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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cyclists can visit a place that they can call their island of dreams

Cyclists can visit a place that they can call their island of dreams
By:  Michael Lander
With its many stores, businesses, and restaurants, Main Street is often
one of the busiest and most congested areas on Mackinac Island.  During
the peak travel season of July and August, the sidewalks are usually full
of pedestrians and the street is often lined with bicycles and filled with
cyclists and horse-drawn carriages.


It might just be what almost every cyclist in the world ever dreams of..... A place that is filled with bicycles and where no cars are allowed on the roadways. 

For cyclists, a place like that might seem like the closest thing to nirvana or to heaven and for those who are willing and able to travel to northern Michigan, they will ultimately find what could very well be closest thing to paradise.   That little place of heaven-on-earth is called Mackinac Island.

Situated on Lake Huron, in between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, Mackinac has no motorized vehicles, (except for a few used that are only used for emergencies).  Instead of cars, it has hundreds of horses, dozens of horse-drawn carriages, and more bicycles than you could possibly count. 

With all that, the island might not only feel like the promised land for cyclists, but from the moment that you first arrive, it might feel like you have literally stepped back in time.  

Cyclists can ride by some great scenery and many beautiful historic
homes, buildings, and places including a state park when they ride
on Hwy M-185 around the island.

After arriving on the island, with most coming by ferry, you are greeted by the sights and sounds that are reminiscent of a bygone era.  From homes, buildings and storefronts that mostly look like they were built in the 1800's, to the sounds of horses hooves as they clip-clop along the streets that are filled with cyclists and horses and carriages and streets lined with bicycles, and sidewalks filled with people, you can't help but feel that you have been transported to another time. 

With no cars, trucks, or motorcycles in sight, you can't help but think you have truly entered a land that time has forgotten.

While some might think that the idea of not having any cars on the road was done purely as a way to entice tourists, but the truth is that it was done because of them.  In order to preserve the more simple and quiet way-of-life for those who lived on the island around the turn of the 20th Century, the island banned motor vehicles in 1898 and made it a law in 1923.  In a way, this could be seen as a gift from those in the past to us to now enjoy today.
The 8+ mile ride around Mackinac Island offers some incredibly scenic
views for cyclists and others to see and it is just one of many roads
and trails for cyclists to ride and to explore the island.

The beautiful and picturesque island has about 70 miles of roads that includes some mountain bike trails and a 8.004 mile state highway (M-185) that encircles the outside perimeter of the island.  Highway M-185 is a narrow paved road that is the only state highway in the entire U.S. where motor vehicles are banned.  With no vehicles on the roadways, cyclists, runners, and walkers can really enjoy the beautiful and picturesque island without having to worry about the dangers or to contend with all the noise and exhaust fumes. 

The peak travel season for visiting Mackinac Island is in July and August with an estimated 15,000 tourists, but if you don't mind a little cooler temperatures, you can come earlier in the spring and into the fall.  There are plenty of bike rental places to get a bike and you can bring your own bike on the ferry, but you will be charged about $6.50 for each bicycle that you take over to the island.

While visitors have the option to walk, ride horses, or to take horse-drawn carriages, bicycles may the best and fastest mode of transportation around Mackinac Island.  The speed limit is 20 mph and violators can be charged with reckless driving for exceeding that speed, which isn't all that difficult to do on some of the roads with a precipitous incline.
Even though there are no cars on the roads on Mackinac Island,
cyclists do share the road with horses, horse-drawn carriages,
and hundreds of other cyclists.  The roads are far less congested
the further away that you get from the town.

With hundreds or thousands of bicycles on the road at any given time, the roads can be a little congested, especially on Main Street.  For the most part, the roads are relatively flat around the rim of the island, but there are several steep climbs for cyclists who decide to venture toward the center of it.  The most challenging of these include Grand (Cadotte) Avenue to Hoban Avenue that is northwest from Market Street, Spring (Turkey Hill) Street off of Fort Street and north to Huron Road, West Bluff Road heading southwest past the Grand Hotel, and Truscott to Huron Road going northwest.

The island is 3,776 square miles, altogether, and the highest elevation is 890 feet with the fortified earthen redoubt of Fort Holmes being the highest point.


Aside from trying to conquer some of the roads leading to the center of the island, there are many places worth seeing and spending a little time at.  This includes Fort Mackinac, the Grand Hotel, Arch Rock, Mackinac State Park, the Biddle House, the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, Skull Cave, Trinity Episcopal Church, the Stone Church, St. Ann's Catholic Church, and the military, Mackinac, and St. Ann Cemeteries.

