My name is Alexys, and this past January, I joined the Culdesac team and moved to Tempe, AZ. I grew up deep in the suburbs of New Jersey and spent the majority of my life living in a cul-de-sac (ironic). As I never had a car that was all my own, I depended on others, like my mom and friends, to get wherever I needed to go. I couldn’t even grab a pack of gum without needing a chauffeur. When I started college, I loved the freedom I gained. College Park, Maryland, isn’t a big city by any means, but everything I needed was within a 20-minute walk, and the bus system was frequent and reliable. I could go wherever I wanted just on my two feet, without needing anyone else, a lifestyle I never realized was attainable. Going back home to New Jersey meant going back to my isolated suburbia that emphasizes car dependency.
When I purchased a car, as much as I loved the freedom I gained, I hated the sacrifices I had to make to keep it: the money required for maintenance, wasting my time sitting in traffic, restricting where I went based on parking availability, and my car’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. And it turns out, many people dislike those things too. So, when I came across the opportunity to work at Culdesac — a company with the mission of building walkable neighborhoods — it was a dream I needed to join. I made the big move from New Jersey to Arizona, bringing sunscreen, a portable fan, and my trusty, dusty Nissan Sentra.
Prior to working at Culdesac, I’d barely ridden a bike and had definitely never taken it farther than the end of a road in my neighborhood. I hadn’t even heard of an ebike. However, during my first week at Culdesac, I was met with generous offers from co-workers to show me around town via guided ebike tours. I dragged my feet for a long time on accepting these offers, instead choosing to drive or walk and making up excuses along the way. Eventually, I got an offer to ride to work with someone and thought, what the heck? The kicker? It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.
My favorite discoveries so far as a new ebike enthusiast:
- Biking is a Tempe newcomer’s best friend
Even after my first couple of rides, riding by myself, especially at night, was terrifying to me. I tried to always plan my schedule around my roommate's to avoid having to ride anywhere alone, even if it was inconvenient for the both of us. Then one day, I just did it. Riding by myself to new places, and occasionally getting a little lost, has been a wonderful way for me to explore my new city and find new spots that I wouldn’t have come across driving. Biking has helped me familiarize myself with the city in a way I’ve never done before. I honestly don’t think I could name more than 7 streets in my New Jersey hometown, even in the most dire situation. But here: Oh yeah, that great coffee place is on 7th street off of University, and there’s a fantastic bar on Apache just a mile west of Culdesac. Another great perk: the art in Tempe is top-notch and easy to miss when speeding past in a car.
A sunset I caught on one of my first solo bike rides to Tempe Town Lake, a local favorite. I sent it to my grandma, and she was shocked that I was finally riding a bike alone AND that I was doing it for fun!
One question I get often and would be remiss not to address is about the infamous Arizona heat. “You moved from New Jersey? How’s your first Arizona summer treating you? How do you bike in that?” I must say as someone who keeps her apartment at 68 degrees and has a sweater collection rivaling Mr. Rogers’, I had my concerns about an Arizona summer. However, if you’ve ever gotten into a black car when it’s over 100 degrees outside, you’ll agree that biking with a breeze is twenty times better than riding around in an oven and burning yourself on everything inside of it.
- Learning which ebike to buy (QOTD - Pedal assist or throttle? I’m a throttle girly)
I never considered how tough the decision of which bike to buy would be. There are so many options and so many factors that can affect the decision! I genuinely thought it was a myth that bikes can be too big for you. And yes, I’m aware that’s very silly. I have learned the hard way that taking a bike that is too tall, large, or heavy for me makes the ride extremely difficult and sometimes unsafe. I have had one too many “Oh crap, I’m about to hit this car and cannot stop myself” moments. Needless to say, I’m still searching for my Goldilocks just-right fit. My absolute favorite so far has been the Lectric XP Lite. I’ve been riding it exclusively for the past 3 weeks despite having over 60 ebikes at my disposal at the Culdesac office. Just like its title suggests, it’s lightweight enough to feel comfortable maneuvering, it has a throttle, and it has the added bonus of being foldable. A close second is the VanMoof for its safety features, but my legs are not yet trained for pedal assist only. For my fellow new members of the ebike community, I highly suggest checking out Ryan’s blog on 11 ebikes to buy now. There is no one better to get ebike advice from!
- … And finding the right helmet to match
My most significant obstacle to overcome (although others will certainly beg to differ) is finding a bike helmet that doesn’t mess up my hair. I have an XL head and sometimes XL hair, so I have yet to find a helmet that doesn’t put a dent in my ‘do. You would think a problem this universal would have a viable solution, and yet there are none! Please send recommendations my way.
My favorite way to get around town? Being cargo in the Urban Arrow!
When I consider the fact there is a walkable neighborhood coming to Tempe chock-full of people who are ready to embrace the car-free life and mobility options that are affordable, accessible, and safe (Hello Culdesac!), becoming car-free is increasingly exciting to me. And that’s why I decided to share my experience as a recent ebike newbie here. I hope reading about my baby steps has inspired at least one person and showed them that beginning a car-free journey doesn’t have to be a huge overwhelming life change, but rather it can be just that — a beginning.