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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 reasons why you should start riding a bicycle in Memphis

10 reasons why you should start riding a bicycle in Memphis
By:  Michael Lander

Memphians have plenty of reasons why they should start riding
bikes.  In less than a decade, city leaders have provided cycling-
related amenities and facilities and bicycling has grown in
popularity by leaps and bounds since then.  With even more of
these on the horizon, cycling is only expected to grow even
more in the years ahead.  Memphis, for cycling enthusiasts,
has finally arrived.

When it comes to cycling,
Memphis has come a really long way over the last ten years and you would have to be Rip Van Winkle not to have noticed it.  The city has gone from being considered one of the worst in the country for cycling to being one of the most improved cities throughout the entire U.S.   With this radical transformation taking place in our city, there are at least ten reasons why you should now think about riding a bicycle, if you haven’t already.

# 1 – It’s fun and it’s good for you
It’s hard to beat a combination of something that is both fun and is good for you at the same time and bicycling fits that bill.  It is a
healthy and aerobic activity that can be enjoyed by everyone, young and old alike, and it can help with the prevention of diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight.   

# 2 – There are more places to ride a bike than ever before
In less than a decade, the Memphis area has gone from virtually no
bike lanes and trails to what seems like an explosion of them, and more are coming in the near future.  Currently, there are 200+ miles of bike lanes in the city and the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway are both in the process of expanding each of their trails.  If that were not enough, a bike and pedestrian pathway over the Mississippi River is being constructed on the Harahan Bridge in what is being called the “The Big River Crossing.”  Even West Memphis, Ark. is getting in on the action with plans for a park and a 6.7-mile trail loop with what should be a spectacular view of the Memphis skyline.

# 3 – The Memphis area has some really great bike shops to keep you going
When it comes to
bike shops, the Memphis area could not have asked for better.  Many of the bike shops offer excellent service, tire-changing and simple repair classes, group rides, and more.  For those who are looking for convenience, Jim Steffen’s Bikesmith business will even come by, pick up your bike, and repair it either on the spot or bring it back to you afterward.

# 4 – Bicycling is a great way to meet people and gives you a chance to spend quality time with your friends, family, and neighbors
One of the best things about bicycling is that you can either go out and ride alone or you can enjoy a nice
ride with your family or friends.  Riding with a big group or with a bicycle club can also be a great way to meet others, especially those who share a common interest in riding.  Cycling can also unify neighborhoods and communities through a shared network of bike lanes and trails thereby helping to make us feel less insulated and isolated from one another.     

# 5 – Riding bikes is a cheaper way to get around town than anything else
For those who are seeking an inexpensive way to get around Memphis, bicycling may be the best way to do that.  Commuting on a bike is a lot cheaper than driving, and you can also go places on a bike that you can’t get to in a car.  A bicycle is also better on the environment and it cost less when it comes to maintenance and repairs bills.

# 6 – The weather in Memphis is good for riding throughout most of the year

The weather in Memphis may seem like it can change at the drop of a hat, but it is better and more tolerable than in many other U.S. cities, particularly those in the north, and you can ride a bike throughout most of the year.  It is especially nice in the
spring and in the fall.  For those who don’t like the summer heat, you can always try riding in the mornings and evenings, and with very few days of snow and ice throughout the winter months, you can typically ride during that time of year so long as you dress appropriately.

# 7 – Bicycling is safer and easier on your body than many other sports or other physical activities

If you were looking to get into a low-impact sport or other physical activity, cycling is probably your best bet.  You are far less likely to experience an injury while riding than with many other physical activities and it’s a lot easier on your knees and joints than running.  In addition to that, it also takes a lot less time to ride 10 or more miles on a bike than it takes you to run it.

