Commute Coaches Help Cyclists Find a Way 

A new program pairs new cyclists with pros to find routes around Memphis.

There are a whole lot of ways to get to and from work in Memphis; you just have to find the one that fits you best. That is the thinking behind Commute Options Memphis (COM), a nonprofit that works to lower the number of commuters by car in the city.

The nonprofit recently launched its Commute Coaching Program (CCP), which aims to show the benefits of commuting via public transit or bicycling. The CCP is a stand-in for the usual community commuting challenge that the group runs in the spring and fall but chose not to due to COVID.

"[The program] is our response to trying to find a way for us to engage with our followers and people who watch our information in lieu of the community challenges we would normally do," said Sylvia Crum, COM's program manager. "We were looking for a way we could reach out in a socially distant and safe way and provide resources to people who are still working from home but might be looking to learn a new skill."

click to enlarge Commute Options Memphis aims to make biking the Bluff City a breeze. - COMMUTE OPTIONS MEMPHIS/FACEBOOK
  • Commute Options Memphis/Facebook
  • Commute Options Memphis aims to make biking the Bluff City a breeze.

Though "commute" is in the name, the group promises to help members plan routes to wherever need be. Commute Options also offers coaches through their Commute Coaching Program whose sole jobs are to help members plan out efficient and safe routes. Coaches then go over the route virtually with members and provide an opportunity for them to accompany riders through the route on their first time.

"We really feel like this is such a great opportunity of a time for when people could practice," Crum said. "Even if it's just a ride in the neighborhood to see how you would go by bicycle to your grocery store or a coffee shop, let us help you plan a route that would be safe and comfortable, talk you through it, and then go ride it with you to show that you can be using your bike out on the street for transportation."

The coaches in the program are volunteers who have experience commuting through the city via bike. Commute Options does their best to pair members and coaches who are from similar areas of town. Along with being paired with a coach, members are given a toolkit that gives safety tips, basic bicycle repair information, as well as local bike laws. There's also bicycle swag thrown in as well.

While Crum reiterated the ecological importance of cutting down on the number of cars on the road, she also spoke on the psychological importance of the program.

"In normal times, when we do our challenges or have our group rides, there is a chance to gather and talk about routes or different commute options," Crum said. "As I have reached out to volunteers, they miss that personal connection with their bicycle friends. So this is an opportunity for those who feel enthusiastic about commuting to reach out to others that might be interested."

The Commute Coaching Program "graduated" their first two members earlier in the month and plans to scale up in 2021. Check the group's website, commuteoptionsmemphis.com, for more information.

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