This Could Be Phoenix | My Phoenix Story: Lisa Parks
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My Phoenix Story: Lisa Parks

02 Apr My Phoenix Story: Lisa Parks

Ten years ago, I left the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Phoenix to live closer to my parents. They had retired to the Verde Valley from Michigan and I hadn’t lived near them in sixteen years. As beautiful as it is, San Francisco never felt like home.

That place was reserved for New York City, where I spent most of my twenties and half of my thirties. It still feels like my hometown, even though I lived in Michigan until just after college graduation. I felt like I really grew as a person when I reached Manhattan and I fell in love with that city. But as friends got married, had children and moved out of NYC and to neighboring Boston, I found myself following them there, enjoying a wonderful two-year stint.

Having lived in all of these great places, it was easy to compare Phoenix to them when I first arrived and wondered what on earth I had just done.

The Heart Grows Fonder

My first exposure to Phoenix had me seeing sprawl, freeways, huge arterial streets, little in the way of public transportation and no walkability. Having spent many years without a car, I wasn’t thrilled to have to drive everywhere. But I wanted to be closer to family and so I was committed.

As soon as I started apartment hunting, I found myself exploring the historic districts near downtown and had my first realization that Phoenix did, indeed, have character and maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Shortly afterwards, I met my husband and we spent a few years living in a condo we purchased that was located off of a busy, extra-wide street in an unwalkable part of town. The light rail was still under construction and practically no one lived downtown, so it didn’t seem like it mattered much where you lived in Phoenix — you would have to drive everywhere anyway. And the condo had lots of character that we thought would make up for the location.

In December of 2008, things started to finally look up for Phoenix. This was when the light rail became operational and I couldn’t wait to take an inaugural ride. Restaurants and shops starting opening, the ASU campus opened and the city became livelier. Eventually, Joey and I moved closer to downtown. That’s when I got a bike.

Phoenix on Two Wheels

Getting a bike in January of 2012 completely changed my life. I found all of the bike lanes and quiet routes in my neighborhood and started to use them to see where I could go. But then I wanted more. I didn’t want to be confined to feeling safe on just certain routes; I wanted the freedom to get around on two wheels as easily as I could in a car. This was not the easiest task in a car-centric city, but I was determined. Riding a bike, walking and using the light rail in Phoenix finally made me feel connected to my city. I started to love living here and wanted to be more involved in making it a great place to live.

Light rail and bikes_cropped

As luck would have it, I discovered that a group of bicycle advocates was being formed. Suddenly, I immersed myself into making Phoenix more bike-friendly by educating myself, speaking at City of Phoenix budget hearings every April, serving on the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Task Force for the City Wide Bicycle Master Plan, helping to plan bike rides and events and doing everything possible to promote bicycling as a form of transportation.

When Mayor Stanton announced that same year at Pedal Craft that bike share was coming to our city, I just knew that I needed to be a part of it. Less than a year later, I was working for Grid Bike Share, and am so happy to see it become an integral part of the new transportation options in Phoenix.

Rolling Forward

In the past three years, I’ve noticed many more people choosing to ride a bike to get around, and it’s exciting to see new bicycling destinations popping up all the time. Once you hop on, it doesn’t take long to realize how much fun it is, how much money you can save and how much easier it is to be spontaneous or to find a place to park. With wide, flat streets that have plenty of room for protected bike lanes and beautiful weather during much of the year, Phoenix has the potential to be one of the most bike-friendly places around. As more cities realize how important it is to invest in the bicycle infrastructure necessary to attract business and talent and to generate revenue, it’s now time for Phoenix to catch up. We need to fund the newly- adopted Bicycle Master Plan and create safer streets for all users.

One of the best things that’s happened since getting a bike is that I’ve met the most amazing group of bicycle friends and downtown advocates. But I’ve also seen quite a few friends leave Phoenix to live in cities that have already invested in bike infrastructure and are more walkable. It’s not too late to keep all the good people here, dear Phoenix. I think there will be a day when we stop saying “this could be PHX” and start saying “this is PHX.” Let’s not wait too long.

In the meantime, I’ll see you at the April budget hearings.

