Shifting Priorities for Sustainability

Anthoney Siracusa
Community Bicycle Shop

With the help of First Congregational United Church of Christ in the Cooper Young neighborhood, I founded Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop seven years ago. Since June of 2002, I have worked to provide affordable and reliable used bicycles to people from all over the Memphis Metropolitan Area. From the day we opened the shop until the present moment, our mission has been about more than simply providing bicycle materials to Memphians in need. Revolutions has focused on ways in which individuals can take an active role in their community. Everyone seeking a bicycle from our shop has to volunteer. They learn basic bike maintenance skills, improve our facility, and help us recycle bicycles. Recycling bicycles lay at the heart of our programming. Memphians donate unwanted bike parts and bicycle frames, and with the help of our volunteers, we integrate the useful bikes and bike parts into our inventory of recycled goods. Bicycles that are unusable are disassembled so as to salvage the individual parts that are useful: tires, chains, seats, wheels, or gears. In this way, we take bicycles destined for the dump and turn them into transportation. Our city is a diamond in the rough. It’s a city with people whose commitment to improving our way of life outshines the despair and poverty that threaten to stain the fabric of our community. It is like a small town surrounded by a big city, a community of individuals woven into a single band of citizenry dedicated to defeating crime, creating an interconnected network of greenways, preserving our watersheds, creating bicycle lanes and pedestrian friendly sidewalks, and establishing a government that operates according to the core ideals of our democracy. We are citizens committed to enduring one hundred percent humidity and swarming mosquitoes to make this city on the bluff the premier Southern city for sustainable initiatives. Hot weather does not keep us off our bikes. Mosquitoes do not keep us from paddling in our rivers, and “a lack of fiscal resources” does not keep us from demonstrating to our city’s officials that we can make small investments that will reap manifold economic and social returns. In fact, it is our problems which galvanize our efforts, and it is our dedication to innovative solutions that binds us a community. The Sustainable Shelby Initiative represents a shift in our city’s priorities. Mayor A C Wharton’s focus on land use, construction codes, transportation policy and planning that is sustainable—that is the creation of policies that meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations—is a focus on how to make Memphis the best city it can be. It is a focus on making Memphis into the best city to own a house in, a focus on how Memphis can become the best city to raise a child in, a focus on how Memphis can become the best city to ride a bike in, it is a focus on how Memphis might become a model for curbing urban sprawl while developing a world class inner city. The implementation of the Sustainable Shelby Initiative represents a political call to action, a call that will soon resonate on well-insulated walls, through complete streets, and across a city that focuses on the ways in which we can make the best use—and reuse—of the limited resources we have to work with. The initiative is a nod to activists, advocates, teachers, builders, and planners that have been harbingers of this day for many years. The Sustainable Shelby Initiative represents the first step towards making Memphis a city known world-wide for its ability to actualize itself as a 21st century city.