Despite an intense effort by government officials throughout the Tucson and Pima County region, Tucson was not upgraded to a platinum community by the League of American Bicyclists, who announced the award this morning.
Tucson remains a gold level community and will not be able to apply for an upgrade until 2016.
LAB president Andy Clarke said safety issues and low ridership numbers were the biggest factors in their decision to keep Tucson as a gold community.
“Tucson’s numbers don’t stack up when it comes to bumping the region up into the platinum category,” Clarke said.
He said the number of people riding to work in Tucson is much lower than the three platinum communities. The three U.S. cities with platinum status are Davis, Calif., Portland, Ore. and Boulder, Colo.
“There isn’t a magic number that we have set as a threshold, what we have done is looked at the communities that have made platinum and gone back and looked at what their levels of use are.”
In Davis 21 percent of the people ride to work. In Boulder the number is 10-12 percent and in Portland, eight percent ride bikes to work. About three percent of Tucsonans ride to work.
He said the LAB took into account the strong recreational ridership in Tucson.
“We understand — and it was well explained — that journeys to work may not be the best number for us to use when looking at Tucson so we took into account that fact,” Clarke said.”Still the documented level of use we see on the ground in Tucson just isn’t quite there. On a more anecdotal level, when you go to a place like Boulder, when you go to a place like Davis, when you go to a place like Portland, you can’t avoid, but see and feel and behave like you are in place where bicycling is at the core of the community. We are not sure that large swaths of the Tucson region are yet in the same category.”
Safety was also a concern.
“Clearly things are getting better and the safety numbers are improving every year, but again compared to the platinum level we have seen in other communities, the crash record is not as good as we woud like to see,” Clarke said.
Pima Association of Governments planner Ann Chanecka, who led the platinum application committee, said she wasn’t shocked by the decisions.
“Everyone was pretty mixed about it and saw reasons we could potentially be upgraded, but it is still hard to do that and so I think people weren’t sure one way or another,” she said.
Chanecka said there are some good things to take away from the decision.
“I think what they are telling us is that we are great,” Chanecka said. “They are acknowledging how much we have done to accomodate and make our region more bike friendly and at the same time to be the best in the country there is still a ways to go.”
Clarke said Tucson’s application was the most well-done application they have ever seen.
“For the last eight years there has been no community that has put more into the application, into the process, into responding to the feedback we have given. The completeness of the application, the amazing things the community has been doing collectively is honestly second to none,” he said. “The application, the process, the committees, etc… is still the poster child for the rest of the program and the rest of the country. We honestly feel kind of awful that we can’t give the platinum award just for effort.”
Do you think Tucson deserves to be a Platinum city?