For cyclists, Mackinac Island is truly a wonderland and a dream vacation spot unlike any other.  There are no other places in the world where a cyclist can ride without having to share the roads with cars, buses, trains and other modern modes of transportation. 

It is, in many ways, like a cycling utopia that may be an idea that some more progressive-minded cities and towns might be willing to consider someday, if even just for a small area set aside for people instead of vehicles.  It can be much like an oasis is for those in a desert.  It is, at the very least, something that we could all hope and wish for more of in the future.

To learn more about Mackinac Island, visit http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/10/mackinac-island-biketown-usa/

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tragic death of a cyclist, south of Memphis, should serve as a reminder of the constant need for caution and safety

Tragic death of a cyclist, south of Memphis, should serve as a reminder of the constant need for caution and safety
By:  Michael Lander

Canadian-born cyclist, Iain Gerrard, wanted to ride his bike from his home
in Toronto to New Orleans.  Unfortunately, he was struck and killed before
he reached his destination.

Iain Edward Gerrard was only 23-years-old when he died.  Gerrard was a cyclist from Toronto, Canada who was making a trip of a lifetime on his bicycle from his home in Toronto, to his ultimate destination of New Orleans, when he was hit and killed just south of Memphis.  The accident occurred on Monday afternoon, July 14, 2014, around 3 p.m. 

Gerrard was struck by an 18-wheeler just south of Memphis on U.S. Hwy 61 and Star Landing Rd in Desoto County in Mississippi.  DeSoto County Coroner, Jeff Pounders, is quoted as saying, in a DeSoto Time Tribune article, "Canadian cyclist struck by 18-wheeler," that Gerrard was traveling north in the southbound lane a half a mile south of Star Landing Road near Walls, Miss. when he appeared to have veered over in the lane of traffic and was hit.

The DeSoto County Sheriff's Office and the Mississippi Highway Patrol have not yet released any information or confirmed any details concerning this accident.

While there may be questions surrounding the circumstances of this terrible accident, for some, the thoughts are not so much on how it happened, but on who it happened to.  For friends, family, his parents, (William and Jean Gerrard), and for the cycling community as a whole, this is a sad time for them to grieve collectively over the tragic loss of a life that was taken too soon.  It is also a time when all of us are reminded of what could happen to any of us and what the loved ones of cyclists may fear and dread the most. 

As sad and as unfortunate as any loss of life like this is, it does help to bring to the forefront an issue that can never get enough attention and that is safety.  It can also serve as a warning, and as a cautionary tale, not only to cyclists, but to non-cyclists as well.

Since cyclists have a real vested interest in all this, they, more than anyone else, need to take the lead in making things safe for themselves while on the road.  This begins with not only knowing what to do and not do, but it includes following the rules of the road, and remaining as visible, vigilant, and as predictable as they can at all times.

Cyclists also need to take every opportunity that they can to remind everyone else that cyclists have every right, in the eyes of the law, to be on the roads.  Along with all that, cyclists should also establish goodwill with drivers and to try to be as a courteous and conscientious toward them, and to try to avoid doing those things that might unnecessarily annoy or aggravate them, like riding more than two abreast and not moving over to the right to let vehicles pass them. 

Drivers, for their part, should be as careful and cautious around cyclists with whom they share the road with and they should always try to have at least three feet of clearance between them and a cyclist.


It might take some time, but with a little effort on the part of cyclists, and as drivers become more accustomed to seeing more cyclists on the road, it should ultimately help to foster a culture of acceptance of cyclists in the community at large.

As terrible and tragic as it is for even one cyclist like Gerrard to die, when you consider the number of cyclists there are, and how many of them regularly ride their bikes, the number of accidents and fatalities in our area is lower than what some might expect.  We can only try to do our part to keep that number as close to zero as possible.

Statistically, the number of vehicles hitting cyclists and the number of fatalities associated with these accidents in the Memphis area seems to be relatively low.  Since 2010, there have only been three cyclists who have been killed, with the recent one in North Mississippi, one in Midtown Memphis on August 11, 2011, and another on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge on August 12, 2012.

