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Bike Commuting Still a Pain – In Phoenix, Anyway

bike commuting

Phoenix could use more of this – especially if they actually connect. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I decided to give bike commuting another try. That’s because I saw a nice slice of new sidewalk go in next to the canal along Indian School Road just west of Scottsdale Road. It looked like it stretched pretty far. Perhaps far enough to get me close to my office on 24th Street and Camelback.

Bike Commuting Step 1

I got new tires for my still-sweet 1999 Lemond Zurich. I handled that easily enough with a stop at a local bike shop, and a bit of time watching Netflix. The next morning, I started gliding along south Scottsdale’s bike lanes under cloudy skies.

And damn, it was nice! I rode up the canal on 64th Street to Indian School, and found a mile snarl getting across the street.

Then, I was on the new canal path. Ahhh, if bike commuting can be this good, sign me up for more!

Well, that feeling only lasted until just east of 56th Street when the pavement ended. Oh, hey! What a coincidence that this right about the Scottsdale/Phoenix border. Grrr. I just rode the dirt to 56th, took a left and cruised up Lafayette. That’s a decent ride. Not many cars, and a good chance to maintain a nice rhythm.

But the problem comes at 44th Street. Phoenix recognizes this as a bikeway. Yet it provides no safe way for bicyclists to cross 44th Street. Oh, and 44th has no bike lanes. It’s up to us to find a break in traffic, then we have to use the sidewalk (because that’s just not a safe street without bike lanes) to reach Campbell before we turn west. It’s one of my least-favorite parts of today’s ride, and part of why I think bike commuting sucks in Phoenix. It represents so many other half-assed executions of half-assed plans.

I got through unscathed, and it was fairly smooth sailing … until 32nd Street. The road there is torn up for some task I couldn’t discern. The construction squeezes north/south traffic to one lane each direction, and cars can’t cross from the east or west. Bicycles and pedestrians can … legally, even.

Once I got across that snarl, I was onto Campbell. That was great until I approached 24th Street. I had to figure out how to enter my building’s parking garage. There is not a single bike lane leading to the building at 24th and Highland. I don’t want to ride in the street along 24th, and people drive like savages on Highland despite the 30-mile-per-hour speed limit. It’s really no place for bike commuting.

I settled onto taking Campbell a few blocks west past 24th, hooking north, crossing Highland and riding down the north sidewalk into the building. Hardly optimum bike commuting, but it’s what I had to work with.

There, I went into our handy locker room where I stashed toiletries and a change of clothes. I was ready to use one of the three shower stalls. I opened the first, and found that the plumbing fixtures were ripped out. Same with the second. The third still had fixtures, but no water flowed. Funny, considering how much money the building management spent on prettying up the entrance from the parking garage to the offices – right down to leather couches and an LCD television that nobody ever watches. The only other showers in the building are locked down, with very few keys available. And I was too early to work to possibly find one.

I just used my towels to clean up as best as I could, threw on some deodorant and headed to upstairs to my office.

That’s a whole lot of crap to go through to bike commute to work. Phoenix and Maricopa County make a lot of pro-alternative transit noise … but I see so few consistent, measurable advances (Step 1? Fine the shit out of companies that don’t provide adequate locker and shower facilities). Until bike lanes quit disappearing – until they link in a sensible manner – until people can stay safe … bike commuting in Phoenix will continue to be only for a small fringe of the work force.

I’ll probably do more bike commuting – it’s a great way to get some exercise. But the Phoenix-area bike infrastructure will continue to be my biggest obstacle.

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