Valley-wide, bikes are finally becoming a part of the landscape. With density and accessibility becoming a must-have for competitive cities around the world, Phoenix area bicyclists are increasingly seeking to exert their power and make their respective environments ideal for riding in all conditions.
Following the creation and continued growth of such bicycling activist nonprofits as Tempe Bicycle Action Group (TBAG) and Phoenix Spokes People (PSP), Tempe resident and longtime cyclist Ryan Guzy saw a need to insert bikes into the statewide conversation on a more directly political level. An outgrowth of the "Tempe Bike People" Facebook group, the new Viva Bike Arizona political action committee was born.
Created as a statewide policy- and candidate-driven lobbying group, Viva Bike Arizona aims to work the political game in ways that the state's current nonprofit groups cannot. While PSP is politically active locally, Viva Bike aims to extend those efforts into statewide campaigns and direct political endorsements.
Viva Bike Arizona member Susan Conklu says, "A lot of times politicians will say 'I think bikes are great' or 'transit's great' ...but they're not really doing that much to show that they're in heavy support of [infrastructure]. That would be the biggest thing [for the organization to accomplish], to really talk to them more about 'what kind of project would you support?' and 'what kind of partnerships can we build?'"
"[Viva Bike] gives a political voice to bicyclists..." Guzy echoes.
"We want to basically say, 'this politician is for bicycles' and tell people that this is the person to vote for. Or to at least consider when you are voting, these are the bike-friendly candidates."
In shaping the new organization's vision, Guzy found inspiration in the Seattle-based Cascade Bicycle Club. In addition to sponsoring group rides and providing educational information for riders in the area, the club is known for its candidate questionnaires and annual political endorsements to ensure a wholesale approach to improving bicycling in the area.
As its first action, Viva Bike sent out a similar questionnaire to the candidates for Tempe's city council, leading to an endorsement, the findings of which are available on the organization's website.
"I always feel like you're lost in a sea of voters with the governor and president. But for city council... your vote matters," says Jay Robinette, another of the Viva Bike founders.
Guzy and his cohorts want Arizona be ahead of the curve in planning for continued population growth, and accommodating for the sheer transportation needs of those newcomers.
"This is the kind of stuff we have to do, otherwise we won't be able to move this many people. It's not about moving cars, it's about moving people," Guzy says of the bicycle policy imperative.
"It doesn't mean you aren't going to be able to drive anymore, either," says Conklu of the false equivalence often thrust upon bicycle advocates.
Similarly, though the group is political, all those involved see bicycling as a non-party-line issue, and one that people from across the spectrum are endorsing.
"Once [politicians] start looking at the numbers, they can see that there's a big group of people, across the political spectrum, across the age spectrum that support [bicycle infrastructure]...it's going to hopefully switch over to people who don't support this kind of stuff, it's going to be tough for you," Guzy says.
Viva Bike Arizona aims to even things out. Rather than simply a discussion of how cities can fit everything else around the needs of cars, the new organization and its founders are looking to create a more even exchange.
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Guzy says summatively, "Our main goal is to change the conversation...everyone pays for the roads, and everyone gets to use the roads, but bicyclists are underrepresented. We think there's a lot of people that want to ride...and we just want to see more people on the road."
Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.