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Misanthropy and Whining in Phoenix

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Misanthropy and Whining in Phoenix

Misanthropy and Whining in Phoenix

Repost: Written by me, originally published by Bike Shop Hub (now Campfire Cycling)

I spent the weekend in car-centric hell.

Hot Sun

I was in Phoenix, AZ again. The whole weekend we drove everywhere with the windows rolled up tight and the air conditioning blasting. Our bikes were 200 miles north, and 4000 feet higher in elevation.

It doesn’t take much to remind me why I don’t live in Phoenix anymore.

I don’t like the sprawl. I don’t like the heat. I don’t like knowing that every hour of every day energy is being purchased (at an environmental cost) in order to create an artificially comfortable climate for people.

We went to the zoo. The parking lot was completely full. The zoo was packed with people, walking, gawking, and eating junk food. Misanthropic thoughts were on a low simmer.

I imagined that the orangutans and I were on the same page.

Then I discovered that people are allowed to bring bikes into the Phoenix Zoo. I saw two or three people pedaling through the hordes.

That detail made me remember living in Tempe. Mountain biking on the weekends in Papago Park, or South Mountain. It changed my attitude. Bikes reminded me that I used to love it here.

Papago Park
Papago Park

I commuted by bike on the hottest day on record in Phoenix: June 26, 1990, when it reached 122°F. It was nasty, but I remember thinking of it as a bragging right, and not as an unbearable experience.

This weekend, the temperature didn’t even break 100°F — although it got close.

Leaving the zoo, I started to notice bikes everywhere. The bike rack outside of a Starbucks was completely full.

Phoenicians were enjoying the sub-100°F weather, and riding along the bike paths, and canals — just like I used to do. I’ve become a wimp.

Although I’m back in the mountains now, this morning I made point to visit John Romeo Alpha’s One Speed Go blog where he celebrates the joys of using Phoenix’s cycling infrastructure for commuting and pleasure.

John comments here on Commute by Bike occasionally. I was probably within a mile of John on Saturday, which he spent in a mindset of joyful discovery, and anticipating weather even 20°F hotter.

Desert Botanical Garden Gate
Photo: One Speed Go

It’s so simple, yet so vital. Look at the green arch, the sun-dappled shade, the native landscaping… I’ll make this a destination on a summer ride when the temperature is in the one-teens, to illustrate its function in a hot desert land…

I definitely appreciate the attitude adjustment.

If you’re ever inclined to whine about the heat, I recommend One Speed Go.

11 thoughts on Misanthropy and Whining in Phoenix


    April 18, 2011Reply

    Oh yeah, John Romeo Alpha is one of most effective bicycling advocates I know. If you come away from a visit to One Speed: Go! with anything other than a firm conviction that bicycling is a route to inner peace, you’re definitely The Grinch Who Stole Summer.

    *snicker* And speaking of Summer, we had our official Two Hours of Spring in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, Ted! You shoulda come down then and enjoyed it!


    April 18, 2011Reply

    I’ve always found the fat people to be some of the most interesting animals at the zoo. Especially around feeding time. How’s that for a misanthropic thought?

    Paul in Minneapolis

    April 18, 2011Reply

    Sunny HOT days.. That is one thing I mis about the South.. Too bad there isn’t a place that has real winters and real summers..
    At least I have the bragging rights of biking in temps of over 100f and below -20F.
    I do remember how I hated a tailwind when the temps were over 100f…


    April 18, 2011Reply

    We Americans sure could use a national bicycle highway system. It makes so much sense, on so many levels, and it would probably pay for itself relatively quickly.

    I commute by bike in the metro-detroit area. Un-emphasis added. It is not exactly cycling heaven, but it is flat, with a relative abundance of side/residential streets.

    Even though I can chose many different routes to the same destination, I often find myself in conflict with motorists, in one way or another.

    I think it would be a win-win for both motorists and cyclists could we be segregated, once and for all.

    Motorists would no longer have to have their reckless speeding, and disregard for basic safety, impeded by my presence. Nor would they any longer have to feel inferior when I manage to keep up with them in traffic.

    I, on the other hand, would no longer have to risk life and limb to get around in a fun and practical way. I could commute without breathing concentrated death gas.

    There are loads of good reasons to support a national cycling infrastructure. The more people that commute by bike, the less people there are jamming up traffic in an auto. I am fairy certain that building bike paths is cheaper than building roads, but I may be wrong. Gas would be slightly cheaper as demand falls.

    A bike highway system is a win-win for everyone; especially the people that typically hate cyclists, and could never entertain the thought of getting rid of the car.


    April 18, 2011Reply

    funny, I spent a week in Scottsdale and saw the glass as half full instead of half-empty…and evaporating.

    the bike networks were extraordinary. I was able to ride from my dad’s house in Scottsdale, all the way to the ASU stadium and downtown Tempe, without riding alongside traffic. that was pretty extraordinary.

    moreover, I found the “Zonies” to be remarkably considerate drivers, at least compared to the Bostonians I battle on a daily basis.

    John Romeo Alpha

    April 18, 2011Reply

    In a perfect world, Ted, I think I would bike the winters away in Phoenix, and then spend the summers mountain biking in and around your part of the state. We must have been near each other in space-time on Saturday. If I had my zoo membership card, I might have taken a quick spin past the zoned out orangutans.

    Bill M

    April 18, 2011Reply

    I live in Central Phoenix and a regular commuter to work, errands, and any other chance I get.

    Cycling in Phoenix is a lot better than many are willing to admit or realize. Some areas are just awesome. The combination of Papago Park/Canal Park, down to Tempe Town Lake, then up the Greenbelt in Scottsdale allows over 20 miles of riding with less than a half a dozen places you have to cross a street.

    The AZ Canal is another one. From the Biltmore to Peoria Sports Complex, and down the river a few more miles through parks and some what more natural settings, nearly 30 miles and only two street crossings.

    More and more bike lanes, coupled with the canal paths, and you can get most places by bike.

    Summers are brutal, and we all ride less I would assume. But we have 8 or 9 months of great riding weather. Most cities can’t brag about that.

    Phoenix does need a lot of work. Unfortunately we have a very car-centric culture and we can’t all be like Portland, NYC, or Chicago. But it is improving, and hopefully that will continue.

    Columbus commuter

    April 19, 2011Reply

    With gas prices ever rising, the interstate highway system may eventually become the national cycling infrastructure. Wouldn’t that be great!

    Orbea Bikes

    April 19, 2011Reply

    “The zoo was packed with people, walking, gawking, and eating junk food.” lol! 122f thats hot alright!



    April 19, 2011Reply

    those are exactly the routes I enjoyed. compared to Boston, it’s a biker’s paradise

    Phoenix Commuter

    April 28, 2011Reply

    I’m a dedicated year round bike commuter in Phoenix/Scottsdale. For me this state is cycling paradise. Cycling in the summer heat is a matter of adjusting and conditioning. Getting caught in a summer rainstorm is a cooling joy you can’t imagine.

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