Imagine this: It's Friday night in Downtown Phoenix, and you're waiting for your date at the restaurant. Meanwhile, they're circling the block, frantically searching for parking, and planning a last-minute dash to beat the parking meter. Parking in the city can be a nightmare, especially on a Friday night. That's when I realized I made the right choice by taking the light rail into town.
Let me share my journey of living car-free in Tempe and how you can do it, too.
1. Try an ebike.
If there's one thing you should remember from my story; it's this: Give an ebike a try. It's a game-changer for getting around Tempe without a car, and I wish I had discovered it sooner.
An ebike isn't just for your daily needs like commuting, grocery shopping, or yoga classes; it's also perfect for social outings, like a date night!
Recently, I ebiked to the Desert Botanical Gardens (sunset visits are a must), and it was a delightful experience. I took designated bike paths over 90% of the journey, crossed only two traffic lights, and enjoyed the beauty of Papago Park along the way. Plus, I had the bonus of parking right at the entrance - bike racks are often the closest option.
If you're worried about sweating, don't be; that's what the throttle is for. With an ebike, you control the effort. And for those who love dressing up, I've biked in skirts and low heels without any issues. The key is having a bike with a low step-through and high handlebars. I love the Blix ebike, which is comfy and incredibly cute.
- Choose an ebike that suits you, with a low step-through and higher handlebars for an upright sitting position (I'm a big fan of the RadCity).
- Embrace throttle assist for effortless rides.
- Find the perfect storage solution, whether a trusty milk crate or versatile panniers. My favorite is the $7 milk crate I fastened to the rear rack.
- Take smaller streets. I always use Lemon Street and Don Carlos Ave. between Downtown Tempe and the Culdesac neighborhood.
2. Make it social - Join group rides.
Social rides are worth the try if you're looking for a fun activity, meeting new people, exploring the outdoors, or discovering new routes without the fear of getting lost.
I recently joined one by Googling "Social Rides Tempe," and Tempe Inclusive Pedaling (TIP) popped up. We met at Jaycee Park, embarked on a 14-mile ride, chatted along the way, and explored scenic routes like the Scottsdale Green Belt and the crosscut canal path. Riding with a group eliminates the need to constantly check your phone for directions, making it an enjoyable experience. We ended at a dive bar with karaoke.
- Search on Facebook and Meetup for social ride groups.
- Use apps like Strava or Garmin to map your route during the ride and revisit them later.
- You don't need a fancy bike or pro skills to join. Even if your bike knowledge is limited, you can enjoy any ride.
- Share the joy with visitors by taking them on an ebike tour of your city. It's a unique and enjoyable experience.
- Opt for multi-use paths, such as the Rio Salado Multi-use Path, Scottsdale Greenbelt, and Crosscut Canal, which offer smooth, uninterrupted journeys. And they're quieter, too, which makes for easy chatting.
- Rio Salado Multi-use Path: A 17-mile East/West path connecting Tempe to Downtown Phoenix
- Scottsdale Greenbelt: A 15-mile North/South path connecting Scottsdale and Tempe. It passes through multiple parks, golf courses, and rec centers. It's very accessible anywhere along the route and passes under traffic lights. The best place to hop from Tempe is Via the Rio Salado path.
- Crosscut canal: The canals are Phoenix's greatest mystery and treasure. The crosscut canal goes North/South, runs through Papago Park, and is easily accessible via the Rio Salado Multi-use path.
3. Embrace Public Transit
Ditch the car for transit, especially when attending events, to avoid parking chaos.
Whether it's the Lunar New Year festival in Downtown Mesa or First Fridays in Downtown Phoenix, I've found it's worth taking the light rail with friends. Not only do you bypass the long lines of cars waiting for parking, but you also eliminate concerns about who's driving after a night of celebration.
- Allow extra time to get on the light rail and purchase tickets. Also, make sure you're on the right side of the platform.
- Make it a social experience by riding with friends. Use the Valley Metro app to coordinate and track the light rail's ETA if your friends hop on at another stop.
- Use Park-and-Ride facilities to avoid event parking hassles.
- Experiment with multi-modal options. For instance, ebike to brunch with family, take the light rail home when it gets warmer, or park your bike near a light rail stop for a quicker commute.
Living car-free has brought me unexpected bonuses and memorable adventures. So, why not give it a try? Tempe is waiting for you to explore it without the hassle of parking meters and traffic jams. Embrace the e-bike, join a social ride, and enjoy the freedom of car-free living!