# 8 – Riding a bike is a  great way for getting in shape, to help cross-train, and more
There may be no better or more enjoyable way to get into shape and get in a workout in than to ride a bike.  It is also an excellent way to cross-train for other physical activities like running, and it can help prepare you should you ever consider doing triathlons.  If you get really good at it, you could also find yourself moving up to a competitive level and maybe even becoming a nationally ranked cyclist like Memphis native, and Olympic gold medalist,
Kristin Armstrong.

 # 9 – Bicycling is beneficial to you and it can help you to support a lot of great charitable causes
There are many health benefits for those who ride a bike, and it can be good for your
emotional and physical well-being.  There is an added plus when you can also ride for a charitable cause at the same time.  Memphis has plenty of these charity rides that you can participate in throughout the year and it can make your bike ride an even more meaningful experience to you and others.  

# 10 -  More Memphians are riding a bike and you don’t want to miss out on all the fun
More people are out riding a bike around Memphis than ever before and the number is only expected to increase dramatically, possibly even doubling, in the next five to ten years.  You don’t want to be one of the only ones sitting on the sidelines missing out on the fun.  Get up and get out and try to it for yourself.  You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Yoga offers cyclists with a way to become even better in how they live and ride

Yoga offers cyclists with a way to become even better in how they live and ride
By:  Michael Lander

Yoga is a philosophy with mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions
that often relies on regulating one's breath as well as assuming
postures or poses (known as asanas).  The asanas may be seen by
some as having an almost artistic, dance-like quality and beauty
to them.

Cycling is part mental and part physical and, like any sport, it is not only impacted by what you do on the bike, itself, but what you do before you ever even get out on your bike and ride.

At the very least, this can and should involve proper nutrition, hydration, and maybe even some off-the-bike physical conditioning. 

Being able to ride is one thing, but to become even better at it, it is important to develop the mental and physical acuity, which for those who are open to the idea, could come through the discipline and practices of yoga.

Yoga originated in India and has become popular around the world for all that it can offer to those who practice it. 

“The word ‘yoga’ comes from the
Sanskrit word ‘yoke’ or ‘union and it is a philosophy of physical and mental techniques, along with spiritual disciplines, which, when practiced correctly, will unite the mind, body, and spirit.” Pat Fielder said.

Yoga classes typically include the yoga student (or yogi) assuming
various poses and stretches.  Each posture, according to Amy
Lenkszus of Sumits Yoga, is designed and sequenced to build
strength, flexibility, and balance as well as providing improved
posture, focus, and a reduction of stress.

Fielder began her yoga practice in 1966 and she has a Master of Education degree and has taught for many years with the
University of Memphis Physical Health and Education Department.

Even though there is a wide spectrum of schools, practices, and goals by practitioners around the world, according to Fielder, the most widely known of these is Hatha and Rāja yoga.

“Hatha yoga is the practice of using physical postures or
asanas to discipline the body while regulating the breath,” Fielder said.

Learning how to breathe, alone, is something that many cyclists might find especially useful while riding.

“Hatha yoga is also a prelude to Rāja yoga, which includes mental concentration and meditation.  It is the beginning path to prepare the aspirant for other forms of yoga,” Fielder said.

“The sheer physical well-being that is naturally achieved by proceeding very gradually into each position up to the point of feeling the body doing what it can do without pain, is the object of Hatha yoga.  I always like to say that yoga meets you where you are and there is no comparison of yourself with any other body,” she said.

In the western world, yoga may only be viewed as the physical
practice of asanas (or poses), but it is actually a state of being
involving both the mind and body.  The asanas, Lenkszus asserts,
are defined by yoga sutras as only one of eight limbs on the path
 to where the mind is fully expanded to a state of pure awareness
known as Samadhi.

Fielder believes that there are many reasons why cyclists, or anyone else for that matter, should consider practicing yoga.

“Practicing yoga can give a person relief from tension while improving blood circulation, energizing and revitalizing the body, doing away with fatigue, and calming the nerves.  Increased emotional control, improved sleep, and the ability to be relaxed also comes from the calm and equanimity produced by the general effects that a moderate daily practice of yoga has upon a person,” Fielder said.

