My wife and I just returned from a quick trip to visit my folks in Sun City West Arizona. Of course we brought our bikes and got to do a little cycling. Along the way, we stopped in St. George Utah and got to ride there as well. I wanted to share my observations from both of these retirement meccas.
Sun City West
SCW is one of several large retirement communities that lie in the Valley of the Sun northwest of Phoenix Arizona. It’s a small part of one of America’s largest metro area and bordered by endless suburbs on all sides. If you want to retire in a big metro with beautiful sunny weather, Arizona is hard to beat.
Sun City West is a very easy place to cycle. Although there is virtually no dedicated bicycle infrastructure here, it’s not really necessary. The roads are wide, smooth and virtually free of traffic, so getting around on a bicycle is no problem at all. It’s as flat as a pancake here, so there’s no climbing to slow you down. Many residents use golf carts instead of cars for short trips. It’s a shame more don’t bike. Most stores and businesses accommodate cyclists. Convenient bike racks were common…and empty.
The biggest challenge for permanent residents is the seasonal summer heat. During our stay, daytime highs were in the low 100s. I did not see many cyclists, but I did see a few. It was warm but not unbearably or dangerously so. I had no trouble. In fact, it wasn’t much different than riding in Ogden in the summer, temperature wise.
If you wish to go further afield, the bedroom community of Surprise is adjacent to Sun City West and contains on street bike lanes as well as lots of sidepaths. There are also trails available to the east that run from Peoria into Phoenix so it is possible to go long if that’s your thing.
My overall observation? If you want to use a bike for transportation only, Sun City West is a great retirement choice. If you’d rather go on longer rides and integrate cycling into more of your life, read on.
St. George, Utah
I’d heard good things about the cycling scene in St. George and so we decided to split the trip so that we could spend the night and cycle here, too. I’m glad we did. What a treat! So much so, in fact, that I could see us retiring here.
The true test of whether a place is bicycle friendly or not has little to do with awards and everything to do with cyclists and St. George has a lot of cyclists. During our 16 mile jaunt along the Virgin River on Friday morning, we ran into dozens of like-minded souls. Some were solo riders while others were in groups. Some were young but many were older. They were everywhere and why not? St. George has invested heavily in sidepaths and trails and from the looks of things the investment is paying off.
The St. George approach to cycling is in some ways standard but in others somewhat unique. There’s a recreational/lifestyle element here, but the connectivity is very good and creates a functional bicycle transportation grid. Although it’s located far from the state’s population centers, this smallish (150,000) metro in southern Utah is heavily influenced by what’s happening along the Wasatch Front, transit-wise. Bicycles are fun here, but they are also transportation and, from the looks of it, will only increase in importance.