Even though the greatest danger to cyclists on the road are collisions with vehicles, there are many other dangers that they might also face while riding.  Some of the potential hazards that cyclists might face include dogs, pedestrians or runners who might step out in front of you, other cyclists who might run into you, and even some unexpected problems, (gravel, potholes, etc), that you might suddenly encounter on the road itself.  With all of this, cyclists should always expect the unexpected and they should never get too complacent whenever they are riding their bikes. 

In spite of all this, this should not be enough to deter anyone from riding.  Life is full of risks.  The key for cyclists is to try to minimize any potential threats and risks that might come up on you, with little or no warning.  No one wants anyone to get hurt while cycling and none of us should expect anything less than as safe of an environment as possible for cyclists and anyone else on the road.

The world should never have to lose another young life like that of Iain Gerrard and we should all do what we can to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

To read more about bicycle safety and about Memphis area drivers and cyclists, click on the links to these stories: 
View of Memphis drivers may not be all bad from perspective of Memphis area cyclists and Questions and answers on bicycle safety.  For information on bike laws and driver's manuals in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi, visit the Memphis Cyclist website.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cycling's greatest event offers more than just entertainment

Cycling's greatest event offers more than just entertainment
By:  Michael Lander
Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sponsors worldwide cycling events for professional
cyclists including the Tour de France.  These events provide one of the most prominent
stages for cycling and it showcases one of the greatest challenges that exist in all of
sports.  This image was taken in July 2002 in Sankt Wendel in Germany. 
(Photo Credit:  Paul Wyatt)

For several weeks, every summer, the world gets an opportunity to witness some true athleticism and some incredible feats of human endurance and perseverance. 

While traveling along a route that spans approximately 2,200 miles, (3,664 kilometers), over mountains, through cities, towns and rural areas, some of the best in the world gather together to compete in a sport that is unlike anything else in the world.  It is the premier and renowned cycling event known as the Tour de France.

This year, the tour is hosting its 101st race, consisting of 21 stages with 22 teams, each one comprised of nine members, for a total of 219 cyclists who started on July 5, but which will have even fewer who will ultimately finish when the tour ends on July 27.

For those who love the sport, and are truly passionate about cycling, the tour is a must-see event that they look forward to each year.  Part of the obvious thrill for most is watching the strategy and jockeying for position, coupled with sprints to the finish line, but there is so much more that can easily draw someone in.  This is especially true for those who ride a bike themselves. 

More than anyone else, cyclists have a much greater understanding and a much deeper admiration and respect for those who participate in events like the Tour de France.  For some, the tour gives them a chance to live vicariously, and to imagine, if just for a moment, that they are actually one of the cyclists in one of the greatest of all races.

At another, more surreal level, this cycling event, and others like it, can also be seen and appreciated as if it were a form of art.  With a synchronicity of motion, the uniformity of movement with the cyclists leaning and turning as if there one, and with a gracefulness by which the bicycles seem to glide on the surface of the road, it can almost feel as if it is a moving canvas of color and motion laid out before us.

Even though very few people will ever earn the distinction of being able to get to the level at which they can participate in an event like the Tour de France, it does offer something for the rest of us none-the-less.  Not only can we be entertained by what we see, but it can serve as an inspiration and show us what any of us are capable of achieving through hard work, training, stamina, and a single-minded focus to succeed. 

When the race is done, and the yellow jersey is awarded to the winner, and other jerseys are given to other classification winners, we not only find who the best is in the world of cycling, but we have moment in time when we can admire those who can do the seemingly impossible. 

It is, however, not just a triumph for them, but for all of us since it demonstrates that, in spite of great adversity, we too may be able to overcome the overwhelming challenges that we face in our very own lives. With that, the tour also does more for cycling than just about anything else does by promoting it and giving it a stage that might otherwise go unnoticed by those who have yet to discover the greatness that it has yet to offer them.

To learn more about the Tour de France, watch CNN's Patrick Snell video on everything that you need to know to understand the tour and click on the following link for additional background information on it -  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tour_de_France.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Science and technology have forever changed cycling

Science and technology have forever changed cycling
By:  Michael Lander


Bicycles, as we know them, have been around for over two centuries.  Thanks to science
and technology, they have, over time, seen significant changes and improvements.  Those
who ride bicycles have benefited from this, and through other science disciplines, which
have helped to make cycling what it is today.  Even though the bicycle came centuries after
the great Renaissance thinker, inventor, and artist, Leonardo da Vinci, it is an invention
that he likely would have been intrigued and fascinated with.

