INSIDE MEMPHIS BUSINESS | DOUG CARPENTER
It’s an image you may have seen if you watch any Olympic or professional cycling – dozens of riders so close together that it seems impossible for them to make progress. But in reality, they’re all working together, making the effort easier, keeping each other safe. That image reflects the way Memphians have been coming together to reshape our city over the last decade, and it’s the picture that comes to my mind whenever I consider the possibilities of a bike share system in Memphis.
I assembled the team behind Explore Bike Share after seeing the dramatic effects these programs have had in cities from Philadelphia to Kailua, Hawaii. I’ll admit that, while I fully supported the concept, I didn’t initially think I was the typical bike share user, but as I’ve gotten out on our prototype bikes and explored the city, I see the huge potential for this system. Bike share isn’t just about putting more bikes on the road. I am motivated to bring this amenity to Memphis because it reinforces the natural ties that already exist in our city, ties we often overlook. Both physically and philosophically, we’re closer than we think.
Explore Bike Share has spent the last few months meeting with people throughout this community to discuss what they hope to see in a bike share system, and at every meeting, residents were thinking about each other’s welfare. Memphians are keenly aware that we’re all in this together, yet we can feel hemmed in by our self-imposed and structural separations. Bike share gives us an opportunity to break down those barriers.
One of our biggest obstacles is geography – or more accurately, our perception of it. Because Memphis had decades of growth that occurred without consideration to non-motorized transportation, it can feel like the distance between any two points is larger because it requires getting in a car. On a bike, these distances shrink – we realize it’s only a 20-minute ride from Tiger Lane to FedExForum, or from Overton Park to Cooper-Young. Even pedaling from one side of the city to the other is feasible: thanks to the Greenline and bike lanes, you could go from seeing the Peabody ducks to the Shelby Farms buffalo in about an hour, and get to enjoy a lot more of the scenery along the way.
Research shows that bicyclists are more likely to shop at stores they ride by than those they drive by. I’d wager that they’re also more likely to talk to people they ride by, engage in community issues they ride by, and become active in events they ride by. Biking allows an openness to your surroundings that isn’t possible in any other form of wheeled transportation, while also providing a healthy, eco-friendly, time-flexible means of getting where you need to go. Bike share isn’t just a new idea for Memphis. It is a way to unleash new ideas all over Memphis.
Memphis is defined by our resilience and innovation, but it can be easy to focus so closely on our own efforts that we don’t notice those around us. If we just look up, we’ll see that our friends and neighbors are right there next to us, all working to keep moving forward. Thriving as a city depends on us celebrating our strengths and using them to reach our common goals. There are thousands of us looking to the future, and we’re closer than we think.