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ASU, Tempe build bike-friendly community

In honor of April Bike Month in the Valley, ASU, Tempe and local advocacy groups host events and tout the economic advantages of cycling.

Bike Month Preview
Tempe campus bike rack, Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015 at Arizona State University in Tempe. Valley Metro is sponsoring Bike month with events including Bike to Work of School Day (April 20), the 14th Annual Ride for the Children (April 23), and the Arizona Bicycle Club Desert Classic Ride (April 30).

While Tempe has received many awards for its efforts in making the city bike friendly, it is hoping to continue its efforts by hosting a series of events designed to promote biking within the community.

Besides a healthy form of exercise and money for cities, bicycling also contributes to decreased congestion on roads and highways and lower environmental harm, Tempe spokeswoman Amanda Nelson said. Additionally, bike-friendly communities are inviting to businesses with technically skilled employees.

“Bicycling improves the quality of life for individuals, neighborhoods and the community. It's really a quality of life factor in Tempe. The more (bike-friendly) facilities we have, it tends to attract employers who have high-tech and highly skilled workers, which boosts the economy,” Nelson said.

For Bike Month, Tempe hosts the Tour de Tempe April 12 from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Kiwanis Park. The 10-mile ride is led by members of the Tempe City Council. 

Then on April 15 from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., Tempe and local businesses host a bike-to-work day. Participants will receive free breakfast while they ride from Whole Foods to NCounter with city council members.

Arizona may not seem like the most bike-friendly place in America at first glance; only about 0.9 percent of its residents commute by bike overall, but Tempe is an oasis for bikers. Roughly 4 percent of the community commutes by bike, and the city has dedicated a sales tax to transportation.

Tempe was awarded a silver rating through the American Bicycle Leagues’s Bicycle Friendly America program, which rates cities, businesses and universities based on the Five Es of bicycle friendliness: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation & Planning. Cities, business and universities can all enter to be evaluated.

ASU is one of 10 universities to have been awarded a gold standing, one level higher than Tempe. The highest standing, platinum, belongs to only two universities, Stanford and the University of California Davis. Even Phoenix made the list with a bronze award.

JC Porter, assistant director of Commuter Options for ASU’s Parking and Transit Services, is in charge of ASU’s cycling, walking and shuttle bus programs. A cyclist himself, Porter understands the importance of cycling to ASU and the broader community.

“I love to talk bikes, that’s one thing that I like to do — I’m a cyclist," he said.

ASU wants students be able to safely commute by bike and offers bicycle safety classes through the Wheel Devils, Porter said. The classes focus on important rules of safety such as having front and rear lights, wearing a helmet and how to ride on the roads and sidewalks safely and legally. 

ASU also has multiple bike valets, with a third valet slated to appear in the next year. Students can register their bikes online.

The road to a more bike-friendly campus doesn’t end with on-campus changes. ASU and Tempe are partnering to create a bike boulevard that will go from one side of Tempe to the other and will cut through ASU's campus. 

This project will connect with another project in which ASU plans to build a cycle track, which separates bikers from pedestrians and traffic along University Drive. 

The Tempe Bicycle Action Group, which works to make bicycling prominent, safe and convenient in and around Tempe, hosts community bike rides, advocates for cyclists at city council meetings and even has an at-cost service for local businesses to install bike racks and help businesses become more bicycle friendly.

TBAG isn’t the only way to get involved with cycling in and around Tempe; there are clubs on ASU campus such as the ASU Cycling Club, which hosts the annual Criterium Bike Race, group rides and races on the weekends and meets every other Wednesday in Coor Hall.

Many local business owners have worked to add bike racks outside their stores for patrons. One patron installed an indoor rack at Boulders on Broadway, which is owned by Rochelle and Erick Geryol, this year's recipients of the local Bike Hero Award.

The Geryols own Boulders on Broadway, Spokes on Southern and Boulders on Southern, but they do more for the community than offer great pizza and cold beer, the Geryols and their restaurants are all about cycling, rock climbing and community.

“I think (cycling) builds community,” Rochelle said. 

“The people that you're attracting, they want to get out; they want to be involved. Your engagement with Tempe is way different when you ride through it,” Erick added.  

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