You know your city has a vibrant bicycle culture when its starts exporting good ideas to other places. Founded in 2008 in Chicago, The Chainlink social networking site (a Streetsblog sponsor) has become an indispensible resource for local cyclists, with info on commuting, recreational rides, and racing, a busy discussion forum and events calendar, and over 12,000 members.
Officials in the up-and-coming bike town of Memphis, Tennessee, heard about the website’s success and contracted its owner Yasmeen Schuller to create a new site to encourage more biking, as well as transit use, in the Bluff City. The Chainlink Memphis went live a few weeks ago, and today Schuller formally unveiled the site, inviting Memphians to sign up as members.
Recently civic leaders in Memphis have embraced the promotion of cycling and construction of bike facilities. They see it as a strategy to help improve health outcomes for residents, reduce congestion and pollution, and make the city a more attractive destination for companies and workers. In recent years Memphis has begun building dozens of miles of bike lanes, including the city’s first buffered and protected lanes.
About a year and a half ago, the city’s Office of Innovation, which houses its bike program, reached out to Schuller about creating the new Chainlink site. “It sounded like a great opportunity because they have tons of enthusiasm for getting more people on bikes, they’re building lots of infrastructure, and it’s already a very bikeable place.”
A year ago Schuller and photographer Ronit Belazel traveled to home of Stax, Sun, and Graceland to document existing conditions for biking. “We rode everywhere we could and found that it’s even easier to get around by bike than Chicago because traffic is a a little mellower,” she said. “We visited bicycle shops and the owners were very excited to talk to us about the local bike scene.”
Schuller soon set to work on building the new website. While the Chicago site is strictly bike-centric, the city of Memphis requested that their Chainlink also include info and articles about the Memphis Area Transit Association’s bus network and trolley line, as well as a separate forum and calendar for public transportation-related topics and events. “With Streetsblog in Chicago, we don’t really need to cover transit and other forms of active transportation,” she said. “But Memphis decided transit needed more exposure.”