Author Topic: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?  (Read 4467 times)

wayfinder

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mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« on: February 13, 2017, 10:23:13 AM »
I'm considering a job offer down in Tucson AZ, near the airport.  I am having trouble figuring out how to keep the bicycling-centric, generally mustachian lifestyle I've grown so fond of out in Southern California.  Dear friends in Tucson believe it's impossible and that I'll be back to their restaurant dependent, car bound lifestyle by the end of the first summer (of course, they made the same erroneous prediction about socal 2 years ago).

First task is finding living that I can bike to and from work in a reasonable time frame.  This one is tough: the south side of Tucson by the airport is known to be "not nice/safe".  Very few if any coworkers live around there (most commute in over a half hour).

Second task is finding living that I can bike to and from errands without undue fear of getting shot or raped.  Tucson is known as a patchwork of good and bad areas.  However, most of what people tell me is based on front-page news stories, which tend to be sensational.

For living, here are a few potential options I see:
1. North, along the bike loop somewhere near U of A.  About 10-13 miles commute, with dedicated trail available for about 80%.  Trail is of questionable personal safety after dark, and I'd be commuting in the dark for 70+% of the year.  Several apartment communities are proximate to groceries/UofA (library, recreation), but again of questionable personal safety outside of normal business hours.
2. South, out in Sahuarita.  About 13-18 miles commute, all un-lit road, through the middle of nowhere.  Only 1 main road (Nogales Highway) which has questionable bike lanes and several bridges where the bike lane disappears entirely.  Affluent area, low crime.  Groceries/errands should be bikeable.
3.  East, out in Rita Ranch.  About 15-20 miles commute, half roads, half trails.  Affluent area, low crime.  Groceries/errands should be bikeable.
4.  Sumitt, south closer than Sahuarita.  About 5-8 miles commute, same road conditions.  No apartments, only houses/trailers.  Low crime (for now), possibly low affluence.  Not well known.  Not much infrastructure (groceries/libraries).  Not sure how live-able.
??.  Anything I've overlooked?

Note about the summer heat: I recognize that desert summers are brutally hot and not to be under-estimated.  Nevertheless, I have biked happily enough with preparation in the occasional 100+ we get in SoCal.  I think it can be done and is worth doing, to still bike in the heat of the summer.  I'd like to hear your thoughts on this one: am I crazy?  What can be done about the long hot summers?

I'm looking for advice.  Any mustachians who live out in Tucson AZ?  Can it be made to work, or is Tucson AZ sadly not suitable to sustaining a mustachian lifestyle?

Gimesalot

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2017, 11:24:03 AM »
Grew up in Phx but have spent a little time in Tucson.  I have a couple thoughts...

Are the areas you are looking at really unsafe?  I have found that in AZ "unsafe" is almost a code word for mostly Latino.  It really has little to no bearing on personal safety.  You might want to actually look at the crime statistics and the actual crimes that are being committed. 

The summers are HOT but not too bad.  Visiting from New Orleans, the summer felt cool except for the sunshine.  It is searing!  I recommend that you look into a way to provide shade or cover for your entire body while biking. Don't forget the back of your neck, scalp, ears, and back of your knees!

Last thought, I rode a bike while in phx and I realized that the largest danger is drivers that aren't used to bicyclists. 

P.S. My DH calls Arizona "The Land of the Pod People" you have a house pod, car pod, and work pod.  You are constantly moving from one pod to another.

Burqueno

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2017, 12:46:39 PM »
I lived in Tucson for 2 years.....the crime is overblown, but the City of South Tucson is, by most metrics, a tough place. Areas around U of A are pretty vibrant and offer a great nightlife. As with most college neighborhoods, it seems that bike theft is pretty big. There are 9 months that a bike commute would be pleasant and 3 that would be pretty brutal (heat in addition to monsoon rains that can be dangerous). I never attempted bike commuting, but found my 9 mile motorcycle commute to be miserable during the hot months (90 in the morning, 110 on the way home). Carpooling might be the best option for the summer months. Also keep in mind that Arizona drivers are not always the most attentive (or courteous).
 Even with Tucson's shortcomings, it is an AWESOME place to live. If you don't mind the heat you can name your tee time and always be seated immediately if you're willing to sit on a patio! There are endless outdoor activities and a pretty laid back populous.

wayfinder

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2017, 12:59:17 PM »
Are the areas you are looking at really unsafe?  I have found that in AZ "unsafe" is almost a code word for mostly Latino.  It really has little to no bearing on personal safety.  You might want to actually look at the crime statistics and the actual crimes that are being committed. 

