Posts Tagged ‘bicycling’

Phoenix Spokes People Heralds a New Age for Bicycling in Phoenix

Phoenix Spokes People (PSP) is a grassroots organization in Phoenix, AZ that was formed in November 2012 by a group of passionate bicyclists who wanted to make their favorite form of transportation a regular part of the Phoenix landscape. In the less than two years that the group has been in existence, the PSP has had a huge impact on the bicycling scene in Phoenix. Not only are they making bicycling culture more pervasive in the city through bicycle fun events, they have also successfully lobbied for more spending on bicycle infrastructure. For example, the group was instrumental in bringing about the $1.5 million included in the latest city budget dedicated to four new bicycling projects around town.

I talked to Lisa Parks, a founding member of the group about everything from what the group wants to see for bicycling in Phoenix to any tips she can share for bicycling during the scorching hot summer.

Below is our interview:

Firefly Living: What is the PSP? What is your mission?

Lisa Parks: The mission of Phoenix Spokes People is to make bicycling an easily accessible form of transportation for people of all ages, incomes and abilities.

Firefly Living: What are some of the advocacy efforts you’re working on right now?

Lisa Parks: One of our goals is to get more people on bikes in order to plant the seed for more infrastructure, so we’ve been busy organizing monthly rides and events. We’d also like to do more women-specific events. We’ve got a great community of ladies in Phoenix that ride bikes and we can inspire even more to hop on two wheels. All of our events are planned with beginner bicyclists in mind so you don’t have to worry if you’re just getting acquainted with riding a bike in Phoenix. Please feel free to come and ask us questions and join in on the fun. We’ve also got something really exciting planned for bicyclists for the month of October, so stayed tuned for details. Also in the works is a PSP-branded bike rack program so that more businesses can accommodate bikes. We expect this to be a good fund raising project for us so that we can move forward with our advocacy.

Firefly Living: What do you want to see in Phoenix bicycling infrastructure in the next 5 to 10 years.

Lisa Parks: The City of Phoenix Bike/Ped Ad Hoc Task Force is currently working on the draft of the Bicycle Master Plan and some of the PSP group on that committee. There’s also a Complete Streets draft in the works. On top of that, bike share will be launching in the fall. All of these plans will help move the city toward better bike infrastructure. In the next 5-10 years, I’d love to see the canals become a great way to get around by bike. They’re one of our greatest opportunities, but they need more connectivity and safety. Protected bike lanes are also on the rise, and we need to start implementing them in order to create safer streets and inspire more people to ride a bike.

Firefly Living: What are some of the things people can expect when riding their bikes in Phoenix these days?

Lisa Parks: We’re starting to see more people using bikes for transportation every day. We now have green lanes on lower Grand Avenue and on Fillmore in the downtown area. Fifth Avenue recently got bike lane improvements from McDowell to Van Buren. And more and more businesses are realizing how important it is to be bicycle friendly. We’ve seen a lot of popularity in installing bike corrals.

Firefly Living: What are some of your favorite bicycling improvements that you’ve seen in Phoenix recently?

Lisa Parks: The Grand Avenue green lane is a huge improvement. We definitely need more like it. Bicyclists are drawn to it, it’s teaching motorists to watch for bikes and new businesses are starting to open. It’s a great example! I’m also super excited for bike share. It’s definitely going to get a lot more people on bikes, which is going to lead to more infrastructure improvements. We need that catalyst.

Firefly Living: Do you have any tips for people who want to ride their bikes throughout the Phoenix summer?

Lisa Parks: It can be done! You’ll find that riding a bike is much better than walking in the heat because you get to your destination faster and you create your own breeze. For longer trips, try combining bicycling with the light rail or bus. Plan your rides for earlier in the morning and in the evening. Make sure you have lots of water (I like to have two water bottles with me and I freeze one of them). Carry some supplies for freshening up such as baby wipes or no rinse body bath (great for work) and a small spray bottle of water to mist yourself –  which is even better when mixed with a few drops of peppermint oil, by the way. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen. We’re planning some fun summer rides as part of our Blazing Saddles series. Let’s just say you should think about getting a squirt gun for at least one of them.

Firefly Living: What is the one most important thing that needs to happen in Phoenix for biking to become more mainstream?

Lisa Parks: We need better infrastructure. Hands down. We have beautiful, sunny weather nearly every day for 8 months straight and we have flat streets. It’s a perfect combination! If people were able to hop on a bike and safely and easily get to their destination without having to give it much thought, our city would be filled with people on bikes. Our goal is to help make that happen!

Why it Helps the Whole City when More Women Ride Bicycles

A good indicator of bicycle safety in a city is if you see a mother riding a bicycle with her kids. In fact, women riding bicycles in general point to the overall bicycle safety in a city. “It is understood women are catalysts for safe pedestrian and bicycle friendly design, thus bicycling women help progress the livability of a place,” says the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP).

Why does it matter to the overall bicycling scene in a city that women ride bicycles? Here are 5 reasons why.

1. Women ride bicycles primarily for utility, ease of use and efficiency and sometimes for empowerment, but not as often for the sporty thrill of it. So women riding bicycles promotes the idea of bicycling other than for recreation.

2. Seeing women on bicycles makes bicycling seem more culturally acceptable. And as bicycling becomes more mainstream and accepted, there is more political will for bicycle infrastructure in a city. According to the APBP, “The growing population of female cyclists has been a valuable contribution to developing the American Streetscape to accommodate the needs of cyclists.”

3. Women tend to be more risk averse than men. In Portland, women were less likely than men to try on-street bike lanes and more likely to go out of their way to use bike boulevards, quiet residential streets with special traffic calming features for bicycles. In New York City, men are three times as likely to be cyclists as women, yet a bicycle count found that an off-street bike path in Central Park had 44 percent female riders. Women’s tendency to go for safer bike routes increases demand for serious and safe bicycle infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding.

4. Developing bicycle infrastructure around the needs of women as well as the needs of men helps create a more equitable and holistic infrastructure that will be appealing to a larger segment of the population and promote cycling for everyone.

5. According to the Women’s Cycling Project, adequate bike lanes, separated off-road cycling paths, wider lanes on roads, good connectivity and more direct routes encourage greater numbers of women bicyclists.

As you can see, a lot of this is subject to the chicken and the egg syndrome. Which comes first, safer bicycling infrastructure or more women on bicycles? As with a lot of things, it’s probably a combination. As more women take to the roads on their bicycles, the more they will help get better bicycle infrastructure in their cities. And as cities install more safe bicycle infrastructure, more women will ride their bicycles and hence there will be a positive spiral effect. At any rate, cities need to build their bicycle plans with women in mind because when bicycling is safe and appealing for women in a city, than bicycling is safe and appealing to everyone.

[Source: The Role of the American Bicycle Girl: An Indicator of Healthy U.S. Cities towards Sustainable Mobility by Association for Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals]

Photo Credit: Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosimoes7/ [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons