When I decided to move to Tempe without a car, I was apprehensive. Phoenix is the capital of sprawl! I had no idea how I’d get around.
I’ve lived in Tempe for a year and a half, and I’ve realized I didn’t need to be apprehensive: I love my multi-modal commute, I’m able to get just about anywhere I want, and I haven’t had a clue about the price of gas since moving here.
I’d never used an ebike before I arrived in Tempe. Now, it’s my number one recommendation to people going car-free. I use my bike multiple times each day in Tempe. That includes commuting to work in downtown Tempe via neighborhood streets and ASU campus paths, getting groceries on the way home, and riding along the Rio Salado Trail on weekends.
The best part about getting around via ebike is the breeze. When I’m feeling tired, I’m able to turn the throttle—no pedaling required—and cool off.
One of my favorite spots to bike is on the Rio Salado Trail, specifically just past Tempe Marketplace under the 101 and 202 highway interchange. When I’m there, I see Tempe’s legacy monumental car infrastructure but also its commitment to dedicated, safe bike infrastructure. Sometimes, I’ll try to keep up with the cars exiting the freeway. Other times, I’ll stop to admire the oasis in the riverbed created by the highway bridges blocking the desert sun.
- You rarely need to bike on major streets. In Tempe, look for alternative routes through neighborhood streets. If you’re headed to Phoenix or Gilbert, try the multi-use paths along canal trails and the river.
- I always carry a backpack and I keep a spare tire and a small pump in it, just in case.
- Most people have a basket on their bike. I’ve realized I don’t need one. Only having enough room for a backpack’s worth of groceries allows me to rotate between 4 grocery stores every few weeks, so I can optimize what I get at each one.
- It’s quite easy to bike to the airport, as long as you don’t have a lot of luggage. Bring a lock for the bike lockers.
I love transit because when I travel via train or bus, I’m not tied to a parking spot or bike rack I need to return to. For example, I’ve taken the light rail to Downtown Tempe, hung out at Tempe Town Lake, and walked home listening to podcasts (one of my favorite activities). I’ve also taken weekend ebikes to Phoenix, Scottsdale, even Glendale, and put my bike on the bus or train to get home.
A few months ago, someone told me that the Flatiron, on the edge of the metro area to the east, was too far to get to without a car. Naturally I had to prove them wrong. I put my bike on the 30 bus and took it to its last stop at Power Rd. I biked through Usery Mountain Regional Park (beautiful when the wildflowers are blooming, and full of wildlife). I kept biking on dirt bike trails and eventually made it to Lost Dutchman State Park. From there, I hiked to the top of the Flatiron (I lost the trail once, but I knew exactly where I was). Then I did the same in reverse, with an extra stop at the state park for a snack and some precautionary extra charge time for my ebike and a stop at the Asian district in Mesa for a Korean corn dog dinner.
- The light rail and most bus lines run at fixed intervals every hour. Memorize the times past the hour that it passes your stop and you won’t need to check your phone every time.
- Learn which direction you walk after getting off the light rail, and optimize for it. While you’re waiting for the train, walk to the correct point on the platform so that when you exit the train, you’ve minimized the distance to your final destination. For example, when going to the airport you’ll want to be at the front of the train.
Here are some more tips for getting around car-free in Tempe:
- There are some intercity buses to Tucson which leave from the University and Rural Transit Center daily. Make a day trip out of it or stay overnight, but make sure to go to Tumerico vegetarian Mexican restaurant while you’re there.
- Show Waymo to your friends from out of town. They’ll be amazed and you can be super nonchalant about it.
- If you ever miss a flight at the airport (not saying I’ve ever experienced this…), take the Skytrain to its last stop at 44th St Station and walk across the street to check out the S'edav Va'aki Museum (formerly Pueblo Grande Museum).