Ah yes, I have found that to be the case and that is what makes it by far most difficult to use the advice of my friends.  We drove around some areas that they swear are "bad" (in daylight, so granted a rosy picture), and for the most part what I saw was not-affluent, many fences (but few gates), water heaters outside (friend pointed it out in horror....still not sure what he's on about), unfancy cars, but at least in residential areas none of the danger indicators I was used to from Long Beach: broken windows, curiously abandoned houses (ie. no one lives there, but fresh tracks show people still use the space), problem trash (shells, needles, empty wallets, clothes, condoms, bottles), graffiti, etc.  Some in down town business areas.  Those areas I would and can avoid.

I am having trouble finding crime statistics, but I am looking.  Hopefully more realistic than sensational news stories and personal anecdotes.  For where I commute through, I mainly care about section 1 crime (petty theft and property damage not relevant).  For where I live, I care about section 1 non-domestic and property damage, but not so much average income.  I don't mind low income/different racial areas (as long as they don't mind me): they don't tend to be good indicators of safety.

I know what you mean about the drivers.  I bike defensively and am not afraid to take the lane and merge as needed, but I prefer to minimize it.  10 miles of frequent lane taking and being honked at sounds a bleak prospect.  At least I minimize my risk by biking on the right side of the road and signaling and avoiding getting right hooked at intersections.

RWD

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2017, 01:14:20 PM »
Here's the official crime map. Looks like plenty of reasonably safe places near the airport.
https://www.tucsonaz.gov/police/statistics

SimpleCycle

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2017, 01:43:29 PM »
I was a full time bike commuter and 200 mile a week cyclist when I lived in Tucson, so it absolutely can be done, but if your work schedule allows for it, there are also several buses that serve that area.  The 201X stops at Speedway and Alvernon (and 22nd and Alvernon) and then goes fairly express to Aero Park, which is where I am assuming your employer is located.  It's a 30 to 40 minute bus ride and it only runs on a very limited basis, but it might be a reasonable option in the summer.  The 25 serves the airport, which would be only a couple miles on each end if you're living north, and might be better than braving the heat.

That said, I think Tucson is one of the most bike friendly places I have lived if you know how to share the road.  Nearly every road has ridiculously wide lanes and 5+ foot shoulders.  I literally never planned my route except for a few roads downtown I prefered to avoid.  You could live most any place east of U of A - you don't have to be up on the river trail, which would cut the commute down to a more reasonable 10ish miles.  Neighborhoods just east of the University are pricey, but even just a mile further east you are still in very safe residential neighborhoods with reasonable bike rides to groceries.  Based on your other location constraints, I would say anything north of 22nd and south of River Rd. would work easily, and south of 22nd is probably quite adequate as well.  I have good friends who live in Sahuarita and really like it, so I'd consider that an option too, as the actual commute up Nogales Highway is not bad.

Re: crime and "not safe", I agree this is usually code for "not white".  There is a ton of property crime in Tucson, but not nearly the levels of violent crime you might expect for a metro of a million people.  Some of the property crimiest areas are actually north along Oracle, just because of population density.  I used to live in a "less safe" neighborhood and I felt really safe - knew most of my neighbors, felt like everyone was looking out for me, etc.  I honestly don't see anywhere that raises "totally not safe" concerns on your commute.

Re: summer.  It gets HOT.  Like 110-115 hot for several months.  You will certainly need access to a shower during the summer if you are commuting more than 10 miles, and you'll probably want to go in early to beat the heat.  That said, people tend to dress on the casual side and tolerate some sweatiness, because it's hot for everyone.

