By Nicholas Serpa
This story was originally published at downtowndevil.com
When Korina Adkin’s truck broke down two years ago, she had no idea she would become a regular cyclist, much less join a biking group.
But after a friend invited her to Phoenix Spokes People’s Zombie Ride, she became hooked. She began attending more events, until she was joining social rides up to three times a week.
“I got my truck back a year ago,” said Adkins. “I still bike 95% of the time.”
Adkins is now a regular at Phoenix Spokes People events. The organization is a recreational cycling group that aims to spur growth in Phoenix’s biking community. They work closely with businesses and the city government to make biking in Phoenix a safer and more enjoyable experience.
Lisa Parks, Phoenix Spokes People president, said the community events they’ve hosted for the past four years have helped bring a lot of new people, like Adkins, into Phoenix’s biking community.
“I see a lot more people riding bikes, whereas before I’d hardly pass anyone,” Parks said. “Now sometimes I get stuck in bike traffic, which is really awesome.”
Phoenix Spokes People hosts public events, such as their annual “bike prom” and a variety of social rides. But the group’s ultimate mission is to help make Phoenix a more bike-friendly city, and that includes working closely with the City of Phoenix.
Not long after the group was formed in 2012, members began attending Phoenix budget meetings. They managed to increase funding for biking-related projects from $50,000 a year to $1.5 million.
“I think very quickly people started to learn who we were and what we wanted done,” Parks said. “The city has been really good at acknowledging us and working with us.”
She noted members of the group regularly share their opinions at various city meetings, and sometimes even write letters to share ideas on ways to help improve the biking experience in Phoenix.
One of the projects the group is working on now is an attempt to turn Third Avenue into “more of a biking corridor” according to Parks, complete with protected bike lanes.
“A lot of times the infrastructure is designed mostly around cars,” Parks said. “We’re trying to make sure that bikes are included in that.”
Joseph Perez, Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Phoenix and a liaison to Phoenix Spokes People, credits the group for “a tremendous amount of progress.”
“The way the city works, it needs people to show up and ask for things,” Perez said. “Phoenix Spokes People is aware of projects, and they show up and ask for what they want. That’s great for the entire community.”
Phoenix Spokes People continues to grow — it recently obtained 501c3 status, registering it with the federal government as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. The next step, Parks said, is getting the community more involved. The group will have their first public information meeting later this month.
Ultimately, it’s this focus on community that makes the organization so special, explained Adkins. Her bike was stolen about a week ago, but she said members of the group instantly stepped up to help her. Some people offered to give her extra parts or even entire bikes. Another offered to help her shop for a new one.
She said the way in which everybody rallied behind her brought her to tears.
“It was overwhelming,” Adkins said. “I went from a place of despair to being like … my heart swelled so much.”