By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
Finding parking in Downtown Phoenix can be expensive and time consuming. The area around City Hall is full of parking meters that charge $1.50 per hour requiring change and the parking garages charging far more. To relieve this pressure the city has encouraged alternate transportation with light rail stops near Chase Stadium, ASU downtown and City Hall. There are also programs to help pay for employee bus passes and promote carpooling. Mass transit and carpooling are effective at reducing the need for parking and the level of pollution created somewhat. However, this does little to encourage humans to improve their health. One local group, Downtown Bicycle Action Group, has formed around the idea of solutions that would reduce pollution even more, promote exercise and take far less space than a vehicle by suggesting the city promote biking around downtown.
Currently the City of Phoenix Bike Subcommittee has a budget of roughly $50,000 a year mainly for use to create and maintain bike lanes. The budget is far below many smaller cities. With the City of Phoenix having expanded education, arts and sport opportunities downtown many feel it should invest in bikes next. The rapid growth Phoenix has seen in recent decades suggests a need for cheap transport and compact parking. To make this happen the city might need to expand the number of bike racks, and increase security for bikes near locks and bike storage. One suggestion that has been proposed is to establish a bike rental program like what has been established in cities such as Boston and Denver. The idea is that one would use a credit card to rent a bike at designated places throughout downtown Phoenix.
Bike repairs are often inexpensive, no pollution is created and bike riding encourages exercise. As the population keeps growing, obesity rates have increased and medical expenses are on the rise the city must find ways to promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for it’s citizens.
Pushing for increased bike funding in Phoenix several locals formed the Downtown Bicycle Action Group. They had their first meeting Sunday, December 2nd to try to figure out the best ways to address expanding the cities current programs.
Anna Kristina, one of the group organizers, explained “Cyclists already know the benefits of riding a bike. We live them! The purpose behind our group is to raise awareness of our presence on the road and within the community. Many potential riders in Phoenix choose not to ride for fear of accidents with motorists. As someone who rides every day, I can tell you, Phoenix can be a scary place to ride a bike. So instead of adding more cars to the road, we want to bring more awareness to the community that cyclists are here. We CHOOSE to ride a bike, not because we have to, but because we WANT to. Now it’s up to each of us to respect each other’s presence on the road. D.B.A.G. hopes to do this in many ways. Ultimately we’d like to see more and better maintained bike lanes, and bike racks. More group rides and bike festivals throughout the community. As well as increased education. Our meetings are for bringing these ideas together, and for taking action.”
The Downtown Bicycle Action Group has discussed becoming a formal group for change with a mission statement, legal name and a board of directors. They plan to continue meeting the first Sunday of each month at different downtown locations and build teamwork thru group rides. One of the ways D.B.A.G would like to promote their mission is by participating in local bicycle events like the upcoming San Tan Wheelie Jam next March.
D.B.A.G. will host its first group ride on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 p.m., and is inviting members of the community to attend. The group will meet under the bridge at Margaret T. Hance Park at 4:30 p.m. and will depart at 5 p.m. The ride will end at The Duce for D.B.A.G.’s second official meeting at 6 p.m.
Influencing city policy is a slow battle and hard work but Anna believes “that this city would be a happier, healthier place to live if more of us got on a bicycle just a couple times a week. There is no better way to experience this town than riding a bike with friends on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.”