Lisa Parks
Lisa Parks
lisa.parks@gridbikes.com

Lisa is the Community Outreach Manager for Grid Bike Share and serves as President of Phoenix Spokes People. She lives near the Midtown stretch of the Sonoran Bikeway (SBW) with her husband, five bikes and a fluffy dog.

14 Comments
  • Gene Holmerud
    Posted at 14:34h, 03 April

    Such a tragic lost opportunity. Lisa is in the position of leading a large number of fans to a great cycling culture in Phoenix. Unfortunately she has chosen to waddle in the easy path of cycling narcissism, namely that of “It’s all the motorists fault”.

    Having been a certified cycling instructor for more than a decade, I can evaluate behavior that helps the community and what does not. I have personally observed Lisa’s cycling behavior and I have seen clearly self-endangering habits. Sure, it’s a “free country”, but such behavior impinges upon the legitimate rights of other legal users of the road, resulting in resentment towards all cyclists. Add to that her ferocious torpedoing of bringing good, responsible bicycle training to the group and you have a travesty.

    I find my behavior actually enhances the roads for all and am respected as a legitimate user of the roads. Many times during any given trip, car of bike, I see self-endangering, and usually illegal, actions by people trying to use a bike. Yes we have too many casualties, but I give a lot of credit to motorists in the Valley for avoiding the bad behavior. When cyclists are very visible and predictable (read: following the rules of the road as AZ Law requires), the culture works. That should be the aim of anyone in the cycling activism genre.

  • Joey Robert Parks
    Posted at 23:10h, 14 April

    Gene Holmerud! I’ve seen you attack people before, but this is too much.

    This website is for people to write about their love of Phoenix. It’s about the love of people and our city that this fantastic website exists to the betterment of our people. That you would come here to “This could Be PHX” with your personal vendetta agenda to bash Lisa in this setting is appalling and the basest form of bullying.

    *** You jump all over her, ripping and shredding her as if you are the judge and juror and executioner and yet YOU attend—-the very next day after you wrote this post–the Phoenix Spokes People Bike Prom, which Lisa worked very hard to put together. ***

    You write as if you are all that is right and good in the bicycling world and then throw down the hammer on someone who is doing their very best to make the bicycling world a better place in Phoenix. Fine. Disagree, but to come here and attack her, point blank, by name, over and over again is pathetic, ruthless, and sadistic.

    I’d plead with Ryan and Quinn to strike your comment and delete it from this website, but I want everyone to know the bully you are and the absolute treasure this city has in her efforts. Your attempt to take away from the Phoenix Story she worked so hard on for the good of others will not be tainted by your attempt to beat her up so as to make yourself look better. Anyone who reads your vile attack will see you for what you are.

    A bully.

    My hope is that the comments that follow are about Lisa’s wonderful personal story and that others who read it are as encouraged to be a better person, a harder working person, and a more sensitive person to the needs of others as I am be Lisa Parks.

  • John Walker
    Posted at 23:23h, 14 April

    M. Holmerud,,

    I think you must have the wrong Lisa Parks in mind. The Lisa I often ride with is a cyclist who respects all people, regardless of how they’re getting around. She also respects the laws of this state, as any cyclist should. Despite periodically being bullied by cars in a hurry to get to their destination, Lisa always remains graceful and elegant.

    While I’m not one to talk about myself much, as you seem inclined to, I do feel in this context, my years of experience as a felony prosecutor of vehicular crimes and now as an administrative law judge for the Arizona Department of Transportation, I can confidently state that the Lisa Parks I know is an exemplary cyclist and citizen. In fact, even the mayor of this fine city knows her by name and values her equally as I do as a visionary and a true bike advocate.

    So, again, I do believe you must be mistaken about this Lisa Parks. I’m just happy to know and be friends with a person who is making a positive change in this community and not focusing on the negative. And that person is Lisa Parks.

    — JHW

  • Dan Carroll
    Posted at 23:35h, 14 April

    I still remember the first time I encountered an enthusiastic and tireless spokesperson for the Phoenix cycling community during the 2013 budget hearings.

    Many thanks to you Lisa Parks for your passionate advocacy for cycling and your love of our great city.

  • Karen Voyer-Caravona
    Posted at 06:10h, 15 April

    When Gene accuses another person of being a narcassist, I just want to laugh.

