April 25, 2005
With the $35 it now costs to fill her truck’s gas tank, Scottsdale City Councilwoman Betty Drake is convinced the city is on the right track with plans to develop an extensive bicycleoriented environment.
"It’s a very viable transportation option," said Drake, a professional urban planner who has designed bike-route systems for several cities.
"Research shows that an efficient bike system will act as an incentive. You will increase ridership. It’s an incentive for an active, healthy lifestyle, and it’s economical."
For those reasons and more, Scottsdale intends to expand dozens of bicycle paths and related facilities as a key part of a comprehensive transportation master plan.
Officials are also considering a substantial increase in the capital budget for longrange bicycle improvements. Proposals will be presented at a series of public forums in coming months, said transportation director Dave Meinhart.
There’s public support for making bicycling amenities a priority, said Councilman Ron McCullagh. Along with trails for hiking and horse riding, bike routes are something Scottsdale residents consider an important quality-of-life factor, he said.
But it’s also a practical matter.
"Years from now, the city will be more densely developed and bike transportation will make more sense. So it’s a legitimate transit issue, not just a recreational thing," McCullagh said.
The city put together a bike-system plan in 1994, but much of what it outlined has yet to be put into place. And the plan needs updating to adapt to the course of the city’s development in the past decade, said bike transit planner Reed Kempton.
Kempton is at work on a design for adding to the 81 miles of existing bike lanes along streets and increasing the 56 miles of paved recreational bike paths.
The expansions would be part of a system that links the bikeways to more of Scottsdale’s 250-plus miles of unpaved recreational trails and provides better access to businesses, stores, schools, entertainment venues and public-event centers.
It would entail constructing dozens of path connections, as well as canal crossings, bridges and tunnels under roadways.
There are particular needs for more extensive bike access along north and south Pima Road corridors and Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt corridors, and east and west along the Shea Boulevard corridor, especially to provide shorter access to neighboring Fountain Hills, Kempton said.
The city’s current five-year capital improvement plan earmarks $14.5 million for long-range bicycle improvements. To carry out Kempton’s blueprint, the transportation department might seek to hike that to $20 million when a new five-year improvement plan is drawn up, Meinhart said.
"One of our big goals is to promote options to motor vehicles. . . . We feel it’s a good investment," he said.
Kempton is emphasizing the city’s bike master plan effort in an application to obtain for Scottsdale the national League of American Bicyclists designation as a Bike Friendly Community.
Tempe, Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert already have it. "We think it’s important that Scottsdale be recognized, too," Kempton said.
Scottsdale has made strides in ensuring bike facilities are not just an afterthought to development, said Rich Rumer, co-president of the 300-plus member Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists.
But for a city that prides itself on its attractive scenery and outdoor lifestyle, it has some catching up to do, even with neighboring communities, Rumer said.
"Scottsdale is good for recreational riding," he said, "but for the serious commuter there are gaps in the system."