City to spend $1.5M for bike improvements

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(Alexis Macklin/DD)

Bicyclists will be able to ride the streets of downtown Phoenix more safely as the city funds infrastructure improvement for the new bike-share program. (Alexis Macklin/DD)

Bicyclists will be able to breathe a sigh of fresh air as the city focuses on more bike-friendly streets in collaboration with the new bike-share program starting December.

The city of Phoenix will spend $1.5 million to improve bicycling infrastructure and fuel the new bike-share program for this fiscal year, city officials said.

With $500,000 earmarked explicitly for the bike-share program, Phoenix gears up for a transformative project, said Colin Tetreault, city of Phoenix senior policy adviser for sustainability.

“Phoenix is trying to get to a place where when you think Phoenix, you think bicycles,” said city of Phoenix Environmental Programs Manager Philip McNeely.

The Phoenix bike-share program will launch at the end of December through CycleHop, an organization that helps plan and organize bike-share programs.

The program will reduce the distance from a cyclist’s residence to the transit stop and the distance from the transit stop to their destination, CycleHop’s planning consultant Matthew Christensen said.

“Bike share is sold as the solution to the ‘first and last mile issue’ of transit,” he said.

But only a few streets — such as Jefferson and Washington streets — have the bicycle lanes to support the program so far. However, these existing lanes do not span the full length of the streets.

Christensen said ideally, bicycle infrastructure would be in place to facilitate bike use before the program begins.

The city of Phoenix Master Plan, available March 31, 2014, will address the bike lane issue, according to McNeely.

Traffic engineering supervisor Scott Logan said that high-traffic streets need bike lanes to protect cyclists, while local streets with low traffic will not.

Phoenix’s high-traffic streets such as First and Central avenues will likely receive bike lanes and the lanes on Jefferson and Washington will likely be extended, according to Logan.

“The bike share helps position Phoenix to be one of the top cities as an urban metropolis,” Tetreault said. “It provides choice and opportunity for all our citizens so they’re not encumbered to one form of transportation or another.”

The bike share is meant to complement Phoenix’s existing transit systems through policy including strategic placement of bike stops near light rail stops to extend the metro system’s reach, McNeely said.

Light rail passengers can ride bike-share bikes to destinations too far to walk from the light rail stop itself, Christensen said. The system could encourage people to forgo cars.

“Downtown is a very unique living situation. With this resurgence of downtowns across U.S., we see that young professionals are finding everything they need in these dense urban areas,” he said. “If you’re able to cut out the need for a car by using a bike-share bike, it becomes a question of dollars and cents.”

The community has supported the bike-share program and recognizes it as an amenity for the city, Christensen said.

Phoenix is neither the first city to adopt bike share nor the first to recognize its potential economic benefits.

A study from the Nice Ride bike-share system in Minnesota showed that out of a data set of 2,000 respondents, each trip via the bike share generated an average of $7 in economic activity for local businesses.

“Economic development is driven by improvement, and the bike program is a massive downtown improvement,” Pedal Craft spokeswoman Dorina Bustamante said. “The whole bottom line is making Phoenix a destination location.”

Contact the reporter at katherine.sitter@asu.edu