Amy Lenkszus is the owner and manager of
Sumits Yoga Memphis studio and she founded her business with a commitment to teach and foster the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of yoga in a loving and community-based setting.  She started her yoga practice in 2007 and she believes that yoga techniques can be particularly useful in helping cyclists.

“In many ways, it’s good from a cross-training standpoint, but also for injury prevention and recovery as well as for the training on focus, concentration, and learning how to control your breathing and dealing with distractions,” Lenkszus said.

Yoga can be seen as being therapeutic and could be especially
beneficial to athletes and cyclists for conditioning, injury
prevention, and recovery, and helping to enhance focus,
concentration, and controlling one's breathing.

While cyclists can benefit from all types of yoga, Lenkszus thinks that they would get the most out of styles that focus on continuous movement.

“Styles such as Sumits yoga and other
Ashtanga and power flow classes are steady flowing, work through a full range of movements and build great muscle endurance,” Lenkszus said.

“Cyclists need to focus on leg strength, flexibility, and lower back strength since cyclists typically experience tight hip flexors and strain on their backs.  Many yoga poses target the hip flexors and lower back, helping to balance muscle strength and prevent injury,” she added.

“Yoga also keeps students focused on a deep and steady breath, forcing their muscles to work aerobically.  Training their muscles in this manner and learning how to control their breathing are two very important aspects of training and racing for endurance athletes such as cyclists,” Lenkszus further added.

According to Lenkszus, it shouldn’t take cyclists long before they start seeing some possible improvement in their cycling.

For some, yoga may be perceived as a practice that promotes mind
over matter, but it may be more accurately described by those who
ascribe to it as being mind and matter in harmony and in unison
with one another.

“Cyclists should almost immediately see an improvement with regular practice.  If cyclists can practice three times a week, they should start to experience an improvement by the end of two weeks,” Lenkszus said.

All students, whether they are cyclists or not, will learn more than they might imagine from doing yoga.

“Yoga students learn to practice a sequence of yoga positions smoothly and slowly, using proper breathing while recognizing the different muscles that are either stretched, contracted, or relaxed.  Concentration and the integrity of mind, body, and spirit is acquired or increased during these exercises,” Fielder said.

“Students also find out how to use breathing techniques to cleanse the respiratory system, improve oxygenation, and they learn ways to help manage stress and quiet the mind.  They also acquire the use of a relaxation process to detach from all activity,” she added.

Yoga also has a way to bring the mind and body together in unison in a way that many people have never experienced before.

Yoga has been described as a process that allows for a greater and
more enhanced awareness, focus, and a deeper connection between
the mind and body, which can lead to spiritual development,
enlightenment, and a full realization of oneness.

“The unison of mind and body is attained by correctly practicing each asana during the yoga session.  The practitioner keeps the mind centered on every breath, as well as the feel and utilization of every muscle in the body, being aware of the physical effects during the asana, as well as controlling the breathing, and the length of time spent before coming out of the position,” Fielder said.

“I like to tell my students that we practice ‘kindergarten yoga’ because real yoga doctrine is spiritual disciplines and techniques of meditation, which enable the practitioner to achieve unity with the Divine,” Fielder added.

“After the position is over, it is important to become cognizant of the body by noticing the effects from the asana, then consciously relaxing before going on to the next movement.  During this mental and physical discipline of concentration and realization there is established a harmony with the source of one’s being that leads toward the ability to meditate,” she further added.


Sumits Yoga is unique in that the yoga sessions are held in a heated
room, which is thought to allow the muscles to stretch more easily
and it opens the body to experience a detoxification affect.

Transcendental Meditation, Fielder said, is the trademark name for the yoga meditation founded and taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“When persons become adept at the unifying action of doing Hatha Yoga, it begins to influence their philosophy of daily living.  These yoga practices can help a person become more mindful of everyday activities,” Fielder said.

