Today, Grant Oster writes his first piece for The Wise Guise. We hope this will be the first of many more to come. We’re happy to let Grant introduce himself to you before getting to his first piece about cycling culture in the Bluff City: I see myself as a lover of history, writing, and the stock market. From time to time, I try to step back and enjoy the simple things in life. I mean, I have an iPhone—let’s not be ridiculous. I don’t sing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” during the winter holiday, but at the season opener for Memphis Tigers Basketball. Like most Memphians, I believe that BBQ is not just food, but art—an art which should be enjoyed often.
When I turned sixteen, I was in no rush to get my driver’s license. In fact, the only reason I got my driver’s license was because I needed a state issued identification to take my ACT. I had no need for a driver’s license—I had a bicycle! And if you’ve taken note over the last several years, so have a lot of Memphians. Whether you attribute the increase of cyclists to the price of gasoline, with averages that rose above $4.00 a gallon in 2008, or possibly the optimist in you believes that Memphians, as a united people, wanted to become healthier—either way, Memphis has become a bicyclist’s paradise.
As I ride around Memphis I notice more and more pro-bicycle occurrences around me: the implementation of bicycle-only lanes on prominent Memphis streets, the creation of the Memphis Greenline, and the passing of city ordinances to make Memphis a safer city for those on the road. More so, just last year A.C. Wharton, Jr. and Mark Luttrell, Jr., mayors of Memphis and Shelby County, respectively, declared the month of May as National Bike Month.
Literally, everywhere I turned my head…bicycles—bicycles on the street, bicycles on the back of cars, and even bicycles in the news. I’m not making this up! Today, two of the tops stories on The Commercial Appeal’s website had headlines reading: 1) Memphis group donates therapy bikes to disabled veterans, and 2) Shelby County District Attorney to award bikes as part of plan to combat truancy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it! Moreover, so do Memphians. Research shows that bicycle sales have continually increased over the last decade. One study showed that when bike lanes were implemented in certain parts of New York City, those area’s bicycle shops saw an increase of sales by 49%. Basic logic would lead me to believe that such an increase could only equate to an increase in riders (unless, of course, people are buying multiple bicycles for themselves—you know, a comfortable, realistic one for the week, then a sporty, fun one for the weekend…). With Memphis’ most recent promise to add an additional 15 miles of protected bike lanes, I project a continued increase in bikers.
In fact, the growth of bicycle riders in Memphis has increased so much that Memphis’ most popular bike path is in need of a facelift. The Peddler Bike Shop, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, and Malco’s Studio on the Square are holding a benefit to raise money to improve what they claim is an “off-road trail [which] sees more visitors than any other local trail system.” This event, which is Wednesday night (the 28th), at 7:00 p.m., has been dubbed the Peddler Bike Shop’s Fundraising Initiative for Shelby Farms Park’s Tour de Wolf Trail. For a $10 ticket, you can help improve Memphis’ bicycling future and get the opportunity to see a special screening of Anthill Films’ new release, “Not Bad.”
I know, I know, now I have you enticed. Fine by me, the more the merrier! Buy a bicycle (make sure you get a helmet), go buy a ticket (supporting a passion the city is steadily developing), and if you see me bite the dust on my bike, try not to point and laugh.