I show John and Jonathan the pavement fix the city implemented on Fourth Avenue. Photo by John Greenfield GridChicago.com

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of showing John Greenfield, a blogger for GridChicago.com, and his friend Jonathan some of Tucson’s bike amenities.

We kept the ride relatively short. You can see the route below. We started at 4th Avenue and University and finished their 2o miles or so later.

What struck me while riding around with the out-of-towners was this: Tucson is better than I give it credit for and we don’t have a national reputation.

John mentioned several times how surprised and impressed he was by our infrastructure and the number of people he saw out on bikes. Here is what he wrote in his post on GridChicago.com

Earlier this month my buddy Jonathan and I spent a week visiting our friend Lauren in Tucson, Arizona, and I was a little surprised by just how bicycle-friendly a town it is. This college town of 520,000 people (roughly one million metro) was recently rated the 9th best city for biking by Bicycling magazine, one notch above Chicago, so I knew it was a good place to pedal. But this city in the Sonoran desert, surrounded by saguaro cactus-covered mountains has more going for it than just cloudless skies and inspiring nearby destinations for road and mountain bike excursions. Central Tucson has a blossoming bike culture and some excellent infrastructure, including a great network of bicycle boulevards, which our city would do well to emulate.

I’m not sure why Tucson isn’t on people’s radar much these days. Perhaps it has to do with cities like Chicago, New York and Minneapolis investing more money in cycling and having more outspoken political leadership than Tucson. Or perhaps it’s that Tucson is still viewed as the wild west where people continue to use a horse and buggy to  get around on dirt roads.

Maybe that will change if the League of American Bicyclists decides to rank Tucson as a platinum city in May. It will be really interesting to see what the LAB decides and how persuasive the report writers are in making a case that our larger number of recreational riders should push us over the edge.

If the LAB remains committed to cycling for transportation and remains concerned about our bicycle crash data, it will be difficult for them to award us platinum.

Another encounter solidified the fact that Tucson is not seen as a cycling city my many. I was being interviewed by a reporter for a story. The reporter was in Ohio and was shocked that Tucson boasted such a robust cycling community.

I really enjoyed hearing John and Jonathan’s perspective on our city’s cycling community and infrastructure. It’s good once in a while to have someone remind you about all the great things our community has done for cycling as opposed to what we could be doing better.

Be sure to read the entire post on GridChicago.com

6 thoughts on “Tucson lacks national bike-friendly reputation”
  1. Great post Mike and I completely agree with you.  I’m not quite sure why we’re often left out of the national spotlight for our cycling infrastructure and programs.  I keep trying to get Streetfilms out here as I think it would really help to have a couple catchy short films highlighting the great stuff going on (or could be a real good UA project for some ambitious journalism students!).  I sense the tide is turning though as I’ve seen a few national articles lately that cite Tucson’s efforts – one is here: http://www.governing.com/blogs/by-the-numbers/bicycle-commuter-data-for-american-cities.html

    It’s a shame we didn’t get selected as one of the  “Green Lane” Project cities as their focus was on innovative infrastructure for transportation purposes.

    We will know soon about Bike Friendly Community Designation status. 

  2. Tucson lacks a bike friendly reputation because Tucson lacks ANY reputation.  I don’t know how many times I had to remind out-of-town friends and family members that I lived in Tucson, and not Phoenix. The only thing people remember about Tucson (and Arizona in general really) is that we’re a gun-friendly state where our senators get shot and that we pass racist anti-immigration laws.

  3. Well, the Old Pueblo is not a huge population center nor a huge media center.  Though it does have a great big U which happens to be the center of gravity of bike infrastructure improvement. And the improvements are, well, improvements–good things. But it’s easy, low-hanging fruit in a densely populated area.

    If standing out from the pack is the end-all, be-all overriding goal for some reason, one way to do that is recognize and work on bikey ways  to mitigate the transpo problems that urban/suburban sprawl here and elsewhere create.

    Ann Chanecka’s Pima Association of Governments and various other entities show little serious interest in integrating bikes with public transit, bike-car pooling, etc.

    Oh yes, hanging bike racks on the front of buses is easy; any city in the pack can do that and they all have. And most any city can paint sections of its roadway green.

  4.  We focus on what needs to be improved . Outsiders get to take in everything that’s been done.
    Tucson’s progress is slow and steady….not the kind most impressive to selection committees.
    I look at it this way….Tucson’s not really a platinum city in any way you care to rank it,  but the closest aspect it has to platinum is its bicycle community.
    I’m  OK with that.

  5. I suggest you make your own film in the Streetfilms style and send it to them, or post it here on Tucson Velo and get friendly blogs to repost it (like Grid Chicago, where I’m John’s co-author). 

  6. I visit the Phoenix valley quite often because my dad and his extended family live there. Biking in Mesa is crap, Tempe okay in some places, and Tucson was dreamy compared to Phoenix valley. 

    I really like Tucson’s separated, off-street paths and sidewalks that reminded me of the way the Dutch design their separated bikeways. 

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