Monday, March 30, 2009

The Way We Roll

During the next 12 months, bicycle advocate Anthony Siracusa will ride on four continents.

Siracusa was one of 40 college seniors awarded this year's Thomas J. Watson fellowship. Under the fellowship, he will travel around the world to study bicycle cultures.

"I just decided that I was going to try and understand what bicycling communities around the world were composed of," he says. "None of the cities selected were created as bicycle cities. I'm interested in how cities reinvent themselves into more livable, more walkable, bike-able places."

Siracusa will start his journey in Copenhagen, a city where 50 percent of travel is done by bicycle.

"They try to grow that 10 percent a year. That's the goal. They don't always reach it, but that's the way they roll," he says. "There, you're not a bicyclist. You're just a Dane. Here, you're a cyclist first. There, it's just a way of life."

From there, he will head to the Netherlands and Germany before going to Melbourne, Australia, where "bicycles outsold cars for the eighth year in a row."

Then he'll spend time in Hong Kong and Beijing before ending his trip in Central America. Under the guidelines of the fellowship, Siracusa is not allowed to return to the United States for a year.

"What I'm after is nothing short of personal transformation. I've lived here my whole life," Siracusa says. "I think being away will help put things in perspective for me."

Siracusa's other dream is to help transform Memphis into the premier Mid-South city for cycling in the next 10 years.

"I hope to lend additional credibility for the bicycling and walking movement and, ultimately, about livability," he says. "For the sake of the city and its longterm health and sustainability, we need to begin sooner rather than later."

"We're not talking about investing trillions of dollars. We're talking about small modifications that can change this city in fundamental ways."

Siracusa will leave Memphis in early July.

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