Saturday, December 29, 2007

Being a bicyclist in Tucson’s car culture

I have two rollerboard suitcases with lifetime warranties and both needed some repair. The problem is that the only store authorized to repair them is 8 1/2 miles across town at Speedway and Wilmot, and the bags are too large and heavy to carry on my bike. So I took the bus, putting my bike on the rack on the front of the bus, intending to ride back home.

The trip there took an hour and half since the buses run so unbelievably infrequently in Tucson. But part of the problem was that I got on a bus that didn't come any closer than 1/2 mile to my destination, and I was kind of ticked that I had to walk the rest.

After dropping off the suitcases at the store, I then biked 3 miles farther to an Ace Hardware at 22nd and Kolb that has a special house wares section, where I wanted to get a V-rack for roasting a turkey. Hoping to avoid the noisy and dangerous main roads of Tucson, I attempted to travel though the middle of the mile-square blocks that are residential areas, but I was thwarted by curving roads and cul-de-sacs. There are no designated bike routes here. Now I'm getting mad. Ha — Tucson calls itself a bike-friendly city!

I get to the Ace Hardware already pissed off and there is no bike rack anywhere in the shopping plaza. I find this unbelievably maddening and inexcusable. It should be punishable by hefty fines.

So I lean my bike on the store window and lock it to itself. As I go past the cashier, she calls out that I need to leave my backpack at the front. I have a hard time not blowing up, but I calmly told her no and explained that I'm on my bike and that I carry stuff in my backpack. She insisted rudely that it's store policy. I told her if she can't trust me with my backpack, there's no way I'm going to trust her with it, and walked on. She hollered, "I'm calling the manager!" but I walked on and ignored her. I'm still royally pissed. For all she knows, I have $500 worth of merchandise in my backpack, and it's simply not reasonable to expect me to leave that unattended while I shop. I mean, wouldn't it be enough of a deterrent to a would-be shoplifter for her to acknowledge that she sees the backpack? Don't they want my money? Why is so much of Tucson's infrastructure and mentality simply against bicycling as a means of transportation?

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