“I’ll just start riding and then turn around…right?” I told myself as I dropped down the ramp in an industrial section of South Tucson. It’s a loop, and it’s fifty-three miles. I’ve ridden once in the last month, so a plus fifty might be a bit much. But it’s so nice out, and there is hardly any wind. Why am I the only one riding in this direction? The only one. That can’t be good. Should I have packed toilet paper in my frame pack? And if so, how much?These were the kinds of things percolating through my brain last Saturday when I decided to have a look at The Tucson Loop.
Hats off to any city that invests in cycling infrastructure or any other energy-efficient transportation methodology. We have weaponized politics here in the United States and consequently, the bicycle has fallen prey to things like policy, party and general bigoted lunacy. I’m sure Tucson is laughing all the way to the bank as this place has become a winter cycling haven offering mountain, gravel and road options.
Look, I bag on Tucson a little bit here but the message is that we need to adapt as a species. I don’t see adaptation as a finger-pointing scenario. I see it as an opportunity for you and me and your friends and family and my friends and family to sit and ask “Hey, how do we evolve and make a better, smarter world?” High density, energy-efficient urban dwelling is being adapted around the world and WE need to get on board. If not, what is the alternative? Sprawl? Not everyone wants to live in high-density urbanity but many folks do, so why not find a balance that makes at least some kind of sense. And by the way, I’m not a quitter. Tell me something isn’t doable and I’ll tell you to look at the math in another way.
On a side note, my fitness sucks. I still haven’t figured out what to eat before, during and after rides like this. Especially after. The following day I was so mentally foggy I could barely function and ended up sleeping in the van in a museum parking lot. (The part of #vanlife nobody talks about.)
Now, I do think I know the problem or problems. Not enough food prior, not enough calories during and surely not enough recovery fluid and salt after. I really started to fade at forty miles so I pounded everything I had left. Gels, fluids, wafer, etc. I bounced back but the damage had been done. So, I need to get smart.
Winter in Tucson is a cyclist dream. If you haven’t been, saddle up and get to it.
Sprawl. I just spent a long time in Phoenix. Longer than I anticipated. I’m looking at a move back to that area, and I have very mixed feelings about it. Arizona is a beautiful state, and I’m not trash talking Phoenix. I talked to so many people during my visit who absolutely love it and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. But I realized that I am much happier in environments where I can walk. Walk a lot.
That’s how my neighborhood is in Seattle. And let me address the privileged elephant in the corner straight away – me. I am fortunate to live in that neighborhood, even though I don’t think I’ll be able to do it much longer. I know that for so many people it’s not an option. They have to move further afield, and they don’t like spending a big chunk of their day in cars. But even taking that into account, the neighborhoods in and around Seattle are across the board more walkable than Phoenix.
I grew up in Phoenix in the 70s and 80s. I remember the city voting down one transportation initiative after another. At that time space was available, planners would have had room to work with. But the pain of driving wasn’t there, and it was lessened every few years with another lane, another 101, 202, 302. Sprawl.
I’d love to read some good books on urban planning because I don’t understand the possible solutions. I can’t fault people for wanting a home. That is such a natural and understandable objective. I just wish we’d been smarter along the way. When I left Phoenix, it took me ages to get past that last line of developments and into the open desert. I ran into it again in Las Vegas.
(Again, if anyone reads comments – I’m not dissing anyone for buying a home they can afford. I love hearing about people moving into homes. I just lament that there hasn’t been more emphasis on ensuring those homes are part of healthy communities.)
I covered the press conference in Phoenix the day the city passed Los Angeles in terms of square miles. They held a CELEBRATION. I remember thinking “no, no, no.” Subsidized gasoline is the key here, and extraction domination. I also get wanting to own a home but the definition of home could be many things. Tucson had a light rail. My wife and I said “If we bought here it would be something small on the light rail.” We have to adapt and I don’t see that happening on scale in the US. Other regions, they are already way ahead.
This is going to sound counter intuitive but I’ve never really liked dedicated cycle infrastructure – especially the paved kind as in your photo (I’ve ridden them in Japan, Australia, and the U.K.). Yes it’s much safer but it’s so sterile and boring a lot of the time, and sometimes feels as though the authorities added it as an after thought to keep drivers and cyclists out of each others way simply to keep the peace. And if you don’t use it and ride on the road it gives drivers an extra excuse to shout at you for not using it.
There’s not much sense of adventure in it as it’s all been thought out for you in advance.
Not my favorite way to ride either, HOWEVER, talk to any civilian who is contemplating riding and what is the main reason they don’t ride? Fear. Fear of getting hit. This has happened twice in the last twenty-four hours here in Santa Fe. People who want to ride but when I mentioned I had just ridden out to the Fina station and back they both said: “Oh, I could never ride on the road.” So, we gotta work with the masses if we are ever going to make a difference. The Tucson Loop is really beautiful in parts, and one of the only paths I’ve seen pros on. But, other sections are urban, filled with families, walkers, etc.