"A physical place is a living entity in itself, and it is constantly changing. Instead of seeing ourselves as the subjects of this place that are constantly being affected by it, we should think about how we can also affect and change it."

The project is still in its beginning stages, but after spending four months in the evening program at Seed Spot, a nonprofit organization that supports social entrepreneurs, Mills feels that everything is falling into place. Sprawlr will be structured as a nonprofit that encompasses many projects aimed at positively affecting society. "My overall goal is to have something that doesn't limit me to one thing, but opens me up to a lot of different projects," he says.

Mills wants to get involved with limited-release art prints and public art projects, but Sprawlr's first major undertaking is Sprawlr Magazine, a digital publication with stories that redefine and reimagine Arizona.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing, Culinary Art
Katie Johnson
Arizona Wilderness Brewing, Culinary Art
Arizona Wilderness Brewing, Culinary Art
Katie Johnson
Arizona Wilderness Brewing, Culinary Art

"Sprawlr Magazine is a commitment to long-form journalism and trying to find a viable format for that in the digital space. There are a lot of experiments going on with how to carry journalism on into the 21st century, and I want to be a part of that," Mills explains. "There's this perception that people just want little bits and pieces of media, that they just want quick photos they can power through, but I don't think that's true."

Mills has already assembled a small team of writers and photographers interested in covering a wide array of topics, but personally, he's excited to write about the issues surrounding new development projects and construction on the outskirts of Phoenix.

The name "Sprawlr" couldn't be more fitting, but the implications are what really make it interesting: "It's the idea of taking a name that is levied against us and using it as our own — rebranding it for a new identity," says Mills. "It all comes back to this idea of identity. If we're living in this place that's the poster child for sprawl, then we are sprawlers, and our stories of what it's like to live in this place will be the stories of Sprawlr Magazine." — Katrina Montgomery

Phoenix Spokes People | Urban Vision
Anna Allebach-Warble started Phoenix Spokes People thanks to a car accident.

After totaling her car in fall 2011, she decided to use her two perfectly good bicycles to get around town. And she hasn't looked back since. She quickly found that poor cycling conditions made her commute difficult. Almost every day, she arrived at work angry about the state of cycling in Phoenix. That is, until one day she decided to "stop complaining and start talking to like-minded people about how to make it better."

A little over a year after the first meeting, Phoenix Spokes People has accomplished more than just talking about making it better — it has taken decisive action to improve the landscape of cycling in Phoenix through fun group rides and a lot of (admittedly boring) budget hearings.

During 2013's city of Phoenix budget hearings, PSP's Lisa Parks made sure representatives from the biking community attended each meeting to stand up for cycling. All that work and time paid off when the city's funding for bicycle infrastructure rose from $50,000 to $1.5 million. That increased budget has been used to create Grand Avenue's green bike lanes and traffic-calming measures, as well as the soon-to-be-unveiled Grid Bike Share program. Phoenix's bike share will join the ranks of other major cities, including New York, in cementing cycling's status in urban transportation.

PSP also coordinated with the Welcome to America Fund to build 100 bicycles for refugees who use the bikes as their main, if not sole, form of transportation in the city.

Meanwhile, initiatives like the weekly Bike to Work Friday group rides and a holiday bike bell choir, mostly led and organized by the group's coordinator of all things fun, Libby Coyner, demonstrate a dedication to making the cycling lifestyle appealing.

Operating from a desk in the downtown cooperative bicycle command center, PHX BikeLab, which also houses Grid Bike Share and Rusty Spoke Community Bicycle Collective, PSP pursues its main goal: to be out riding around town and speaking at events to act as a voice for cyclists and increase their visibility in the community.

"Our office is our saddles," Allebach-Warble says.

The strategic planning committee of PSP has about 20 core volunteer members. Allebach-Warble has a host of other jobs, including co-creating the Peace Pi Festival, teaching yoga, and working as a photographer. Coyner is an archivist for the state. There are a lot of different personalities coming together to form the Spokes People, but the group is learning how to use its members' strengths to accomplish a common goal.

In the future, a major goal of PSP is to attend every budget hearing this year to further demonstrate the demand for safe cycling options in Phoenix. Currently, the organization's main objective is to get 501(c)(4) nonprofit status (reserved for social welfare organizations) so that it can lobby for change on a state level and endorse bike-friendly candidates (unlike 501(c)(3)s, which are barred from trying to influence legislators) in addition to taking on more grassroots and community-focused initiatives. Coyner says that specific nonprofit designation would allow the group to be tax-exempt and fight for bike rights in ways other nonprofits can't — even though it would limit its ability to get much-needed grant money.

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I'm going to bookmark this article to send to people who think Phoenix is nothing but tired retirees, soulless suburban sprawl, and right-wing politicians.  Lots of innovation going on in America's sixth-largest and fastest-growing city. 

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