The city of Phoenix bike program has had a higher budget than originally planned for the past two fiscal years thanks to extra funding, but the program may not see any extra money next year.
When it was created two years ago, the bike program had a set budget of $50,000 per year. In 2011, the program enjoyed a windfall of an extra $50,000 and another $40,000 in 2012, according to Thomas Godbee, deputy street transportation director of Phoenix. However, the budget will likely go down to the original $50,000 amount for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to Street Transportation Department spokesman Sina Matthes.
Advocacy groups like the Environmental Quality Commission feel the program should receive more funding. Kate Gallego, the commission chairwoman, said the bike program is still one of the smallest parts of the Street Transportation Department, even with the extra money.
“Street transportation spends millions of dollars on highway cleanup, so $100,000 is really insignificant in comparison,” Gallego said. She also said the city has an incomplete bike network, and therefore needs more bike lanes.
Eliseo Romero, manager of Slippery Pig Bike Shop on Central and Turney avenues in midtown, also feels that there aren’t enough bike lanes in Phoenix, which can cause safety hazards for bicyclists. He estimated the shop sees about a couple customers per month who come in for bike repairs due to crashes, some of which are caused by lack of road space. He said that on Wednesday evening a customer came in with a scraped knee and broken tire from falling after being run off the road.
Mark Blei, an employee at Slippery Pig and a volunteer for Rusty Spoke Community Bicycle Collective, said the city has potential to be more bike-friendly.
“It’s not at the moment because it isn’t convenient (to bike),” Blei said. “It seems people are getting more acclimated to the bike culture we have here.”
Still, some streets are less bike-friendly than others. On Central Avenue, outside the Slippery Pig, there are no bike lanes. They begin north of the shop, at Camelback, Romero said.
According to Godbee, the city is currently working to remedy the absence of lanes with a project that will extend the Central Avenue bike lanes. The money for the project comes from the bike program’s budget.
Not all bike-related developments are paid for out of the bike program’s pocket. For example, the city’s arts commission is providing the funding for new bike racks, Gallego said.
Still, the Environmental Quality Commission is advising that more attention be paid to the bike program. The commission’s Bicycle Initiative Subcommittee wrote a letter to Street Transportation Director Wylie Bearup promoting the bike program and urging the department to increase its funding.
“Without adequate funding,” the letter said, “we believe the Bike Program and implementation of policies such as Complete Streets will not be effective.”
The letter listed benefits of biking, including that it “reduces air pollution, carbon emissions, and traffic congestion as well as supports local business and enhances quality of life for the city as a whole.”
Godbee said the department agrees that the bike program is important and hopes to grow the budget, but extra money is not always available.
“You have to remember, if you give more money to the bike program, it’s taken out of something else,” Godbee said.
For now, the bike program is looking at a budget of $50,000 next year, but according to Godbee there is still a chance that extra funds could be added depending on what next year’s budget has room for.
Blei feels support for biking can increase with more community involvement.
“The more people get behind the bike movement, the more other people are encouraged to ride their bikes,” Blei said.
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