Community talks bike-sharing initiative, transit readiness at Downtown Devil Discussions

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Photos by Courtney Pedroza and Alexandra Scoville

Phoenix is about to join other major cities in launching a bike-share program as an alternative to driving cars by the end of the year, and bicycle advocates believe it will improve alternative transportation in Phoenix.

“I know a year back, people looked at me crazy as I’d ride through traffic and one-way streets, like, ‘What’s going on? How is he doing that?’” Kinesiology sophomore Aaron Tornow said. “Now I don’t get as many crazy looks, which is an indicator of a change of mentality — and that’s where it all starts.”

Tornow, a BikeForce bicycle courier, joined John Romero, Cyclehop representative and Tempe-based Bicycle Cellar co-founder; Jeremy Stapleton, Phoenix Bicycle Initiative Subcommittee chair and Environmental Quality Commission chair; and Lisa Parks, Phoenix Spokes People organizer, to kick off the fall Downtown Devil Discussions series at First Amendment Forum of the Walter Cronkite building Tuesday night.

The consensus in the cyclist community revolves around a select few issues. The panelists agreed that if bike sharing can be implemented in an accessible, comfortable and safe manner, the public is likely to be more receptive to these transportation alternatives.

“We also need to create safe crossings — that’s one thing we need to take care of to create a great bikeway. It doesn’t take much to make a really good place to ride,” Parks said. “Even in the last year, I’ve seen a big increase in people riding their bikes out. It’s becoming popular everywhere.”

In the last year, the community of cyclists has begun to show up at city budget meetings, Stapleton said.

“Because the pressure was there, they went out and found [the money],” Stapleton explained. “As burdensome as it can be, that’s the number one thing you can do: Show up at meetings.”

About $1.5 million were allocated out of the city’s Arizona Highway User Revenue Funds to the bike-sharing program in response to the pressure the community placed on the city. However, with new City Council elections coming up, the food tax may be taken away, which might be bad news for the bike community, Stapleton said. While bike sharing is not relying on the next round of City Council elections to stay alive, if the food tax is cut, the city may have to use funds for other issues besides bicycle infrastructure.

“If we can get other options on the ground like bike sharing … what it does is it starts to build that market and demand,” Stapleton said. “There’s a lot of talk about transit-oriented building and transit-oriented neighborhoods, but what we also need to talk about are transit-ready neighborhoods.”

Correction: Sept. 25, 2013

A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Jeremy Stapleton, Phoenix Bicycle Initiative Subcommittee chair and Environmental Quality Commission chair and wrongly attributed a quotation to John Romero, co-founder of Tempe-based Bike Cellar.

A previous version of this article also wrongly stated that the city of Phoenix’s food tax funded the $1.5 million that will be used to improve bicycle infrastructure and fuel the bike-share program.

Contact the reporter at Kelsey.Hess@asu.edu

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