I can only imagine that there’s some Ron Swanson-like city employee who is absolutely monkey-wrenching any opportunity to make biking in Scottsdale better than it is. That’s my conclusion after my latest attempt to put in some hard miles in hot weather. I’ve felt this way about Scottsdale before, but I think some of the incredible cycling infrastructure I’ve seen while traveling has spoiled me and made me even more of a malcontent with Scottsdale’s cycling amenities.
Here are a few unbelievably dumb things I’ve noticed about biking in Scottsdale.
Haphazard Sections of Bike Lanes
One moment, you’re on a street with a fine bike lane. Then, it disappears. Maybe a few miles, it will reappear. My least-favorite examples are 68th Street near Thomas, and Mountain View further north. Mountain View is particularly infuriating because of the open hostility from drivers. I had a really hard time swinging back west from 120th Street – no bike lanes and high speeds on Via Linda make for a nervous guy on a road bike.
Bike lanes need to connect. I encourage the city to identify priority bike routes, and make sure there are consistent east/west and north/south avenues at decent intervals. It would be also be nice to have some separate-from-traffic and roads paths that take advantage of existing structures. I’m thinking of the canals. There shouldn’t be so much as an inch of canal that doesn’t have an asphalt bike-friendly path on it – especially the huge Central Arizona Project canal. It would allow riders to go nonstop nearly as long as some of the rails-to-trails projects I saw in Minnesota.
Another important point: As far as cyclists and drivers are concerned, “Bike Routes” mean nothing. Drivers view cyclists as interlopers, and cyclists feel the risk and the wrath. The MAG Bikeways map should’ve even be allowed to list so-called “Bike Routes.”
Scottsdale loves to point to its Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt as a classy cycling amenity. If you’re on a fat-tired bike and leisurely riding for a mile, it’s not so bad. The seamed concrete sections, though, will start driving you crazy in short order if you’re moving at a decent clip – especially on a road bike. I would love it if, as the concrete wears out, Scottsdale would start replacing old sections with asphalt. It is a far better ride, and nicer for all user groups from strollers to walkers to in-line skaters (assuming they still exist).
The Bike Stop
Scottsdale built this thing called The Thomas Road Bike Stop. It looks very nice with its meandering aggregate stone paths. But why exactly it’s billed as a “bike stop” is beyond me. A bike stop should have amenities for cyclists – like maybe an air chuck for topping off tires. Definitely multiple water fountains dispensing cold water (Scottsdale has a problem with this concept, as we’ll see in another section). The smart way to make this a true bike stop would be to have a roof over a section of the bike path. Connected to that structure and in the shade, you have a air for the tires, bathrooms and water fountains. And lose the ridiculous meandering paths and the stone aggregate. Anything associated with cycling should be asphalt.
And let’s not forget that it’s literally separated from the Greenbelt bike lane. It really should’ve been built down toward the bottom.
Hot Water On Tap
Arizona, you may have heard, is a sunny place. So why there are so few water stops along the bike lanes and Greenbelt absolutely flabbergasts me. Those that do exist are in direct sunlight, and the water comes out hot enough to brew beer.
Even worse, Scottsdale places these offset from the bike lanes and Greenbelt. In some cases, you need to backtrack to get to the water. This is because Scottsdale wanted things to Look Nice® because it is America’s Most Look Nice® City. It’s all about design, and damn the user experience. Solution: Think about the users more than the aesthetics on future projects. Think about how current amenities could be better from the users’ view.
This is a tough one that the city can’t do much about. A few rides ago, I approached a guy and gave him an audible “bike behind, passing left.” He ignored that, and two more warnings. He drifted left toward me as I was about to pass, and I gave him a drill instructor bark that he won’t forget. I hope. And there are all sorts of things like oncoming riders drifting into my lane for no reason. Golf carts that don’t obey their stop signs. Drivers not looking around when I’m crossing with the right of way. Cyclists riding two abreast and hindering traffic in both directions. Runners are largely pretty good.
I advocate for separate pedestrian and cycling lanes like I saw in Helsinki. That will at least head off some of the user conflicts.
I also can’t believe how many people are riding without helmets these days. A few years ago, it seemed like everyone was helmeted and reflector-ed up. Not so anymore. There is no reason to not wear a helmet. None. I blame the hipsters.
Don’t Get Me Started on “Money”
I know that money will be the city’s excuse. Consider the unneeded Look Nice® landscaping features built into the reconstruction of the medians on Thomas Road. That’s exactly the sort of mindless, meaningless overspending that pulls funds from worthwhile projects. Because Scottsdale loves to Look Nice®.
Maybe it’s just time for me to get on some sort of city committee to try and make things better. I’m certainly not convinced that any city employee can make improve anything. It’s been my experience that city governments can spin info from spreadsheets to show that hey, they’re doing a great job because look at all the awards and recognition and applause. The fact is, though, few local cyclists think Scottsdale deserves it. There’s just not enough Kool-Aid to go around.