Using Bikes to Bridge Gaps Between Communities and Cultures

Using Bikes to Bridge Gaps Between Communities and Cultures

by Doug Carpenter, Enthusiast, Explore Bike Share //

Memphis is a truly unique place. The city has come into itself with the currents of the Mississippi River, washing up a spirit that birthed the home of Blues, Soul and Rock n Roll, combined with a rich cultural history that proved what can happen when citizens are truly connected to one another.

The challenges that Memphis faces are not unlike those in other cities, but the DNA of our city distinctly shapes the way we address them. We’ve brought forth some of the most innovative solutions to common problems. Memphis has a way to look at things from a perspective that is all our own. The modern grocery store, the family travel hotel, and accessible overnight shipping are all byproducts of Memphis’ creative thinking.

These things did not happen overnight, and they didn’t happen by accident. They happened because companies and people with means, courage, and commitment were joined by the vision and enthusiasm of those who wanted something better.

As Memphis continues to evolve, our latest Renaissance has brought us full circle. As a prime example, look to the Memphis Grizzlies, who were met with skepticism as they struggled through their first 23-59 season in the aging Pyramid arena. The now perpetually playoff-bound Grizzlies bring people together across every strata of the city with the common idea that “we believe.” The Pyramid itself, moth-balled for a decade, has turned into the country’s most dynamic retail operation in Bass Pro Shop. We are getting increasingly skilled at seeing our strengths and standing together to lift ourselves up, rather than being resigned to past disappointments. From this culture comes another interesting opportunity: bike share.

Explore Bike Share

One could simply introduce bike share as a modern amenity and risk reinforcing the idea that “bike share is for the young professional” or “bike share is for the tourist,” which translates to “bike share is for someone other than me.” But the reality of Memphis is that everyone is a spokesperson. Cultivating and crafting a system does not only mean adding a cultural asset, but shaping a whole new transportation solution. To this end, we have created Explore Bike Share, a replicable community-based effort to investigate how bike share can best serve the distinct needs of Memphis.

Community Engagement Session
Memphis residents discuss biking

We know that bike share is a way to bridge physical gaps between different communities and cultures. It is away to tie the citizens of Memphis to each other once again. But if we don’t listen to citizens from all over Memphis, we have little hope of creating a successful system. We have set up community input sessions throughout the city, are activating a street team to raise awareness, and are actively seeking feedback in-person and online. The solution we find may be unique to Memphis, but the way we find it can be recreated in any metropolitan area.

One of things Memphis has never shied away from is the attention it gets from the rest of the country, as we boldly accept who we are and move toward a vision of who we want to be. We welcome that critical eye as we explore bike share in a collaborative way that will yield a more productive, useful and equitable result. This is a city that has always faced challenges head-on, and we look forward to facing this exciting new opportunity with the openness and creativity that defines Memphis.


As founder and principal of doug carpenter & associates and a dedicated Memphian, Doug is active in many civic endeavors. He is a former chairman of the Board of Trustees for Downtown Memphis Ministries, Inc., a former member of the University of Memphis Tigers Athletic Advisory Board of Directors, was founding Chairman of the Board for Crosstown Arts Organizations, and is a member of Soulsville Foundation Advocates International. He was part of the investment and creative team behind Tennessee Brewery: Untapped, an innovative 6-week previtalization event highlighting unexplored opportunities for historic properties.

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