Urban planning officials in Tempe, Arizona are striving to keep pace with cyclists in town. According to a report by the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group that grants communities the title of Bicycle Friendly Community, the city is trailing behind neighboring Scottsdale in bicycle friendliness.
Tempe is home to Arizona State University, and as a college town, their cycling numbers should be higher. The Tour de Fat, New Belgium’s bicycle parade, has been held in Tempe many times, and has a high-visibility in terms of bicycle advocacy. The Tempe Bicycle Advocacy Group (T.B.A.G.) hosts many events to encourage cycling, and Tempe is home to many Bicycle Friendly Businesses, as certified by the League of American Bicyclists. So why is Tempe given only a Silver rating, as compared to Scottsdale’s Gold rating?
Scottsdale’s bicycle element of its Transportation Master Plan highlights its 440 miles of bikeways, which are often multi-use paths along the edge of Central Arizona Project canals. Tempe’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan, on the other hand, points out that there are only 165 miles of bikeways in Tempe. Meanwhile, Phoenix is nowhere to be found on either list, despite their 500 miles of bikeways, which is perhaps to be blamed on their sprawling urban design. As a student at Arizona State University, I can say that Tempe is much easier to bike in than Phoenix or even Scottsdale, but Tempe may need a more comprehensive branding solution (as in Portland, Oregon), or even more online visibility through rating websites.
Walkscore, a popular website for rating cities on walkability, has recently added a Bikescore metric that evaluates cities based upon their bike friendliness. As of now, the top ten list of cities is the only evaluation of any cities, but they are working with urban planners to increase their database. The only Arizona city on this list is Tucson, Arizona, which is rated number 8 in the nation.
Should there be another rating tool for cycling? Will more broad rating systems help?
Credits: Photographs by James Gardner. Data linked to sources.