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Checking In With Memphis Bicycle Advocates

Bike Law recently caught up with Memphis bicycle advocates Kyle Wagenschutz and Tulio Bertorini to discuss biking in their city. Both Kyle and Tulio have made national news for their efforts on behalf of cyclists in Memphis. We came away inspired by the great things they are doing.

Tulio and the Memphis Hightailers

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First, we talked to Tulio, who was highlighted by the League of American Bicyclists in their 2015 News column. Tulio serves as the president of the Memphis Hightailers, a city club with 1,500 members. Huge numbers, but Tulio has an even bigger number in mind. He wants to hit the 2,000-member mark by year’s end.

The club’s most impressive work: Making sure its members know how to ride in traffic.

“We have 13 League Cycling Instructors right now,” Tulio says. “We’re going to train another 16 this year. Our goal is to make sure all of our riders are educated.”

Tulio says the club is encouraging its LCIs to branch out.

“When we get the next surge of LCIs, we want to let them grow and do something different,” Tulio says. “For instance, a couple of them are interested in teaching kids’ classes. We have one or two interested in commuting, and another two or three interested in leading group rides. So we want them to develop those interests.”

Tulio also told me about two campaigns that club has to keep Memphis roads safe: a Dog Attack report form  for close encounters or crashes caused by a dog; and  a Car Attack report form for close encounter or crash caused by a motorist.

We don’t want to spill the beans, but the club has a big announcement. Stay tuned.

Kyle Wagenschutz – Memphis Bike / Ped Programs

Kyle Wagenschutz

Next up was Kyle Wagenschutz, the city’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Program Manager. Recently, Kyle brought home some serious honors — the White House Champions of Change Award. He has been with the city since 2010 and was credited with helping to “establish Memphis as a national leader on bicycle and pedestrian programs in an urban environment.”

That’s one of Kyle’s bragging rights, and here’s another. In 2012, Bicycling magazine named Memphis the “Most Improved City for Cycling” after giving naming it to the “worst” list in both 2008 and 2010. Kyle has overseen 200 miles of new bike paths and lanes in Memphis, including about a dozen miles of protected cycletrack, known as Green Lanes.

Kyle likes statistics, and one of his favorites illustrates the impact that bicycle infrastructure can make.

“We have found that 93 percent of bike crashes in Memphis are occurring on streets where there is no bicycle infrastructure,” he says. “That means only 7 percent of the crashes over the past five years have occurred on streets where we have added bike lanes or trails.”

“The summation is that we believe bicycle infrastructure is having a direct impact on the safety of people who are bicycling, and that more people are bicycling as a result,” Kyle says.

Harahan Bridge Project

When we asked about specific projects, Both Kyle and Tulio said the Harahan Bridge project is a game changer for the city – and for cyclists on cross-country tours. When completed, the bridge will provide a dedicated bike and pedestrian crossing of the Mississippi River from Arkansas into downtown Memphis.

“The fact is that there isn’t another official dedicated and separated bike and pedestrian crossing of the Mississippi River in hundreds of miles in either direction,” Kyle says. “There is a substantial amount of bike tourism that is happening across the country. Right now, they are bypassing Memphis. I predict we’ll soon see those riders coming right into the heart of our city.”

“We are having a lot of fun here in Memphis,” Kyle says.

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