Biketirement: Southwest USA

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.

It was easy cycling around Sun City West.

The living is good and the cycling easy in Sun City West.

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.

Typical Sun City West street.  Cycling is safe and easy here.

Typical Sun City West street. Cycling is safe and easy here.

Meeker is a main arterial providing access to shops and businesses.  Even here, cycling with cars was a breeze.

Meeker is a main arterial providing access to shops and businesses. Note the super-wide right lane.  Nice!

Sharing the road, SCW style!

Sharing the road, SCW style!

The community's one side path, the Javelina Trail, is a 2 mile recreational trail that goes nowhere.  It's beautiful but really only of value to people who wish to walk and live close by.

The community’s one side path, the Javelina Trail, is a 2 mile recreational trail that goes nowhere. It’s beautiful but really only of value to people who wish to walk and live close by.

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.

Along the Virgin River. Cyclists were everywhere in St. George.

Along the Virgin River. Cyclists were everywhere in St. George.

We rode at sunrise.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.

We rode at sunrise. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

This wide underpass under a major arterial is representative of the type of infrastructure St. George is building.

This wide underpass beneath a major arterial is representative of the type of infrastructure St. George is building.

Above Interstate 15.

Above Interstate 15.  The trail to the left goes back into town.  The one to the right connects a suburban neighborhood.

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.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s