Historically, Memphis has spent almost no time thinking about alternatives to the car, and our city boasts no major infrastructure that would support an alternative to car travel. Regarding Bruce VanWyngarden's July Fourth downtown debacle (Editor's Note, July 10th issue), I'd like to share quite a different Fourth of July experience.
Along with 30 other bicyclists, I rode from Midtown to the river bluff at Confederate Park to watch the glorious pyrotechnic spectacle unfold. Afterward, we rode our bikes through the pedestrian traffic on Riverside Drive until we could not ride because of the density of the crowd. We then walked our bikes up the bluff to Main Street, where we hopped on and rode to the next party. Travel time: 10 minutes.
The bicycle is the single most efficient mode of human-powered transportation in the world. Globally, more people use bicycles than any other mode of transportation. In Memphis, there are currently no bike lanes or bike paths. We still ride, but sooner than later, Memphis will have bike lanes for all users.
As with any choice we make in life, there are a hundred reasons to not ride a bike. It's hot, you get smelly, it's dangerous, and only kids and poor people ride bikes to get around. But the bicycle is the way of the future. It is a renewable, sustainable, enjoyable, and profitable transportation option, as proven in countless cities throughout the U.S. Watching kids and adults cruise through gridlock traffic on the Fourth of July only confirmed within me the power of the bicycle.
We don't need $30-million-a-mile rapid transit. We need $5,000-a-mile designated bicycle lanes. It's a minor investment that reaps unparalleled returns.
In the article "MATA's Moment of Truth" by John Branston and Mary Cashiola (June 26th issue), there was nothing mentioned about the fact that although limited service is provided by MATA to Shelby County, Bartlett, Cordova, Collierville, and Germantown, the county does not provide any funding to pay for the service, and there is no dedicated transportation funding from the state.
Memphis does not have an efficient transit system to get people to their destinations in a timely manner. People with disabilities, like me, have no idea that the buses are accessible to people who use mobility devices.
When money is used to make streets wider, less accessible, and more dangerous for people with disabilities and pedestrians, it only contributes to encouraging people not to give up their vehicles. The idea of the Center City Commission to put cars back on Main Street is a perfect example. If this happens, there will be a need for more parking spaces, and it will further discourage the use of public transportation.
The four Gillig electric-hybrid vehicles MATA has are primarily used for paratransit. People with disabilities hate them, because the ramp is not in ADA compliance unless the bus is near a curb, and the interior only meets bare ADA minimums. People with disabilities have asked MATA not to order any more of the Gillig buses to be used for paratransit, because of these problems and because they cannot get to many of the places they need to in order to pick up people with disabilities.
The disability community has been told that more paratransit buses would be ordered this year, and they are badly needed. But if the new hybrids are going to be used for paratransit, MATA can count on big problems from this minority.
How could anyone write an article about Tony Joe White's song "Rainy Night in Georgia" ("Boogie Man," July 10th issue) and not mention the singer who made it famous: Brook Benton.
All you have to do is Google the song, and Brook Benton is the first link that comes up. When Conway Twitty and Sam Moore sang the song on the CD Rhythm, Country and Blues, Conway said, "Brook Benton, where are you?" So why wasn't he mentioned in the article?
Nancy and Fred Toma
In reference to John Branston's article mentioning that it costs $50 for a family of four to go to the zoo on a Saturday (City Beat, July 10th issue), for another $29, you could buy a family membership and go 365 times a year. It's the best bargain in Memphis, and he conveniently left that out.