Architecture and Design

Cycle: The Arcadia Loop

Jackalopes can ride bikes, right? (Given the temperature, they should be able to ... ) This week, we're introducing Cycle, a weekly feature where our own fanatic, Jason Franz, will tell tales of rides and routes, and cycling dos and don'ts, as he spins pedals across what Bicycling Magazine calls the 15th best bike city in America.

Do you seriously plan on shaking yourself early Friday morning from that tryptophan and alcohol induced Thanksgiving stupor to fight for that $300 flat screen TV that's only going to break down in about six months anyway? Besides, aren't we all shopping online now?

Don't waste a glorious fall Arizona day off by battling the masses and feeding the coffers of corporate retailers not based in our community. Instead, take the family on a nice 13 mile tour through the Arcadia neighborhood, that swath of residences and canal banks that links Phoenix and Scottsdale. And be sure to treat your group to the world's best cookie along the way.


The Arcadia neighborhood, once a citrus orchard that stretched south
from the base of Camelback Mountain, began to take shape with the 1919
creation of the Arcadia Water Company and was bounded by Rockridge Road
to the north, Lafayette Boulevard to the south, Scottsdale Road to the
east, and 44th Street to the west. Arcadia quickly became home to
classic Arizona ranch style homes and a favored destination of
architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Al Beadle and Ralph Haver.

Don't be mistaken, Arcadia has its fair share of monstrously hideous McMansions that have absolutely no architectural context to this environment (hello...Tuscany ain't no desert people). But all-in-all, Arcadia presents a very nice sampling of how Phoenix has developed from agriculture to residence over the past 80 years.

The Ride:

Start your ride at G.R. Herberger Park, just east of 56th Street on Indian School Road. From the parking lot, ride up to the Arizona Falls structure and take in the view (but not so much the musty smells) of this award winning hydroelectric plant. Follow the canal bank down to 56th Street and hang a right so you are staring straight up the road at Camelback Mountain.

REAL DEAL BIKE TIP #1: Don't be afraid to take your bike on the dirt paths of the canals, no matter what kind of bike you have. The Phoenix canal network makes for great bike paths, many of which are paved, but there are some unavoidable sections that are dirt/granite. Go ahead and take your slick-tired, carbon frame on them - for a while. There are two tricks. First, shift into a slightly easier gear so you can pedal easily over the loose surface. Second - and this should be the rule no matter when you ride - do not inflate your tires to the maximum pressure listed on your tires. You want a scosh of squish to smooth out the bumps.

About a half mile up 56th you will come to Lafayette Boulevard. Turn left at the light and jump into a fat, smooth bike lane that runs the length of Arcadia. On the south side of the road, you can see some of the original Arcadia Water Company canal ditches that form a kind of moat to massive estates enveloped by eucalyptus, oleander, and bougainvillea. Take a peek through the greenery at the Las Manzantias Norte residence at 5339 E. Lafayette and you'll see a mini railroad that circles the property and runs below a fantastic tree house.

The Lafayette bike lane continues on for another mile and you will see signs directing the bike route to the left down Avenida Del Puente. Ignore this sign and continue on one more block and turn left on Calle Feliz. Here you will enter a nice pocket of Haver-style homes, quickly hitting a fork with Calle Tuberia to the left. Take Calle Tuberia out to 44th Street, making sure to check out the house right on the corner there (4415 Calle Tuberia) and its amazingly over the top holiday lights and diorama display.

Metropolitan Phoenix has a great network of bike lanes, trails and rideable routes, however there will come an occasional gap that takes a bit of a leap of faith. It is the goal of Cycle to lay out interesting and safe bike routes, and this Arcadia loop is by and large very safe -- save for two gaps, both at 44th Street.

You need to turn left onto 44th Street (traffic moves fast on 44th, so make sure you have a clean gap to get across) and ride about 300 yards to Campbell Avenue, where you will hang a right turn. There is not a bike lane on 44th, so jump up on the sidewalk if you need to.

About a quarter-mile down Campbell you will come to Le Grande Orange Grocery on the southwest corner of Campbell and 40th Street. Even though this is still the front side of the ride, be sure to stop here and pick up a couple of the oatmeal apple chunk cookies -- the best cookies in the world.

Once loaded up with the sweets and refreshed your water bottles, continue heading west on Campbell to 36th Street and turn right. Follow 36th north across Camelback Road to Oregon Avenue and turn left into the Tierra Del Sol enclave with homes designed by Al Beadle and Edward Killingsworth.

Oregon continues out to 32nd Street. Be sure to turn right (north) onto the frontage road that acts as protection from the main street traffic until it ends just before the Grand Canal overpass. Continue over the canal and then turn right onto Stanford Drive. There isn't a bike lane on Stanford, but auto traffic is mellow. Stanford will take you through a design time warp as you pass some modern homes before coming to the historic Hermosa Inn.

Continue along Stanford all the way to 44th Street. This is a bit of an uphill drag as the road is heading back up to the base of Camelback Mountain. Just before getting to 44th, turn right onto the sidewalk and follow the hidden path to the frontage road heading south back to Camelback Road. At the intersection, work your way caddy-corner to the iconic Chase Bank and Walter Bimson Park. Feel free to take a break enjoy whatever may be left of those cookies. Eight miles of the loop are now behind you.

Lafayette Boulevard runs right behind the bank. Turn left onto this road and go to 46th Street where you will again turn left and go up to Exeter Boulevard, turning right (East). Exeter is the real gem of Arcadia and this loop. Suddenly the houses are larger, tree canopies begin covering the road, and a greater sense of quiet takes over the ride, even though you are just one block removed from Lafayette.

Exeter does not have any marked bike lanes, but traffic is practically nonexistent. About one mile down is Rubicon Avenue, anchored by an active orchard grove on the northwest corner. If you take a quick left up Rubicon and go about 200 yards up the road, you will come upon the David Wright residence, built by Wright's father, Frank Lloyd Wright, and includes original Wright designed carpets and furniture.

Return back to Exeter and continue heading east to 68th Street. At 68th, turn right into the marked bike lane and ride up to Lafayette Boulevard, turning right and beginning the final stretch back. Once back on Lafayette, the comfortably wide bike lanes return for the spin back down to 56th Street.

If you are in the mood for a bit more of a leg burner, decline the quick return to the car by turning left at 56th and instead head right. Here begins a gradual climb up Camelback Mountain. This climb pitches up more steeply once you pass Camelback Road, hitting maximum grades of 12%. Once at the top, you will be treated to some glorious, smog-lined views of the Valley, but only try this if your legs and lungs are feeling strong. To get back, just zip right back down 56th (keep control on that downhill!) and return to Herberger Park and you car.

Trip Distance: 13.3 miles
Trip Duration: 2 hours at an easy/moderate pace
Difficulty: Easy
Route Map:
Bike Rental: Bike Barn (4112 N. 36th Street) has bikes of all kinds available for rental starting at $30 for a four hour rental. The store is near the southwest corner of the route loop, so feel free to begin and end your ride at the store.

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Jason Franz
Contact: Jason Franz