Friday was Bike to Work Day here in Phoenix. I have to admit, I drove to work. But to make up for it, I rode around for a few hours after work. Luckily, my friends at Phoenix Spokes People took some great pictures. Mayor Greg Stanton (pictured below) has been a great advocate for bicycle use in Phoenix, but as an elected official, his influence is limited to what he thinks the voters have asked for.
Phoenix Spokes People, on the other hand, has been one of the new and exciting leaders in advocating change for more bicycle infrastructure in Downtown Phoenix. Only in operation since November of last year, they have made huge strides in making cycling more visible here in Phoenix. They are non-profit organization of cyclists and are supported in part by The Bicycle Cellar, in Tempe, and the PHX Bike Lab, another non-profit advocacy organization. Groups like this are crucial to events like Bike to Work Day – a city sponsored event.
One of the most important efforts by Phoenix Spokes People has been compiling a list of bicycle friendly businesses (find this on their website). Listing bike-friendly places is a great incentive for businesses to add bike racks, have specials for those who ride to the business instead of drive, and cater to cyclists. Now, I don’t know of anywhere that offers a discount on food or drinks here for riding your bike, but I have read about a brothel in Berlin that offers discounts to cyclists, an easy model to adapt to a slightly less unsavory business stateside.
There are a lot of other cycling events that seek to create a more healthy lifestyle for Phoenicians, one of which has been successful in nearby Tempe for over 80 weeks now, and has only been running for 4 weeks in Phoenix now. LOOPS, hosted by State Bicycle Company and PHX Bike, a weekly ride for mostly single speed bikes (as manufactured by State), but with all welcome, has transformed the streets for one night a week. In the style of critical mass, dozens of cyclists gather at a certain place and time (usually Civic Space Park, here in Phoenix) and ride just for the fun of it. The rides are a no-drop pace, usually about 15 mph for an hour long, and usually with a stop for drinks somewhere in the middle. This kind of bottom-up effort to fill the streets with cyclists is a great start, and will have to continue if any large-scale change is going to be made in Phoenix, but what can the City of Phoenix do to embrace cyclists?
Robert Diehl, a friendly neighbor of mine, contributed a post this week to Blooming Rock on why the City of Phoenix should invest in bicycle infrastructure. His post highlights the unstoppable growth that Phoenix experienced post World War II and (a 23-fold population increase) and our impossibly low capacity for accommodating cyclists in our transportation system. Our light rail system is only able to hold 112 bikes, total. At only 1 of every 308 transit stops is there a bike rack for locking your bike, and so on.
So – how is Phoenix doing? Admittedly, we are not in the position to brag about our bicycle friendliness, not even making it onto the list of bicycle friendly communities, as published by the League of American Bicyclists. But, we have begun to move in that direction, with events, local groups pushing for more rights for cyclists, and the like. I recently wrote a post on Global Site Plan’s The Grid about how Tempe and Scottsdale are doing, and perhaps Phoenix can emulate their lead. This all is in an effort to not only make Phoenix more healthy sustainable in terms of transportation. I believe we are just beginning to ride down the right path, but it’s a start.
Do you have any opinions on how we can integrate cycling into our sprawling desert city?