“A person’s life can be enhanced by living life the way we practice yoga, paying attention to the ‘now moment, and, afterward, feeling the effects of the mental state caused by it; then actually learning to ‘let it go’ both mentally and physically.  In this way, we follow the
rule of Dharma, which is for each of us to live up to the best in us,” Fielder said.

Whether it is for cyclists, or for anyone else, living up to our best and seeking to reach our full potential is something that we should all aspire to and yoga may be the key for helping to take us there.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Memphis experiences its third death of a cyclist in 2015

Memphis experiences its third death of a cyclist in 2015
By:  Michael Lander

Ghost bikes have become a way to remember the life of
someone who has died while cycling and they can serve
as a powerful statement and a vivid reminder that more
can and should be done to make cycling safer for every-
one.  (Photo By:  Michael Browne for UrbanVelo.org)


Another cyclist has died in Memphis.  The latest death was that of 26-year-old Justin D. Townsend.

Townsend was riding his bicycle when he was run over and killed early Friday morning, Oct. 9, in a hit-and-run crash not far from his North Memphis home.

This fatal crash happened at 12:33 a.m. at Thomas and Tenn. 300, which is a four-lane divided highway between Interstate 40 and Thomas.

Townsend’s body was reportedly found under the overpass located near mile marker 16. 

The vehicle that hit him was apparently heading north on Thomas, at the 101 connector, when the driver hit Townsend who was riding northbound on the east side of the roadway in the emergency lane.

The driver, Antrone D. Williams, 30, of Memphis fled the accident without stopping and Townsend was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Williams was arrested on Monday, October 12, following a 
Crime Stoppers tip that led Memphis Police investigators to the damaged vehicle that was involved in this hit-and-run incident.

When talking with Memphis Police investigators, Williams claimed that Townsend swerved into his lane of traffic and that he then struck the back tire of his bicycle, which caused Townsend to fly up and hit the windshield of his vehicle. 

He admitted to investigators that he did not stop to check on Townsend following the incident because he was scared.

Williams in now facing charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving without either a license or insurance.

Townsend is the third cyclist who has been struck and killed on Memphis area streets so far this year.  The other two were Zachary Walls and Eric Dyrell Taylor.  

Walls was struck and killed in the
Binghamton neighborhood at the intersection of Sam Cooper and Tillman on Monday, March 9, 2015.  Like Townsend, Taylor was also killed by a hit-and-run driver, who was riding on the 3300 block of New Getwell Road near Winchester on Feb. 25.  Click here for more information on their deaths.

Townsend's death is the sixth that the Memphis area has seen since 2010.  The one prior to that of Walls and Taylor occurred in July 2014 at U.S. Hwy 61 and Star Landing Rd in Desoto County in Mississippi.

While the circumstances and details surrounding these cycling-related fatalities may have been different, they did all share at least one thing in common with one another.  All of these cyclists were riding at night when poor visibility may have been a contributing factor, especially for Walls who was also riding while it was raining.

All of these deadly accidents are a sad and tragic reminder of some of the dangers that cyclists can face any time that they ride, and it further emphasizes the need for cyclists to remain vigilant, especially when riding at night or in less than ideal conditions.

Even though accidents cannot always be avoided, cyclists can take precautions to help minimize some of the risks that are involved, most notably, having bikes that are equipped with lights on the front and back, with reflectors, by wearing bright and reflective clothing, and by choosing alternative roadways that do not have high volumes of traffic with vehicles traveling at excessively high rates of speed.

Here is a link with some safety tips that cyclists might find especially helpful:  http://memphiscyclist.com/html/safetytips.html.

Townsend was originally from San Jose, Calif. and he moved to Memphis in 1998.  He was a graduate of Millington Central High School and attended Southwest Tennessee Community College from 2013 to 2014.  His funeral service will be held at R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home at 374 Vance Ave. in Memphis.