Cycling, on its surface, might seem deceptively simple and easy.  It is, after-all, something that even a child can do.  At its most rudimentary and fundamental level, it only requires that a person keep their balance and that they keep peddling in order to stay upright and to propel oneself forward.

There is, of course, more to cycling than just that.  Behind the facade of what seems like the mere simplicity of cycling, there is a myriad of scientific disciplines that explain every facet of cycling and what we currently know can enhance the performance and overall experience for those who ride.

Ever since the initial concept of a bicycle was first created, (consisting of two wheels and requiring the rider to balance themselves in the early 19th Century), science and technology has played a key role in the evolution of cycling, (with many improvements and refinements), that have occurred over the subsequent decades.

Many bicycles that can be found today have extremely efficient gear mechanisms, and they are often composed of extremely durable and lightweight materials.  They are also capable of reaching speeds that generations of people, before now, could have only dreamed of.

Even with all of the improvements that have been made to bicycles, they still remain one of the few devices around that are powered exclusively by a person.  They are also one of the least expensive and one of the most environmentally-friendly means of transportation that can be found and there are few devices in places around the world that can serve both a practical purpose and can simultaneously yield remarkable health benefits.

Aside from the science involved with the composition and design of bicycles that exist today, there are other sciences that focus exclusively on aerodynamics, motion, body strength and conditioning, diet and nutrition, and just on the science of cycling itself. 

As much as science can explain and improve cycling, and help with improving the performance of cyclists, in the end, it cannot make you get out and get on your bike and ride.  You must have it within you to ride even when you don't want to, when it's hot, and when you're tired and sore.  The ability to do that has to come from within you. 

The actual experience of cycling, in some ways, almost seems to transcend science and mathematics itself.  Mathematicians calculate distances through equations, astronomers measure distance in light years, but cyclists actually live and feel distances with every breath and in many of the muscles in their bodies. 

With cycling, as with so many other aspects of our modern day lives, we seldom think about how much of an impact that science and technology has had on our every day existence.  We live in a world in which science and technology has forever changed and improved our lives and even cycling will never be the same because of it. 

The saying that "time stands still for no one," is true for all of us and we should all expect new and innovative changes to bicycles, and to cycling, in the future.  To read more about what we might see, visit  journal.ie and CNN Tech.  To learn why cycle cities are our future, check out an online article in arch daily.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cyclists should think of safety and of others when riding on Memphis area trails

Cyclists should think of safety and of others when riding on Memphis area trails
By:  Michael Lander

Cyclists should always be cognizant and considerate to others sharing
the same area bike and pedestrian trails with them in Memphis and
the surrounding communities.

If you are a cyclist and you are ever out enjoying any of the trails in and around the City of Memphis, you will often find that you are not alone.  From people of all ages taking a walk, some with their four-legged friends, others pushing strollers, some running, and some even out roller skating, the trails can be filled with plenty of life and the sounds of voices, laughter and the wondrous chorus of birds.

As these trails become even more popular and a gathering place for people from different communities and neighborhoods and visitors from out-of-town, there also comes an ever-increasing need on the part of the cyclists to become a little more vigilant and conscientious of those whom they share the trails with.

For many cyclists, trails like the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway provide a great alternative for riding that is safe and free of most of the dangers that they might otherwise experience on the roadways. As appealing as this might be for some, though, cyclists need to always be aware and considerate of those whom they share the trails with and the risks and dangers that they might present to others. 

Because there are so many cyclists that are on the trails these days, and because they travel a lot faster than anyone else who is ever on them, cyclists need to be extremely cautious and careful around others.  Cyclists should always yield to those who are walking or running and they should always let people know when they are about to pass them. 

Shelby Farms Greenline is one of many bike and pedestrian trails in
the Memphis area.

Excessive speed is probably the biggest threat and danger that could contribute to a collision.  Cyclists should do their best to slow down as they come up on anyone else.  The speed limit on the trails is 10 mph and cyclists should not ever travel at a speed in which they might possibly endanger others.  The trails are not race tracks and if cyclists want to go fast, they should think about riding on the roads instead.

When on the trails, cyclists should always be alert when they are coming up to a turn in which they have an unobstructed view of what might be coming the other way. 

It is always best for cyclists to ride in a single file, but if they are riding side-by-side, they should always move over for anyone coming in the other direction or for anyone who may be trying to pass them.  Cyclists should try to stay to the right except for when they are passing on the left and it is never a good idea to wear earbuds or in-ear headphones since it will not allow you then to hear what is going on around them.

