Thivener and his daughter Saskia Shen-Thivener lead a ride highlighting future bicycle boulevards.

The City of Tucson will soon be without a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.

Tom Thivener, the man who has filled that posistion for the last five years, accepted a position in Calgary, Canada.

Thivener said May 18, will be his last day with the City of Tucson. He will begin his new job heading up the bicycle division of Calgary’s transportation department on June 4.

Thivener, who went to college in Canada said he had always wanted to return there.

“I hadn’t been looking very hard, but this opening caught my eye and the opportunity to do some of the things I really want to do is available,” he said. “They have the resources to get it done and the political will with an aggressive plan. Put it all together and lo and behold it is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

He said Calgary has created an aggressive plan to add bike lanes, cycle tracks, bike boulevards and a bike share throughout the city, which has a footprint similar to Phoenix but much more dense.

He said right now there is practically no on-street bike infrastructure, but the planning stage has been completed and it’s time to start implementing the bikeways.

“When it comes down to on-street facilities they really haven’t done anything yet so it is kind of a blank slate,” he said.

Thivener is leaving his position in Tucson at a time when he has seen 25 percent of his time shifted away from bicycle and pedestrian programs to other planning tasks, his improvement budget reduced to nothing and his staff assigned to other departments.

Ian Johnson, the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Chair, said the loss of Thivener is a real blow to the city.

“We are going to miss Tom,” Johnson said. “He has been a real inspiration for us. He has done so much good work bringing new kinds of facilities and expanding the possibilities for what we can do in our city.”

Thivener, right, speaks with Tucson residents about bicycle boulevards at an open house.

Johnson said the BAC would encourage the city to make replacing Thivener a priority in addition to pushing for more resources for the new coordinator.

“It will be a real challenge to make sure none of the projects he was working on will be dropped or delayed because of the lack of staffing,” he said. “We certainly owe him a lot for the things he has been able to get done in the last five years.”

Tony Paez the interim transportation director said they are taking the hiring very seriously and will miss Thivener.

“We are going to go national to recruit because this is a very key position and Tom was quite an asset for us,” Paez said. “All the way up to the city manager’s office it is felt. It is a big loss to the City of Tucson and the surrounding community.”

Thivener said he enjoyed his time here and will miss Tucson.

“I’ve loved the challenges,” he said. “I’ve never backed away from a fight. It has all worked to progress Tucson as a bike friendly community. We have a long way to go and we need to be a lot more inclusive for who we are designing for.”

He said he is most proud of reinvigorating bicycle commuting in Tucson. He said before he came to Tucson the community was dominated by recreational riding and there was a belief that bicycle commuting wasn’t realistic.

“I think we’ve broken down those barriers,” he said.

He cited a more inclusive BAC that included biking families, younger people and utilitarian cyclists as evidence of that. He also said we are starting to see an increase in bike commuters around the city.

He said he has some regrets too.

“I think I regret not being able to complete more of the network of bike boulevards, Thivener said. “Clearly that is going to be the main tool to get more people cycling.”

Thivener said Tucson has some big decisions ahead of itself.

“Tucson is definitely at a crossroads and the bike pedestrian program is just one small part of that,” he said. “I am confident they will refill the position and progress will continue but there are bigger questions to be answered to determine Tucson’s future.”



17 thoughts on “City’s bike/ped coordinator leaving for Canada”
  1. I wish Tom the best and congratulate him on his new position, but this is terrible news for us.  I appreciated his focus on the utility cyclist and on addressing the need for safe cycling spaces like Bike Boulevards.  His will be big shoes to fill for the next person.

    The only upside is that I am sure he will do wonderful things for cyclists in Calgary.  Isn’t it like 40 below most of the year in Calgary?

  2. This is a big deal. Contact the city and the BAC, and support Living Streets Alliance to push the city in finding someone to pick up the good work already done.

    With the new mayor pushing his “180 Day Plan” right now, there needs to be a lot of clamoring until the shoes are properly filled. I hope the mayor has utility cycling on his mind after his bumpy bike ride last month.

    Either way, this is a wake up call and warning bell to cycling citizens of Tucson. Our eyes and ears need to be open, and voices need to be ready without someone to internally advocate for things like bike boulevard funding, etc etc…

  3. This part of the article says it all:

    Thivener is leaving his position in Tucson at a time when he has seen 25
    percent of his time shifted away from bicycle and pedestrian programs
    to other planning tasks, his improvement budget reduced to nothing and
    his staff assigned to other departments.

    Tells you everything you need to know about how the city views bicycle transportation. Unless we rise up and start advocating forcefully, that’s how things will remain.

  4. Tom Thivener did a lot to turn things around utility-cycling-wise in the Old Pueblo and worked with diminishing resources.

    But note that two critical positions remain unfilled in Tucson: City Manager, and Transportation Director.

  5. Heh, Heh…Tom, see you next March!
    Actually, I hear people in Calgary vacation in Saskatoon.

  6. Congratulations Tom! Thanks for all your work in making Tucson a better bike community – best of luck in Calgary!

    Canada – America’s hat!

  7. Mr. Thivener,

    Are you available for a radio interview today?

    Des Kilfoil or Collen Underwood
    Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

    403-521-6067, 6222

  8. Tom.  The city of Calgary and all of our commuter cyclists are excited to meet you.  I hope you will enjoy this challenge.

  9. Calgary is so excited that you are coming as our new Cycling Coordinator. Be sure to link up with the good folks at Bike Calgary — they are great people and wonderful advocates.

  10. He’s been in Calgary for a couple of years now and has been successful in making almost a million people hate him and the 300 people that bicycle in this city.
    Please take him back!

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