Sunday, November 6, 2011

Central Crosstown Bike Route in Phoenix

Check out those reflected clouds. I give you: The Greatest Bicycle Signage in Phoenix.

My weekend urban explorations and errand-running found me at Pierce Park in Phoenix, where I came across this bold signage proclaiming a bike route slicing right across and into the heart of the city. Never heard of it. I've ridden all over the area on the map, and had no idea. Just when I think I know something about cycling in Phoenix, I come across this. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to explore and document it fully, which would involve only the modest task of riding Oak Street from this point over to Encanto Park. But, as this was a brief diversion while running errands to fix some key plumbing fixtures around the house, I'll have to save the full glory of the Crosstown Bike Route for another post another day.

Today, I'll just ponder a bit. Is it new, and the reason I don't know about it is that it is still being fleshed out? Or rather, is it an historical artifact of well-intentioned efforts from days gone by? It's hard to say. I'll hazard a guess, but full exploration may uncover more evidence either way.

So far, the only sign like this I've seen in the entire city

Let me just say, though, my love for this sign knows no bounds. It has a map. It is in a small park. It orients and defines. It's so big that it is unmissable. It is bike-related. Most importantly, it shows connections to other nearby bicycle routes. Sweet Mother of Two Wheeled Human Powered Urban Navigation (SMoTWHPUN), these things do exist!!

Oak Street phantom paint

I explored west from this park just a bit to check out Oak Street. On the map on the sign, it forms the backbone of the Central Crosstown Bike Route, and this section would certainly work, with or without paint. At first, I thought this was a bike lane stripe applied by a paint truck on its way back to Central Supply to refill its paint tanks, but as I went farther west, this seemed less and less likely. When I come back here in a couple weeks I'll see if they fill it in, cover it up, or what. But I doubt they will.

The thing is: Oak Street as far as I have seen in the past doesn't match what is shown on the map. In fact, it is interrupted at 3rd Street, even though the map on the sign shows it going all the way to Encanto. I don't know exactly how long ago it happened, but Oak Street here was transmogrified into part of the parking lot for the most excellent Heard Museum a long time ago. Based on this, my assessment of this great sign is that it represents an historical artifact of well-intentioned efforts from days gone by. 

I'll see if I can find out anything more, but the popular search engines I tried were of no help. Oak Street west of 12th Street is not even shown as a bike route on the search engine that represents those as green lines. (Instead of continuing west into The Unknown, it may pay off to just stop in at the Tuck Shop for some chicken and waffles, and call it a day).

Like the clouds reflected on the sign at the top of the post, this bike route effort appears to have vaporized under the relentless march of urban alteration. I suppose there's a lesson in there somewhere, but to learn it, I'll have to get more information about what really happened to the Phoenix Central Crosstown Bike Route. It's one more curiosity to store away in the OSG box of Learning From the Past.

Even so, I'm hoping that SMoTWHPUN is on my side when I go explore the mapped route. Even if it's not some kind of full fledged urban bike route complete with public art elements and regularly spaced independent coffee shops serving excellent and strong cups, I'm optimistic that at least a ghost of the intended glory represented on the Best Bike-Related Sign in Phoenix is still evident. If not, it would be a feeling similar to the one I experienced upon reading a small piece of paper buried inside one of the boxes of the key plumbing fixture I picked up during my morning errand running. Here, let me show you:

Wait, what??
A toilet seat which you can't use bathroom cleaners on. WOW. Maybe you could tell me that on the OUTSIDE of the box, before I buy it, take it home, and install it. Similarly, a bike route map that slices through to the heart of the city, except, doesn't actually go through, and isn't mapped or signed anywhere else than one end near a Chevy up on blocks in the street. Well, I don't even care if Oak Street dead ends at the parking lot of a fine museum on the brink of the heart of the city: this is still the Greatest Bicycle Signage in Phoenix.

Consulting the OSG Bike Map Archives, I did locate a relevant diagram on the "Arizona Bicycle Suitability Map" from 1985. It shows Oak ending at 20th Street, definitely from a "bicycling suitability" perspective because that's where the blue line ends, and possibly the actual street itself. More map research may be needed. On the other hand, the 1985 map is blue all the way east to Hayden Road. Locals looking at this section of this map will recognize that much else has changed since then, too. For example, Phoenix downtown is no longer a single house with a quetta pine leaning next to it; it has definitely grown since then. Although parts of 20th Street are still a pretty decent bike route. Right up to the part where they put in the 51 freeway, about a mile north of Oak on this map. Anyway, I know that no urban plan lasts forever. It would have been nice to ride more of the Central Crosstown Bike Route, though, back in the day. Whenever that may have been.

Detail from the "Arizona Bicycle Suitability Map," 1985


  1. As inspiration, I'm gonna go check out my own locally incomplete cycling route...

  2. Steve, it's historical information and accuracy we crave here at OSG. Why do these things get half-made, and half-unmade? I would point out that it's inconsistent for a city to put in bicycle infrastructure only to forget about it a few years later, or to never finish it. But that sounds like the idealist who made that Tempe Bikeways plan from the 70s (linked in this post) talkin.

  3. Just rode 36 miles from Scottsdale to Goodyear on Oak/Encanto. Marvelous. Wide and/or bike lanes, and zero traffic. Getting around 17 via 23rd/McDowell/27th (on the sidewalk) is the only headache. The two painless interruptions to Oak/Encanto are at Hoover (one block) and Vernon (one block. One 1/2 block diversion at Central Ave. One 100' sidewalk diversion at about 29th Avenue. One bridge over 51. Simply marvelous. Encanto ends on McDowell just east of 91st Ave, so my last 10 miles were on McDowell. At commute time this would be no fun, but at 11AM on a weekday, it was no problem, and part of it had bike lanes/sidewalks for the more careful rider than I am. A marvelous calm jewel in the middle of Phoenix, all the way from East to West, unspoiled by the little scar in the middle.

    1. That does sound marvelous, ectogestator. I am still looking a bit for history of this type of bike route signage in Phoenix. For the benefit of anyone not from around here, one reason both of us would consider this a marvelous route is that it is possibly as near as one could get to the ideal cross section of the city, providing a real sense of the good, and some not so good but true, character of the city. If you did it on a mid-summer day at noon, you could make a feature film of the ride called "Phoenix" and fairly capture the essence, I think.


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