Cyclists can also minimize any risks for accidents and collisions by trying not to ride during inclement weather conditions, if they can avoid it, because of a diminished ability to brake.  They should, likewise, try to ride when there is adequate sunlight as well so that they can see what is around them.  All trails are closed at night so you should try to begin and finish up a ride after sunrise and before sunset.

Visitors will find several signs that show what is and isn't allowed on the Wolf
River Grrenway and what the speed limit is for cyclists.  The Wolf River connects
to Shelby Farms Park and extends to Germantown along Humphreys Blvd.

 For additional safety tips for cyclists, visit http://memphiscyclist.com/html/safetytips.html.

Whether riding on the trails or on the road, cyclists should also be willing to offer assistance to fellow cyclists and any others that they see who might need help.  We all would be better off if we look out for each other and help with changing a flat tire or with some minor mechanical problem.  It will not only be appreciated, but it might inspire others to pay it forward and maybe even return the favor for you one day.

Even though the trails are slightly different from one another, and offer a wide array of scenery, for the most part they are relatively flat and straight and they will leave you with a sense of being in an oasis surrounded by urban and suburban development.  Many current and future trails have various access points with some that intersect or go under busy streets.  The long-term plans call for connecting existing trails to outlying communities and to downtown Memphis. 

To read more about these trails and plans for future expansions, you can visit the
Shelby Farms Greenline website, (their facebook page), Shelby Farms Park website, (their facebook page), the Greater Memphis Greenline website, (their facebook page), the Wolf River Greenway and the V&E Greenline websites.

Memphis area cyclists can find ways to beat the summer heat

Memphis area cyclists can find ways to beat the summer heat
By:  Michael Lander
Memphis can have incredibly high temperatures with high humidity
in the summer, but it isn't enough to deter most cyclists from riding
after they acclimate themselves and stay properly hydrated.

It really shouldn't come as a news flash or as a surprise to anyone.  If you spend any time in Memphis, you quickly find out just how hot and humid it can be around this city in the summer and trying to get out and ride a bike during this time of year can feel a lot like trying to do an intensive work-out in a steaming hot sauna.

Even though there is nothing you can do to change the reality of living in what can be an oppressively hot place, there are some ways that cyclists can still get in a good, long bike ride without needlessly suffering from it in the process.

While summer officially begins on June 21 and ends on Sept. 21, you can't always rely on the calendar to tell you when the sweltering heat will come and go in Memphis.  During this timeframe, on average, you can expect to see high temperatures in the mid-90's with heat indexes well over 100. 
  
Riding in the summer can sometimes feel like an uphill climb, but cyclists
can overcome the negative side effects of the heat by consuming enough
fluids with electrolytes.

When the brutally hot temperatures are here, the first, and most obvious step that cyclists can take is to try to ride in the early morning hours and later in the evening when the temperatures and the heat index aren't quite as bad as they are in the middle of the day.  It can be a better and cooler time to ride with a little less traffic on the road and with an added bonus of catching a sunrise or sunset in the process.  The only concern in doing this is making sure that you are wearing visible gear and have lights on the front and back of your bike.

Even though you can acclimate yourself to riding in the stifling heat, it is often best to ride when the temperatures are more tolerable so that you can enjoy the ride more, remain safe, and avoid any unnecessary risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. 

If you do ride at the hottest times of the day, it is important to drink before you get on your bike and to make sure that you bring enough to drink throughout your ride, (preferably something that will help you to replenish your loss of electrolytes). 

Cyclists in Memphis can beat the heat by riding earlier or later in
the day and wearing cycling gear that is light and non-absorbent.

Dehydration
is always a constant threat for cyclists, since you are often losing more fluids through perspiration than you are probably taking in, and you can't afford to wait until you get thirsty.   With the loss of fluids, you also need to take in something that will replenish the sodium, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals lost through sweat. 

Proper hydration can go a long way in helping to alleviate leg cramps, nausea, and a more serious, life-threatening condition that can develop in hot weather conditions.  Click here for information on proper hydration.  Your diet also plays a very critical role in your performance, and you need to be sure what you consume to fuel you, regardless of what the reading is on a thermometer.

By taking a few precautions, getting plenty of fluids, and taking a common sense approach to Memphis' suffocating summer heat, Memphis area cyclists should be able to get out and enjoy a good ride all summer long.