Newsroom | “It’s Just a Great Path”

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Every day, Stevie Milne rides her bike 6.67 miles to work as an instrument repair technician in Tempe, and the same distance home again.

“It’s Just a Great Path”

Prop 400

On the Move Partners in Progress logoUnder Proposition 400 in 2004, Maricopa County voters approved an extension of the half-cent sales tax for transportation. This series highlights projects built under Prop 400 — to let you know where your money is going and how it is improving your transportation experience.

Every day, Stevie Milne rides her bike 6.67 miles to work as an instrument repair technician in Tempe, and the same distance home again. Most of her commute takes place along the Rio Salado Pathway, which extends more than 18 miles through parts of Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, and Mesa.

“Riding your bike is a sense of freedom. I can go at my pace. It is my body moving my piece of machine. There’s just something about connecting with a bike and being on a road,” saysRio Salado Bike Riders Milne, who also is president of the Tempe Bicycle Action Group. “There’s something very calming and peaceful and rewarding about riding your bike as opposed to driving in a car. Also it is cheaper, besides the environmental effects and the health effects…I feel like cycling and bikes are just all around the best way to be active and feel connected.”

Bicycle enthusiast Jeff Caslake is used to commuting in traffic during the weekday, and finds the continuous off-street Rio Salado path a welcome weekend escape. He rides the entire length of the pathway from 15th Avenue in Phoenix to Dobson Road in Mesa at least once a year.

“The huge advantage to most bicyclists is there’s no car interaction at all,” says Caslake. “There’s a point even in a vehicular cyclist’s life I think that you just sort of get weighed down where ‘I really don’t want to deal with traffic right now.’ So, the Rio Salado path is awesome for that…You can actually go and relax while bicycling as opposed to being aware of traffic, what I’m going to do at this intersection next. So the Salado path removes all of those concerns.”

Just as the path has multiple users from multiple cities, it was constructed with a blend of funding sources to provide far-reaching regional system benefits. The Regional Transportation Plan that voters approved as part of Proposition 400 in 2004 includes not only a half-cent sales tax for transportation, but a mix of federal, state and regional funding overseen by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).

Support from MAG was critical in making the Rio Salado path possible across multiple jurisdictions. Support included initial assistance for design, and funding to construct several underpasses along the path. Of particular benefit is being able to cross under the Valley’s freeways, including Loop 101, Loop 202, SR 143, and Interstate 10.

Because of the environmental benefits of walking and hiking, federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funding was used for the path.

For Stevie Milne and Jeff Caslake, the pathway is a favorite place to take out-of-towners, with a mix of urban art and natural desert scenery along the river.

“We’re sort of in a floodplain area, there’s not a lot of building right up against (the path), at least on the one side,” says Caslake. “I can see Four Peaks. I can see Mount Ord on a good day. And if I’m turned around and riding the other way, the White Tank Mountains, Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak are visible.” (See gallery below for photos taken during his rides.)

Caslake uses his bicycle to commute 1.5 miles to work, and runs errands that range from picking up groceries to put in his saddlebags to even hauling a TV to Goodwill using a bike trailer.

“I’m too cheap to drive and too lazy to walk,” laughs Caslake. “At a mile and a half, it’s a 30-minute walk, a 10-minute bike ride or like a 7-minute car drive. There really wasn’t a need for a car so we’ve gotten down to a one car family at this point, and my wife’s car actually ends up with fewer miles on it over the year than my bicycle does.”

Milne says she often recommends the path to other cyclists – and has even recommended it to her parents.

“I have convinced them to sell their house and move somewhere along the Rio Salado path, because in my words, ‘I can bike to you and it will be easy.’ So I will be using it in a commuter sense to hopefully get to my parents, but I will be heading east, so it really is just a great path.”

First four photos courtesy City of Tempe. Remaining photos taken by Jeff Caslake.
Click on a thumbnail photo to see a larger version

 

Published March 18, 2021

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The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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