictable, to follow and obey traffic laws, and to think of yourself as being no different than any vehicle on the road.  Also, safety often comes in numbers, so travel in a group with others, whenever possible, and avoid riding on the sidewalks.  If you must be on them, be sure to yield to any pedestrians. 

Fortunately for Memphis area cyclists, Memphians are becoming more accustomed to seeing cyclists, and with an ever-improving city infrastructure for cycling, it will help pave the way for an even safer means in the future of getting around the city on a bike.  Additionally, cyclists should also find it increasingly easier to switch from alternative forms of transportation like going from a bike to a bus, to a trolley and so on. 

Even though the thought of crime may be a concern for some, Memphis and the downtown area have had very few, if any, reports or incidents involving cyclists and, according to data from the Memphis Police Department on the downtown area is even safer than 7.7 percent of the neighborhoods in Memphis.

Main Street may not have motor vehicles on it, but it does have
plenty of pedestrians, trolleys, and horse-drawn carriages for
cyclists to look out for.

Beyond the concern for personal safety, cyclists should be able to focus a lot of their time and energy on the bike rides themselves.  Even though it can be fun just to get out and ride without any specific itinerary or route in mind, if you're the type of person who likes to plan things out in advance, you will find some excellent places to ride, along with some bicycle routes that have been uploaded on to the Internet.  You will also find some of the best routes for touring the city by bike, courtesy of the City of Memphis.

There are a seemingly endless number of places you can ride to in downtown Memphis , and here is just an abbreviated list of some of the more prominent locations worth seeing (or checking out) along your bike ride.  This includes the Orpheum Theater, the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Hotel (where the Rev. Martin Luther King was killed), the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, the Fire Museum, Gibson Guitar, Court Square, Tom Lee Park, Memphis Park (formerly known as Confederate Park and is in the general vicinity of where the Battle of Memphis in June 1862 took place), Beale Street Landing, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, FedEx Forum (where the Memphis Grizzlies and University of Memphis Tigers play), AutoZone Park (home to the Memphis Redbirds), and Beale Street, (where you can ride, except between S. 2nd St to S. 3rd St. and then 3rd St. to S. 4th St.).

Cyclists have Riverside Drive and the walkways in Tom Lee Park to ride on and will
eventually have the opportunity to ride on the Harahan Bridge and cross over the
Mississippi River into West Memphis, Ark.  The bridge may also be part of a more
ambitious plan, known as "The Big River Crossing," that will create a trail that will
run along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans.

Further east you will find some of the more renowned and recognized buildings and structures in Memphis to include the  Woodruff-Fontaine, the Mallory-Neely, and the Magevney home, Overton Park, the Memphis Zoo, Sun Studios, the Pink Palace Museum, and Elmwood Cemetery.  To the north of downtown Memphis, along the Mississippi River, is the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park.

For those who are interested in older majestic and stately-looking homes, you don't have to ride your bike very far to find plenty of homes that fit that criteria.  From downtown to midtown Memphis, which includes Central Gardens, you will find all kinds of examples of Victorian, antebellum, neoclassical, bungalow, art deco to eclectic, modern and contemporary homes. 

If you are drawn to and fascinated by varying architectural styles and features, the downtown area has more than its fair share of that and AIA Memphis hosts architect-led bike tours and provides self-guided tours of the city for those who are interested in seeing the many architectural treasures that Memphis has.  AIA Memphis has developed a bike tour guide and a short and long bike riding loops for those cyclists who love and appreciate architecture.

Cyclists riding downtown will occasionally come across uniformed Memphis
City Police officers who are out of their squad cars and out patrolling the
downtown area on their bicycles.

By riding in downtown Memphis, cyclists can develop a greater appreciation for all that the city has to offer and you will have the chance to discover its rich history, its historic landmarks, to see and appreciate the revitalization of its downtown area, the contribution of Memphians to the arts, entertainment, music, and so much more.  To learn more about Memphis, visit the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis Travel, the Downtown Memphis Commission, and the Memphis Flyer's - Best of Memphis.

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