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Thursday, December 31, 2015

If you live in or around Memphis, your New Year's resolutions should include bicycling

If you live in or around Memphis, your New Year’s resolutions should include bicycling
By:  Michael Lander

Memphis area cyclists have plenty of cycling events to participate
in.  One of the most popular of these is the annual Meritan
Midnight Classic in August of each year, which draws thousands
of cyclists from Memphis and beyond.

Once a year, at the stroke of midnight, millions of people around the world welcome in the new year with fanfare and celebration, saying goodbye to the past year and looking forward, with great anticipation, to what they hope will be a happy, healthy, and successful year ahead.

As many lift up their glasses to make toasts and to wish others a Happy New Year, many see the occasion as a time to clean the slate and to make a brand new, fresh start and to observe the long-standing tradition of making one or more
New Year’s resolutions. 

Even though some resolutions that we make may seem like an inevitable and futile attempt to achieve something that may ultimately be unrealistic and unattainable, they almost always come with good intentions and center around improving one’s life, health, or their relationships with others.

Among the top ten New Year’s resolutions for the past year of 2015, the
Statistic Brain Research Institute found that dieting (losing weight) was number one and staying fit and healthy came in at number five.

Memphis is slowly becoming known as a bicycling
city and nothing better symbolizes this than the
Overton Park Bicycle Gate or Arch, which was
completed in February 2014.

For those Memphians who have made resolutions to lose weight and/or to improve their health and fitness, there may be no better time than at the beginning of 2016 for them to include
bicycling as one of their New Year’s resolutions. 

With an ever-increasing growing number of bike lanes and cycling amenities in and around
Memphis, and with the Harahan Bridge project and the Shelby Farms Park Greenline expansion and the renovation of the park, itself, expected to be completed in 2016, this will be the year to get out and ride like never before.

Click here for ten reasons why you should start riding in Memphis now.

Rather than wait for these projects to get finished, or to wait around until there is warmer weather, there really is no need to sit around until then. 

There are all kinds of
cold weather riding gear to make your cycling experience a lot more tolerable, but for those who just can’t bring themselves to ride in the cold, there are always other options like joining a spinning class or riding a stationary bike through the winter months.

The annual 5+ mile Tour de Grizz Bike Ride is one of many cycling
events that take place in Memphis.  Last year's ride in 2015 drew a
couple hundred cyclists who followed up the ride with watching the
Memphis Grizzlies play at the FedEx Forum.

Throughout the winter, and the rest of the year for that matter, cyclists can also spend a little time in the gym by doing some
muscle strengthening exercises and some aerobic workouts to enhance their performance while riding. 

They can also, additionally, benefit from some
cross-training activities such as running and try some alternative regimens such as yoga.  Dieting and weight loss can also improve your cycling experience, not to mention your overall health and fitness.

When your New Year’s resolution involves health and fitness and/or dieting, it is important to first set up a plan to establish realistic and attainable goals for yourself before you actually get started. 

After you do that, it is always a good idea to
learn all that you can on how to get started and to start slow and to not be overly ambitious.

Click here to read about how to get started in bicycling, to find motivation, and how to feel safe while doing it.

This is a photo of the 100-year-old Harahan Bridge over the
Mississippi River from Memphis to West Memphis, Ark.
At the end of 2016, this bridge will have a bicycle and
pedestrian walkway, which is expected to be extremely
popular with Memphians and visitors alike.

After you do that, you will probably want to get friends and family to join you, or you might want to consider joining a bicycle club.  You are always more likely to stick with something if you can enjoy the experience, especially if you can get the support and encouragement from others.

Whatever your New Year’s resolutions might be this year, if you live in Memphis, and you’re interested in improving your health and fitness, and losing weight, cycling is definitely an activity that you seriously want to consider doing in 2016 and beyond.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Southaven and other DeSoto County residents should begin to see bike lanes and trails in their future

Southaven and other DeSoto County residents should begin to see bike lanes and trails in their future
By:  Michael Lander

The Memphis Metropolitan area has hundreds of miles of bike lanes
and trails and more are expected in the years ahead.  Several
northern Mississippi cities in DeSoto County are in the
beginning stages of developing their own bike and
pedestrian facilities, themselves, eventually connecting to
existing and more established ones in other communities.

The Memphis Metropolitan area has seen a lot of positive developments and growth over the last decade, which to the excitement of cyclists, has also included hundreds of miles of bike lanes and trails with even more planned in the years ahead.

Even though the growth of these have rapidly spread throughout most our area, our neighbors to the south of us in cities like Southaven, Olive Branch, and Horn Lake in DeSoto County have not quite yet benefited as much from this, but that may soon begin to change.

While it may be slow in coming, some DeSoto County residents should begin to see some of the bike lanes and trails that the Memphis Metropolitan area already has, and will soon have even more of, in the next few years. 

