cycling for good, part II

Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, I thought of Memphis as the nearest city that counted. We read the Commercial Appeal and watched Memphis TV stations. Later, in college at the University of Mississippi, we went to Memphis for…whatever college students go to cities for.

This gave me, I now realize, a certain view of the city which has stuck with me to the present day: crime- and poverty-ridden, full of racial tension, and not at all progressive.

That’s why it was so gratifying to meet Kyle Wagenschutz at the Tennessee Bike Summit, and to learn about the growth of cycling culture in Memphis. Kyle is the Bikeway/Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Memphis. In the last two years, the city has added 35 miles of bike lanes, including a trail through the middle of the city.

In addition, Kyle runs Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop (motto: “Saving the world one bike at a time”). Like the Main Street Bicycle Cooperative in Chattanooga, which I discussed in my last post, Revolutions is all about getting bikes into the hands of those who need and want them. According to their incredibly inspiring “about” page, they have recycled and rehabilitated more than 1500 bicycles.

And then the July issue of Bicycling Magazine arrived, with an article on America’s Best Bike Cities. On page 72, along with Chattanooga’s being ranked 27th (an awesome feat in itself), is a sidebar naming Memphis “America’s most improved cycling town.”

After being named one of the worst cities for cyclists in 2008 and 2010, Memphis took a sharp U-turn…The cradle of blues music is now set to exceed [Mayor A. C.] Whorton’s goal [of 55 miles of bike facilities] by 10 miles by the end of the summer.

Kyle is featured prominently, and quoted.

Sometimes it’s really refreshing and inspiring to have your preconceptions blown to bits.