Gary Fisher, the father of mountain biking and more recently one of the most vocal advocates for utility cycling, said more needed to be done in Tucson to encourage people to ride their bikes for transportation during a panel at BICAS on Tuesday.

The panel was part of a two-day fundraiser for Living Streets Alliance, which culminates with a community bike ride tonight.

Fisher who has been racing bikes for 50 years said his passion for utility cycling formed when he visited european cities as a racer and saw how bikes were integrated into the transportation system.

“For years I’ve wanted to see this and finally we are getting people in the United States,” Fisher said. It is an incredible grassroots movement. It’s about quality of life and we know that [bicycling] brings it to every human that it touches. That’s why I am here.”

Fisher has become much more vocal in the last few years.

“I decided I wasn’t going to live forever and nobody was going to do it for me so I had better do it,” he said about his increased advocacy.

Fisher has ridden around Tucson during his visit and likes what he sees, but says Tucson can do more.

“Tucson has a tremendous amount of paint on the roads, a lot of signs and everything, but man it can use more,” he said. “There are 56 miles of routes along the levees and man that is like tranquility and it’s great, but it doesn’t exactly connect to where people want to go. I imagine a safe route for a kid that blasts right through the middle of a block.”

As for converting Tucson’s numerous recreational cyclists to utility cyclists, Fisher said the first thing advocates need to do is recognize them and their desires. He said recreational riders want to go fast and building routes that doesn’t allow them to go fast isn’t going to get them to ride their bike to work.

“People want to be, more than anything else, acknowledged, Fisher said. “Advocates, acknowledge the racers. Racers will then acknowledge you. It is a two way street. We need to bring those guys in, absolutely.”

Fisher said he is excited about the future.

“What is the hardest thing to change in this world,” Fisher asked? “It’s that gray matter between the ears. That is what we have to work on.  That is why I am so excited about all the young people that get, that really get it. 20 year olds, 30 year olds, they’ve said, ‘Hey wait a minute, we’ve been lied to. This system doesn’t work, but I know this bike works and it is a friendly, simple little invention that I can have myself.’ Man they are getting it.”

He said traveling around and meeting people had kept him invigorated.

“Every sector of the country has got people that understand what we are bringing to our society and that is why I have really gotten excited about it, Fisher said. “We totally believe in the American system that if we attend and we show up and we make ourselves heard and known that we will prevail. I still believe in our system even though it is a bit of a mess at this moment I know that we shall overcome this.”

Fisher is leading a ride benefitting Living Streets Alliance tomorrow evening. Get all the details here.

5 thoughts on “Gary Fisher: Tucson needs to do more for utility cyclists”
  1. I’m glad to see that Gary Fisher is focusing on the importance of utility cycling. I’m sick to death of wanna-be racers who drive an hour from some place like Oro Valley and park by LeBuzz to ride up Mt. Lemmon. The wanna-bes then insult casual riders who aren’t decked out in euro wear and riding expensive rigs. If you want to drive more than you ride, that’s your choice, but recognize what you’re doing and take a more humble approach to your fellow rider.

  2. Works both ways, this being critical/insulting of different types/groups of bike riders. I once read a comment by a “fixie” rider condemning riders of single speed bikes w/ free wheels.
    i think there is a better chance of increasing the number of commuters by convincing the recreational/road bike riders than trying to convince non-bike riders … and you won’t be convincing the recreational/road bike riders to commute by insulting them.
    Bike riders are bike riders, regardless of type of bike or style of dress. Don’t assume that whatever style you embrace is the only true style.

  3. Agree Randy,
    Just as we don’t like drivers to think all cyclists are bad based on the actions of a few, we can’t let negative interactions with a small set of riders divide us – many utility cyclists (myself included) started out and continue to ride for sport/fitness in our ‘euro wear’. At the end of the day, we all desire/need/benefit from improved infrastructure and challenging the auto-centric.

  4. It should be mentioned that Gary’s comments are in line with the League of American Bicyclists’ recommendations for Tucson. Every trip by bike is a trip not made by car — whether it be for pleasure, sport or transportation. But until we focus on really getting folks to use their bikes for the short, less than 2 miles, trips we aren’t going to achieve Platinum status and we aren’t going to see the dramatic improvements a community with 5 or 6% bike commuter rates enjoys. For more than a decade now we’ve seen that paint on roads is not enough to entice interested but concerned, would-be cyclists. We need to get serious about doing more to lower speeds on our roads and offer a connected network of appealing alternatives to riding on major arterials.

  5. I believe that the ‘interested but concerned’ group is more concerned than interested and find it interesting that Gary’s slant is on getting recreational riders to commute.
    Here, Here to that.
    I think educating rather than facilitating people about their concern and relying on the existing riders to peak their interest will result in a more committed cycling base.
    And really, isn’t the 4th/Fontana boulevard mostly paint?
    Gary is saying, “Look to recreational riders for what people like to ride on.”
    It is so indicative of Tucson that some of the most direct and useful routes for utility cycling are the ones in the most incident-evoking condition.

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