Eastern Pima County and Tucson meet the League of American Bicyclists' (LAB) gold standard for "Bicycle Friendly Community," a rating received in 2006 and redesignated in 2008. And with help from local businesses that cater to cyclists, the region is well on its way to achieving platinum in 2012.
Pima Association of Governments' Platinum Challenge Task Force will submit an application in February to the LAB for platinum consideration. In the past year, several Tucson businesses have been designated Bicycle Friendly Businesses by the LAB, starting with Trisports.com earning Silver in 2010.
Debbie Claggett, vice president and owner, says Trisports.com offers incentives for employees who bike to work. The result: 80 percent of their employees bike to work at some point during the year, and 30 percent commute by bike regularly.
This year, four Tucson businesses received the designation. Two law firms, one bike shop, and one medical research center made the grade.
The Law Office of Eric Post earned Silver status, encouraging bicycling as an easy option for transportation and providing amenities such as indoor bike parking. Law office staff are active members of several cycling organizations and advocacy groups. Attorney Eric Post serves on the Tucson-Pima Bicycle Advocate Committee. In addition, paralegal Martha Lemen is a mountain biking advocate and helped the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists win a $50,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. The money will help build new trails close to the city.
The Van Amberg Law Firm achieved Bronze status. Noah J. Van Amburg, a personal injury attorney and a cyclist himself, appreciates the danger drivers pose when they fail to signal properly or observe lane safety with cyclists. He says, "I bike to work about 20 percent of the time, and I encourage my employees to ride to work, and offer indoor bike storage."
Fourth Avenue's Ordinary Bike Shop received Bronze status. The store has bike maps, safety brochures, and flyers about upcoming bike events. The shop website lists local and national bike advocacy organizations. In addition, for the past 11 years, the shop has been named the top bike shop by Tucson Weekly readers.
Oro Valley's Sanofi-Aventis Research Center has Bronze status. Because of showers and changing facilities on site, a few Sanofi-Aventis employees commute up to 20 miles one way by bike. In fact, out of 75 employees at the research center, 10 percent commute by bicycle. Sanofi-Aventis also provides bike jerseys, shorts, and towels to staff who ride.
"We are happy to recognize these Tucson and Pima County businesses for their investment in bicycling as a vehicle for improved employee health, social responsibility and economic growth," said League President Andy Clarke. "Some of the most successful companies in the world are showing that investing in bicycling is not only good for health and sustainability but also the bottom line."
Bike-friendly businesses are just one part of the road map to Platinum. The University of Arizona's Eller College is conducting a study on the economic impact of bicycling in Pima County and Tucson. Students from the Sports Marketing class interviewed numerous businesses and organizations in Tucson to collect data in five areas:
- Races, rides, events, tours
- Manufacturing and distribution
- Retail, rental, repair
- Professional Services
- Public investments
The final report is due in January, just in time for the Pima-Tucson region's application to the League of American Bicyclists.
A similar study of Portland, Ore., valued the economic activity related to bicycling at $63 million, with an estimated 600 to 800 jobs. With a larger population and better weather for bicycling throughout the year, the Pima-Tucson region will surely top those numbers.
Mary Reynolds co-chairs the Platinum Challenge Task Force with Ann Chanecka, senior transportation planner for Pima Association of Governments. Reynolds is communications coordinator for the Town of Sahuarita.