You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.
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 tough. Almost every day, she arrived at work angry about the state of biking 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."
Video by Evie Carpenter.
A little over a year after the first meeting, Phoenix Spokes People has accomplished more than just talking about making it better -- they've 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 of 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 like New York in cementing cycling's lasting place as a major form of 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 out of one desk in the downtown cooperative bicycle command center PHX BikeLab, which also houses Grid Bike Share and Rusty Spoke Community Bicycle Collective, PSP's main goal is 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 so that they can lobby for change on a state level and endorse bike-friendly candidates, in addition to taking on more grassroots and community-focused initiatives. Coyner says that specific nonprofit designation would allow them to fight for bike rights in ways other nonprofits can't -- even though it would limit their ability to get much needed grant money.
"We realize that when you try to seemingly limit the rights of drivers in the city, the debate gets very heated," she says. "The streets of Phoenix are a political issue."
Until then, the Phoenix Spokes People plan to provide bike valet services at different events, hoping to raise enough tip money to keep projects going -- like installing bike racks at local businesses. While they have plans for a fundraiser to raise money to file for nonprofit status, which costs around $800, they say a Big Brain Award would go a long way. Whether they win, PSP has big plans for Phoenix's roads in the future.
"I can't wait to see what happens in the next five years," Allebach-Warble says. "It's exciting to be in Phoenix now because we're creating what we will be known for."
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Artopia will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, April 25, at Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. See more at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.