We rode the streets of Tucson today with our host Mike, who showed us the bikey landmarks of the city. Here were some of the highlights.

We visited BICAS, a great non-profit bike organization with earn-a-bike programs, bike classes and endless crates of parts. When we stopped by the place was hopping with people working on bikes and scouring through the heaps of parts.

We also stopped by the Bike Church, an art project that was put together by local teens. It has some great features like chimes made from bike tubes and a solar panel that charges a light that shines blue at night. Inside the Bike Church is also a small memorial of a child that was killed while riding a bike.

Then we visited Ed of La Suprema Bicycles, a local frame builder in Tucson that does some beautiful and creative work with steel.

We rode through some famous bike bridges, one is shaped like a rattlesnake that has a motion detector on the rattling end that plays a recorded rattle as you roll by. The other is inspired by native american basket weaving (no sound effects).

Then we checked out some of the bicycle infrastructure in Tucson (they have Gold Status as a Bicycle Friendly City). There are a lot of miles of bike lanes in Tucson, some of it well executed and some of it in the door zone. There were also lots of new experimental things, some that seemed to make sense and others that left you scratching your head.

Here is a special bike crossing into a street that forms a bicycle boulevard of sorts.

The University of Arizona has several Davis-esque cycletracks on campus. Mike tells us, however, there is a big problem with pedestrians using the same lanes and no enforcement to encourage proper usage.

Not to be outdone by Long Beach’s green stripe sharrow or Portland’s bike boxes, here’s an interesting bike lane treatment – two double white lines and green paint! Despite these visual indicators and signage, Mike tells us there is still a problem with cars pulling into the green paint to use it as a right hand turn lane. Of course, it’s typically bad form to put a bike lane on the right side of a right hand turning lane since it causes turning conflicts, which apparently will still happen regardless of what color you paint the lane or how many big bold lines you put in.

There is a bit of confusion here where a bike path ends at a street crossing and turns into crosswalk. Are you suppose to dismount and walk or ride across? If you walk across it’s a great inconvenience. If you ride across it’s a danger because cars may not expect something to be moving that fast in a crosswalk. Here’s a great example of an instance where a seemingly “safe” path because extremely dangerous very quickly. While you are separated from traffic most of the way, you are left not knowing what to do at an intersection where most collisions occur.

Perhaps the most egregious bit of bicycle infrastructure all day was this. On Mountain Ave, one side of the street is under construction so the city put up signs for cyclists (going in opposite directions) to share a single bike lane! Not only does this increase the likelihood of cyclists hitting each other (especially at night with bike ninjas), but also it increases the likelihood and collision speeds of cyclists and cars. What they have created is a bike lane that goes against the flow of traffic. Drivers have to now negotiate with cyclists going in two directions at once! It was so mindblowingly stupid in fact that when other cyclists came by in the opposite direction we just rode in the traffic lane where it was safer. Tucson – you have to fix this!

So that was our tour of Tucson (thanks Mike!). It had a lot more bikeyness and bike infrastructure than we had expected. The city did some things well, but it was obvious that there were compromises in the execution of some of the projects. What was fascinating was the bike burgeoning bike community – BICAS had a great vibrant feel to it, Ordinary Bike could have been a shop out of Portland and Ed’s frames were creative and beautifully done. We didn’t know what to expect from Tucson, but it really is something like a bike oasis hidden in the miles of interstate we’ve been riding through.