Air pollution is a major problem for Valley residents, not just because it sullies our beautiful blue skies, but because it has a very real and lasting negative impact on our health. According to an excellent seven-part series currently running in the Arizona Republic called The Air We Breathe, “studies now link pollution, especially traffic-related pollutants to heart disease, premature births, asthma attacks and shortened lives.”
The series, of which only three installments have been published to date, explores many reasons why we find ourselves in a choke hold with air quality, but lays much of the blame on uncontrolled growth and our resulting reliance on the automobile.
So the importance of offering alternative modes of transportation is more important than ever for the Valley. Historically, the only commuters that mattered have been automobile commuters, evidenced by our wide roads and plentiful parking lots, not to mention ever-expanding freeways. But for various reasons, such as the down economy, raised awareness of the negative environmental impacts of driving and the desirable health impacts of bicycling and walking, there has been a resurgence of people who prefer not to drive to work, but to take the Light Rail, walk or bike instead.
Last Thursday, the Maricopa County Facilities Resource Council took a step in the right direction by recognizing and encouraging this new cadre of people who choose to travel to Downtown without a car by approving the use of the first floor corner space of the historic Security Building for a bicycle-commuter amenity.
The Bicycle Cellar, which has a location in the Tempe Transportation Center, “will provide services that enable a more comfortable bike commuting experience for Downtown Phoenix. Amenities will include: showers, towel service, lockers, safe indoor bike storage, a full service bike mechanic, bikes to rent or purchase, ancillary bike parts including lights, bells, baskets etc.” according to the County’s sustainability manager Jonce Walker.
Maricopa County owns the Security Building and talks to put the Bicycle Cellar in its most coveted retail space on the ground floor corner of Van Buren and Central have been going on since July of 2011.
Walker says that this location is key to making the experience of a car-free commuter as easy as possible, “In order to bridge the multi-modal gap in transit, the experience from bike to light rail or bus must be as seamless as possible. That fact that users will be able to see the Bicycle Cellar entrance from the light rail station platform is a critical visual link.”
Housing the Bicycle Cellar on County property fits well with its commitment to sustainability, which is embodied in the Green Government Program that Walker helped put in place. By dedicating 3500sf of prime real estate to the Bicycle Cellar, the County is “making a statement that sustainability and resiliency are very serious things and we want to help where we can” says Walker.
This project isn’t ready for implementation just yet. The County Board of Supervisors will need to approve the next fiscal budget cycle in July that will include the Bicycle Cellar. Some of the funding will need to come from grants and other sources and not from the County general fund.
What can you do as a community member to help make the Bicycle Cellar in Downtown a reality? The multi-modal amenity in this key location already has the support of 35 institutions, coalitions and organizations including Local First Arizona, The Arizona Planning Association, Valley Metro, the Sustainable Communities Working Group and the Livable Communities Coalition. But, there is always room for more letters of support and any suggestions for funding opportunities would be much appreciated, says Walker.
If all goes according to plan, approvals are given, funding is secured and construction is streamlined, we should be able to enjoy the services and facilities of the Bicycle Cellar in Downtown by the end of the summer.
You can contact Jonce Walker with letters of support and suggestions for funding sources at: firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: air pollution, air quality, bicycle cellar, bicycling, Maricopa County, multi-modal transportation, phoenix, the air we breathe, the security building