Tucson Concludes That For All Ages Biking, Paint Isn't Enough
When it entered the 21st century, Tucson was the bike-commuting capital of the United States.
Flat, dry and cool in the mornings and evenings, Arizona's second-largest city has always had a good environment for bike transportation. So after the city started striping bike lanes and installing bike-and-foot-friendly crossings of major streets in the 1980s and 1990s, bike commuting jumped to what was then a very unusual 3 percent of the working population in time for the 2000 Census.
Then other cities, noticing Tucson's success at boosting biking, started improving their own infrastructure — and left Tucson in the dust.
"We've been fortunate that decades ago the city and the region really committed to adding some bicycle infrastructure, so the arterial and collector streets have almost a full bike lane network," said Ann Chanecka, program coordinator for the city's bicycle and pedestrian program. "[But] really until about five years ago, we kept adding bike lanes on busy roads and expecting ridership was going to go up, and we really plateaued at some point. So many people working in Tucson started to look at, OK, so there's a reason people aren't biking on a street that has traffic moving 45 mph and has a five-foot bike lane."
Now, Tucson is working to make up for lost time by joining off-street paths, protected bike lanes and bike boulevards into a network of truly comfortable bike routes: ones that feel good on the street rather than just looking good on a map.