Why I Don’t Leave my Bike at Home

Today sucked. Well, that’s not true. Today was an inconvenience. An annoyance perhaps. Whether it sucked or not is merely a matter of my state of mind, and it wasn’t too terribly bad at the time, but the icing on the cake just turned it from a day of inconvenience to being just about to my wit’s end with Metro Phoenix.

I had to get some blood drawn at the VA this morning at my “local” clinic. I live near Power and Brown in Mesa, and this clinic is on the ASU Poly campus at Power and Williams Field. It’s actually a pretty convenient bus ride, but I had to mentally prepare myself for the trip from the VA to work in Downtown Phoenix.

I figured I’d just ride my bike in to work after my doctor’s visit and save some time compared to riding the bus. But the “best” bike route through Southeast Gilbert appears to be along Williams Field Road, through Santan Village, and navigating stretches of bottlenecked two-lane road to… Well I wasn’t sure. Horne? Is that a road still in Chandler and does it go through town or does it get cut off by a subdivision? I can certainly look it up, but it’s a rhetorical question that exemplifies some of the obstacles to biking in the suburbs.

My initial thought was to take Consolidated Canal all the way around and back to Country Club and Brown, but I nixed that as I’ve been avoiding Rio Salado since the construction at the Cubs stadium and Marina Heights has forced signage indicating that motorists are to “share the road” which I presume to mean they will not.

Frankly I’m not familiar with bike facilities in South Chandler so I didn’t really see anything on a map that resembled something enjoyable to get to the Western Canal. As you can probably tell, I’ve gotten sick of riding on major arterials. In fact I’ve been avoiding commuting by bike because of how stressful it is to ride these streets, even with bike lanes, for 24 miles. So I decided the bus would be the best option.

Since everywhere I was going today was within a few hundred yards of a bus line I needed I left the bike at home and headed south on the 184 leaving my house at 6:20. I have good veins and was at the doctor’s office a half an hour early, so I finished at about 7:45 and was able to catch the next bus and waited for it to leave for about 10 minutes. As we pulled in to Superstition Springs transit center I noticed we would barely miss connecting to the LINK. I checked the 40 and 45, but they all left at the same time. Three parallel routes that run within half a mile of each other and all stop at the Sycamore light rail station left at the same time. Because giving people options is less important than leaving the transit center on a round number. *sigh* I’m still doing fine at this point as I wait on the LINK bus from 8:10 to 8:30.

The rest of the ride went as planned with a good timing between the LINK arriving and LRT departing, so it was a casual stroll across the street and I arrived at my office by 10.

Tonight I was wrapping up some work and oddly my brain shut off. I thought about pushing through it but looked outside and saw the 535 coming down Washington so I thought if I hurried I could make it! I took the train to Roosevelt and ran from Central to 3rd Street and arrived with car traffic too heavy to cross. As I was standing there on the wrong side of the street I saw my bus drive by and jump on the freeway. *sigh* A 30 minute headway until my next bus arrives. So I’ll have left my office at 5 and, if I catch the bus at Power Road, I’ll be home around 6:35. If I miss the bus*, I’m wearing dress shoes and slacks but may well jog home in about 20 minutes instead of waiting 30 more minutes and taking 20 more minutes after that to get home.

I share this because this is the type of day that makes me want to give up on this city. It’s days like this that make me understand why people own cars in Phoenix, and shade my perspective toward that of Metro Phoenix never being a livable place during my lifetime. These are the things I experience that get me so frustrated by the crumbs our governments leave for improving the transportation options in The Valley.

The truth is the experience is similar in Gresham, Oregon (Portland) and Kent, Washington (Seattle) or any of the other far flung suburbs of other cities. It is not unique to Phoenix but it is magnified by the sheer size of the region. Unfortunately the distinction is there really is no escaping the suburbs in Phoenix. While moving to an urban neighborhood in Portland or Seattle is not only an option, it’s reasonably difficult to avoid, finding an urban neighborhood in Phoenix is literally impossible. There is no grocery store in Downtown Phoenix or Downtown Tempe so that eliminates those places from even consideration as urban, and those are the closest to urban we have.

There is a lot of potential for Phoenix to have a real downtown, and there are a lot of dedicated people working to make that happen. Considering how far downtown has come in the last 10 years, and considering how far away it still is from being a viable urban center, it’s hard to imagine a transplant like me caring enough to stick it out and work for the next 40 years to finally make Phoenix a place I’d want to raise my children. It’s days like today, which occur all too frequently, that take away a little bit of hope for this city and push me closer still to the fastest freeway out of town.

*I missed the bus. I’ll be home around 7 today.


2 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Leave my Bike at Home

    • I set up my primary care physician at the SE clinic when I was in school and it was actually pretty convenient between the bus straight from my house and the ASU shuttle. I’ve called to change it to the 7th Street/Indian School hospital but it’s apparently pretty difficult; I’m going to request a transfer when I go in on Wednesday for my routine physical.

      The paradox of it all is the Uptown VA is most convenient for me for routine appointments but the SE clinic is more convenient if I’m sick or otherwise home from work. It’s the same thing with my dentist or if I were to seek a private practice primary care provider or really anything else… It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t penalty of buying a house in the suburbs by falling for the “drive til you qualify” fallacy in 2006.

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