In their annual Bicycle Friendly States rankings released last week, the League of American Bicyclists placed Arizona 16th in the nation -- a definite drop from the No. 9 spot it held in last year's rankings.
Compared to where Arizona falls in other national rankings, 16 is not a horrible spot. But take a gander at some of the states that rank in ahead of Arizona: Maine (No. 2), New Jersey (No. 5), Florida (No. 7), New Hampshire (No. 14), Vermont (No. 15) ... Maine?
The rankings were based on the League's evaluation of six areas of criteria for which each state received a standard letter grade. Arizona's grades were B for Legislation, D for Policies and Programs, F for Infrastructure, B for Education and Encouragement, F for Evaluation and Planning, and D for Enforcement, giving the state a cumulative grade of C.
Arizona's weather alone should warrant a top 10 spot regardless of the other criteria used. We won't argue about falling behind cycling-centric states including Washington, Oregon, Iowa, and Colorado. But Maine?
Therefore, we've decided to establish a seventh area of criteria that we'll simply call Intangibles. These are items, events, or places that are specific to Arizona that would otherwise move us back into the top 10.
Here are just 10 reasons why we should definitely be ranked higher ...
1. We'll start with the obvious ... The Weather. Yes, it gets hot here. But you can still ride, even when it is hot. When it's snowing and icy, do you think you're going cycling? Heck no. I don't care how good the roads are in those snow covered northern states have or how well they're laws are enforced, if you can't ride, they're worthless.
2. South Mountain. There are very few places that provide the very best in both road and mountain biking in a single park area. And by the way, they close it to all cars once a month. Seriously, I dare you to name another as great as South Mountain.
3. Mount Lemmon in Tucson. Mount Lemmon is home to one of the very great road rides in the U.S., the 22-mile road to the summit which calls to pro riders and top level coaching camps on a year-round basis. And, the mountain is laced with some of the very best mountain bike trails south of South Mountain -- and they're longer.
4. Breweries Love Bikes. We have the San Tan Wheelie Jam, Tour de Fat, Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona, and Nimbus in Tucson. Beer makers love cyclists, probably because cyclists love a good beer post-ride. But in Arizona, it's celebrated.
5. Cycle. The coolest new pop-up joint features the state's biggest bike rack and welcomes cyclists any time. Hey, it's all in the name.
6. Miles and Miles of Canal and Urban Trails. This is where Cycle has a big beef with the F grade for Infrastructure. Never mind that there are decent bike lanes in place across Phoenix and Tucson. There are miles upon miles of largely uninterrupted trails along canal banks or through park such as the Scottsdale Greenbelt or the Flagstaff Urban Trail that cross the metropolitan areas and make for easy, safe commuting. We're no urban planners here, but an F? Come on.
7. Crazy Races That Are Really Parties. Ask anyone who races in the 24 Hours in the El Pueblo, The Whiskey Off-Road, or the Tour of the White Mountains. These are just big excuses to drink and hang with fellow riders and friends. What's friendlier than that?
8. Spring Training. The best time of year (cycling-wise) in Arizona is usually March and April, which is also spring training time. But we all know the worst part of this cool baseball season is trying to find a parking spot. Luckily, you have a bike, and there is nothing better than a great ride during the best time of year and enjoying a little spring ball without the hassle or the car.
9. Rides of All Types. You want flat, steep, dirt, paved, fast-paced races, or recreational pathways? They're all here. And don't forget that the light rail is bike friendly.
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10. The Weather. Seriously, what's the worst weather Arizona gets? A monsoon? Those sweep through in like 60 minutes and they've made the place cooler. Blizzards shut those other states down, for weeks. As for the heat? That's nothing a few ice cubes down the jersey and a dip in the pool can't take care of.
Take that, Maine.