In the not-to-distant-future, there will be bike lanes and trails throughout many parts of the city of Memphis and into surrounding areas from downtown Memphis, east to Germantown, Collierville, and Cordova, north to Tipton County, and even over the Harahan Bridge to West Memphis, Ark.

For the time-being, DeSoto County residents may not have any bike lanes or trails that run through or directly connect with the network of these in the Memphis Metropolitan area, but they should not lose hope for this in the future.

“There aren’t any active projects connecting Memphis to DeSoto County.  The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) does have a number of corridors prioritized in their long-term plan, but no short-term implementation planned,” Kyle Wagenschutz said.

Wagenschutz is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager in Memphis.

This is not to say that DeSoto County is not beginning to see the first steps toward eventually having that or in establishing their own network of bike lanes and trails themselves.

“I am aware of three current projects, under construction now or within the next six months in DeSoto County involving bike lanes or greenways.  That’s not to say that there aren’t more, but I only track those that are receiving federal funds” Nick Oyler said.

Oyler is the Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Planner/Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator.

A network of bike lanes in urban areas, like those in the Cooper-
Young neighborhood in Memphis, provide a means for cyclists
to more safely navigate on city streets and it offers a more
healthy and fun alternative for getting around town.

These three projects, according to Oyler, include the Delta View Bike Trail and Park Overlook in Walls, the Nesbit Fire Station Trail and Connector, and the Church Road Bike Lanes.

The Overlook in Walls is a “design and construction of a new shared-use trail and bike lane along the existing Delta View Road/Nail Road/Old 61 right-of-way from Johnson Creek on the south to the town of Walls in the north.  The trail is included in the proposed DeSoto County greenway network.  The trail will connect to the Johnson Creek Greenway,” Oyler said.

“The Nesbit Fire Station Trail and Connector is also a portion of the proposed DeSoto County greenway network.  This project is the design and construction of a new shared-use trail along McIngvale/Swinnea Rd connecting Southaven to Hernando.  The project limits are from Green T Lake Rd to Bankston Rd,” he said.

“Church Rd Bike Lanes will be standard bike lanes to be installed on Church from Craft Rd in the west to Cockrum Rd/MS-305 in the east,” he added.

The Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan recommends 788 projects, totaling 1,500 miles of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the Southaven area alone.

In the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Jurisdiction Report, the MPO identified 33 bicycle corridor improvement priorities for Southaven.  Twenty-three of these are for on-street facilities (or bike lanes) and ten that have shared use path that are designed to accommodate both cyclists and motorists alike.

“I support having bike lanes and bike and pedestrian trails in Southaven,” Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite said.

“I would like to see Southaven become a more connected city with pedestrian and bicycle routes.  It adds a quality of life for our citizens and promotes a healthier lifestyle for them,” he said.

“The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) Multi-use trails connecting Snowden and Central Park is in the process now and I hope to see construction begin in 2016.  With that, I hope to begin to see a more pedestrian-friendly community in general as we move forward,” he added.

Beyond that, Southaven residents should also expect to see other long-term plans to unify their city with other bike and pedestrian facilities in neighboring communities.

The Landers Center in Southaven is not only a place for shows and
entertainment, but it is also the starting and finishing line for
cycling events like the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 bike ride that
takes place every year in mid-September with proceeds
going to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“We have officially adopted the Greenprint 2040 for the Metro-Memphis area to connect any bike lanes or trails to Memphis and to adjacent municipalities.  We will also continue to seek federal and state funds or grants through the MPO as well,” Musselwhite said.

Long-time Southaven resident, John Tucker, spoke before the city’s Board of Alderman on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.  Tucker was originally from California, but has lived in Southaven since 1975.

At the Board of Alderman meeting he addressed concerns that he had about motorists driving too fast through Central Park and his desire to see bike lanes within the city park, itself, and beyond.

“The city touts itself as being a retirement community.  It’s on the signs so it needs to be more people-friendly for the walker, runner, and the cyclist,” Tucker said.

“I have been riding a bike, off-and-on for 66 years.  I mainly just do it for fun and for the pure joy of it.  I just love the feel of the wind on my face and I usually ride 10 miles a day.  If there’s a health benefit from doing it, that’s great, too,” he said.

“Being a bike rider, I would like to see dedicated bike paths and trails that connect to ones in Memphis and I hope for the day when Southaven will have what Memphis has now.  I’m afraid that I won’t live to see this and the greenspaces, but I still remain hopeful that I will,” he added.

Perhaps, with the support of DeSoto County residents, and the active involvement of elected officials and business leaders, a day will come, sooner than later, when Tucker, and others like him, will have bike lanes and trails, some of which will connect to others in the greater Memphis Metropolitan area.

One need only ask if there is any reason that our neighbors in our nearby northern Mississippi communities should not have the bicycle lanes and trails like what we already in the other Memphis area communities and the answer is simple……  they should.