  • Bill McComas
    Posted at 09:25h, 15 April

    Cinco de Mayo will mark two years since I met Lisa Parks and officially became part of the Phoenix Spokes People. Safe to say my life has changed a lot since that first group ride. The leadership and commitment Lisa and many others have shown to not only made Phoenix a better place to ride a bicycle, but a better place to live, is amazing.

    I moved to Phoenix in 1996, got a good job right away, and planned to finish out my working career here. But, I also had plans to move on as soon as soon as my pension became available. In the last two years I’ve not only learned to love Phoenix even more, I consider it my home, and have no visions of leaving it.

    It’s the great work of people like Lisa that are working to turn “This Could Be Phoenix” to “This IS Phoenix”.

    I’m proud to call Lisa my friend.

  • Tim Eigo
    Posted at 09:58h, 15 April

    When I read Gene Holmerud’s comments, I was stunned, and thought I had tumbled into the worst kind of attack-websites. “Such a tragic lost opportunity”? It is his loss. He is the one who has squandered the chance to have a genuine dialogue—and to be a decent human being.

    There is a robust debate to be had on the topic of how to keep cyclists safe and how to shift from a default belief that “we are a car culture and bikes must adapt,” mainly by adhering to rules of the road designed for cars. Folks can disagree, and most folks can disagree without being disagreeable. Mr. Holmerud fails on that count.

    Most of us encounter many people as we work on downtown advocacy issues. Those who make a real contribution and who will be recalled as change agents to be emulated are not only adept at their area of interest; they are genuine, open-minded and (dare I say it?) kind, even in the face of pettiness.

    And “petty” is a generous way to describe Mr. Holmerud’s vitriolic post. It is filled with aggressions, micro and macro. It is mean and small. And do I even detect a hint of sexism? I’d be surprised if he would have used the same words and approaches with a man he disagreed with.

    Lisa Parks is a downtown and cycling advocate all of us should appreciate. She is selfless and manages to advocate without touting her resume. She manages to be pleasant, even with the incorrigible, and I have never heard her speak a bad word about anyone. But I encourage her to change that strategy when it comes to Mr. Holmerud.

  • Libby
    Posted at 10:31h, 15 April

    It is nearly two years since I met Lisa, and I count her as one of my very best friends. I reached out to Phoenix Spokes People because I was fed up with the dangerous driving I saw on the streets of Phoenix, and was interested in becoming involved in making our streets safer for active transportation. Lisa was the first person I was introduced to, and I watched how this petite, sweet-voiced lady could not only welcome people on rides, but also stand up to city staff and elected officials and firmly ask for real change. She is a fantastic bike ambassador, and a really amazing and supportive friend.

    I’m sorry this post was taken over by trolling comments, but I’m also heartened to be reminded about how supportive and amazing our community is! The old school approach of militant vehicular cyclists is fortunately dying off as this population ages and is replaced by people who recognize that cycling won’t grow if we don’t listen to what makes people feel safe.

  • Taz Loomans
    Posted at 13:12h, 15 April

    Gene, I see that you are an advocate of the “vehicular cycling” method, where bicyclists are expected to ride alongside cars with no protected bike lanes. The problem with vehicular cycling is that it is only for the very fit and the very brave. You will never find a mom with a kid in a bike trailer riding alongside vehicles with no bike lane. Nor will you find older cyclists or new bicyclists venturing out on the road where there are no designated bike routes. Unfortunately, vehicular cycling has done harm to bicycle infrastructure advocacy because it advocates that no special infrastructure is necessary for bikes, that bikes can just use the roads as they are. But most people are not willing to take on vehicular cycling, no matter how safe it really is. It’s all about perception Gene, and bike lanes are absolutely necessary if the goal is to get more people riding. I applaud what Lisa is doing and has done in the last few years to advance bicycling in Phoenix. And you too, you’ve done a lot for bicycling too Gene. But Phoenix, and most cities in the US, definitely need marked bike routes, so please don’t knock the people and the efforts that are gaining momentum towards that goal.

