Changing Gears | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Changing Gears

Sept. 17, 2003

Jackson now has a bicycle lane. It runs from Duling to Crane Park on Old Canton Road in the Fondren-Meadowbrook area. The lane is part of a pilot program in conjunction with the Fondren Renaissance Foundation. Tim Bryan, Jackson's assistant traffic engineer, said that the residents in that area had an interest in working with his department to create the lane. They are hoping it will produce a traffic-calming effect and encourage biking and walking in the neighborhood. If the pilot goes well, Jackson is looking to add more biking lanes in other parts of the city. And a bike trail, called Little J, is being proposed for the Jackson State area.

Old Canton Road is not alone with its new look. JATRAN buses are wearing bike racks these days. The Route No. 1 North State Street buses have bike racks, and racks are also being placed on the No. 11 Briarwood/Colonial Heights and the No. 12 County Line Road connector routes as well. Becky Pierson, marketing coordinator for JATRAN, said that each bike rack will hold two bikes and the racks are easy to use, requiring just 10 seconds or less for loading and unloading.

Once all three routes have racks, riders can go to the Adkins, Ridgewood, Old Canton Road and County Line Road areas. This makes it possible for city dwellers to load up their bicycles, ride the bus to the city limits and then gear up on their bikes for a ride across the Spillway, on the Ridgeland Multi-Use Trail or, for the more physically fit, down the Natchez Trace. Sue Pitts with the Mississippi Department of Transportation explained there are about four miles of biking trails in Ridgeland and another four miles in the Reservoir area.

Bryon Moudy at the Bike Rack on Lakeland Drive told me he's glad to see the interest in biking and hopes to see more bike lanes with JATRAN playing a part in promoting commuting and biking. He said, "The more bike trails we have, the less cars, the greener the city can be." He showed me the types of bikes available today. The road bike has 18 different speeds and narrow slick tires, the multipurpose bike has 24 speeds and semi-slick or fat knobby tires, the mountain or trail bike has 27 gears and fat knobby tires, and the recumbent bike has a wide seat, back rest and small tires.

While Moudy was showing me the bikes, it occurred to me that cycling is not as simple as it used to be. I did not have to consider how I would get my bike from point A to point B. I just got on the bike and rode. I rode all over the streets of small-town Mississippi, thus the term street bike. If the pavement ran out, I rode on the side of the road or in the ditch alongside the road, thus the term trail bike. I had no idea I should have a bike for street or trail, and the thought never occurred to me to have a bus carry my bike and me past those hard parts.

Moudy showed me some biking accessories, and it seems biking has more accessories than Bubba Gump has shrimp. Apparel includes shoes, padded shorts, jerseys, gloves and helmets. For the bike itself, you've got the light, mirror, bell, basket, heart rate monitor, water bottle holder, computer that measures distances, and a child's trail car. And don't forget those insulated backpacks that carry gear and can be filled with ice water to keep you cool while providing a drink of cold water through the long plastic straw that comes over your shoulder.

As I looked at all that gear, I thought about the accessories on my old 1957 Western Flyer from Joe Turner's Hardware Store in Leland, Miss. On the handlebar were a bell, a basket and plastic handgrips with multi-colored plastic streamers flowing out of the ends. (These are the same plastic handgrips that are used on the handles of MSU's cowbells, which are now against the law to ring, but we ring them anyway.) Baseball cards clipped with a clothespin to the spokes made a flapping sound, giving us the mistaken impression we were going much faster than we actually were.

Cycling has come a long way. We have accessories to make riding more enjoyable. We have different types of bikes to fit different styles and needs, and the city and state are providing more riding lanes and trails as well as bike racks on buses. Maybe some of us will take advantage of these opportunities and start cycling. I'll be the one with baseball cards in my spokes.
Judy Jacobs is the JFP sports columnist.

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