  • Gene Holmerud
    Posted at 16:32h, 15 April

    Most of these replies sound to me like a lot of “Ignorance is Bliss”. How about taking a look at how many traffic lights are blown thru, LtRail trains having to honk at arrogant cyclists, “stealth” riders nearly continuously in the blind spots of motorists? I have seen a culture that works with pedestrians, cyclists, liveries, double-decker busses and motorists all sharing the streets peacefully, each fully respecting each other and interacting safely. Downtown London to be exact. Good behavior can be learned very quickly, it just takes getting off one’s mindset.

  • Lisa Parks
    Posted at 08:49h, 16 April

    Gene Holmerud:

    I’ve always wondered what I’d done to cause you to harass me over the past couple of years. But then I realized that bullies don’t prey on other people because of something the other person did, it’s because of something within themselves that they don’t like. Bullies need to put other people down in order to feel important because they’re insecure and feel like they have failed. That being said, you’ve hardly witnessed my cycling behavior as we’d only been on a few large group rides together before you started bullying people and had to be banned from the group.

    I shared my story because I love my community, I love riding a bike and I want to support This Could Be PHX and the outstanding work that my friends are doing. Your comments have nothing to do with my story and it’s a shame that you felt the need to turn a positive story into something negative. But I’m well-aware that you look for any opportunity to degrade me and your comments were only said so that you can feel better about yourself – a true bully indeed.

    Your idea of people on bikes pretending that they are cars is outdated and it does nothing to encourage people to start riding, let alone feel safe. The goal of Phoenix Spokes People is to help make Phoenix a place where the streets can be safe for all road users from 8 years old to 80. As you are now reaching the upper end of this spectrum, I hope that you will soon appreciate all of our hard work.

  • Lisa Parks
    Posted at 11:29h, 16 April

    Coincidentally, you mention the streets of London as inspiration. I feel inspired by London as well, but for different reasons. Perhaps if you kept up with what present-day bicyclists want, you would have learned that about 5,000 Londoners held a protest to push for more investment in safe infrastructure in late 2013. That same year, about 2,000 bicyclists held a “die-in” for the same reason. Apparently, the people on bikes in London don’t quite feel as safe on those streets that you deem to be peacefully shared.

    http://bit.ly/1Hc4dGF

    http://bit.ly/1b7aOqe

  • Steve Dreiseszun
    Posted at 13:03h, 16 April

    Well,

    I barely know Lisa Parks, save for her contributions within the circles I’m involved in. I do not know Gene Holmerud at all, save for the eye popping troll post at the start of these comments.

    I respect Lisa, her passion that I am familiar with and her support of the bike community. I cannot respect a troll who makes no redeeming remarks, only makes personal attacks and doesn’t add to an informed debate.

    Safety and infrastructure are not mutually exclusive. We need the infrastructure to foster safety and increase use ESPECIALLY in our historically car centric city.

    When we finally get our son on his bike with confidence and can ride as a family, I will seek the company of Lisa Parks and all my friends who are positively passionate about growing the bike culture here. They’re the fun ones.

    Thank you to Lisa for sharing your story and putting yourself out there.

  • Lindsey Kohrt
    Posted at 14:19h, 16 April

    Thank you Lisa for sharing your story. I am so grateful for you and all you are doing to make Phoenix better for ALL cyclists. It is so important. You are an inspiration to me and you have my utmost respect. You have represented yourself humbly and graciously in the face of a bully.
    To Mr. Holmerud I will say that no one who has responded to you comments here is “ignorant”. The fact is, they all know that cycling can be dangerous, whether that be in Phoenix or in London. Like Lisa I have lived in New York and cycled there. I have also cycled in London, and last time I was there 2 years ago a cyclist was killed a block from where I was staying. It is extremely dangerous to cycle there! We all know cycling is risky and I think Lisa and many others like her are working hard to reduce the risks for us here in Phoenix.
    We all need to work TOGETHER to educate both motorists and cyclists on safe riding practices and safe driving practices and integrate safe cycling infrastructure to support ALL riders. Old and young, novices and seasoned riders. It is a shame Mr. Holmerud that you have taken the route of finger pointing and bullying as it does nothing but cause division and slow progress. Please use your knowledge, skill and passion to help others in the future. We all have something to bring to the table, let’s work together to make Phoenix the best city it can be.