I'm happy to answer more questions, but I'm short on time right now.

GoBigRed

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2017, 02:49:19 PM »
Lived in Tucson for 25+ years.  Yes, it certainly is possible. 

Outside of work, where do you see yourself spending most of your time?  If its downtown or UofA area, you may want to find a nice compromise between work and free time activities.  Drivers in Tucson are horrible, so I would really try to find a location with dedicated lanes or paths close by.  UofA/Tucson has very high bike theft, so make sure to lock the bike up properly.   

Someone above mentioned trying to find a place east of UofA and in between River and 22nd.  If I was relying on bike commute, that is probably where I would focus my search.  Probably trying to be as close to Campbell or Country Club as possible.  It would provide you easy access to most of the events in Tucson, which most are downtown or around 4th Avenue Area.  You can go downtown with ease and will be more centrally located.  It is not a bad commute east or north, as well.  However, I may not feel comfortable riding my bike from this area to the airport at night unless you are relying on biking to a bus or shuttle. 

Southeast Tucson (Vail area or around Civano) is nice as some people have mentioned.  But you may be further away from many Tucson offerings.   

Personally, I would cut Sahuarita out of your search.  It is a nice area to live, especially for younger families, but would not consider living in that area and commuting to Tucson via a bike.  I would not feel comfortable biking every day on Nogales Highway as people rush to get in and out of Tucson during rush hour.  Its a nice weekend ride, but for commuting, not something I would want to use.  Also think about things you want to do on weekends or outside of work.  There is not much in Sahuarita and you may find yourself riding your bike in to Tucson on weekends.  It has nice grocery stores, parks and you are close to Madera Canyon, but most people drive in to Tucson for on a pretty regular basis.   

Tucson is a great city, especially for bike culture, though and is improving each year.  Can't ask for a better place to ride a bike outdoors.   So many nice rides.

Blatant

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2017, 02:51:00 PM »
Tucson is awesome ... and that's coming from a Phoenician. Would I live there? Absolutely.

As others have said, the dangers of road biking lie more in the cars than in any sketch neighborhood you might ride through.

It appears the OP's sole significant "mustachian" criteria is bike-ability. That's fine. I don't want to be pedantic, but riding in 100 degree SoCal heat is not the same as riding in the desert in the summer. Is it doable? Certainly. But the heat, direct sun and monsoon storms are more than an inconvenience. They're dangerous.

GoBigRed

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2017, 02:59:02 PM »
But the heat, direct sun and monsoon storms are more than an inconvenience. They're dangerous.

I couldn't agree more.  Definitely try to avoid a route that avoids any washes.  Or on any summer monsoon you will be waiting it out for a long time.    The heat is dangerous no matter what shape you are in.  And even at 6 a.m. it is still hot in the summer.

wayfinder

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2017, 03:35:58 PM »
SimpleCycle, which roads do you prefer/avoid?  Any recommendations on safely sharing the road?  I'm always looking for ways to improve my ride.

Others,

You are correct: my main hang up here is bike-ability.  Other aspects of general mustachianism seem to be covered (low cost of living in general is pretty much a given for Tucson, including housing (so much less expensive than SoCal here), groceries (about on par, shop discounts), gas (the more biking, the less this matters)), proximity to nature (mountains, canyons).  Cooling costs are a wee bit concerning, but still outweighed by reduced housing cost, even in the summer (SoCal housing is ridiculous).

As for the heat and monsoons: I know they are dangerous, but we don't stop doing something just because it's dangerous, unless it becomes unmanageably dangerous.  I would like to hear how people manage the weather (besides driving, which I know).

I understand the monsoons in particular are dangerous for both bikers and drivers, only bikers are more vulnerable to lightning without the benefit of a motorized Faraday cage.  Floods are dangerous to both (probably more so to the driver whose visibility is worse).  For the heat, there's sun protection and hydration and food and rest as needed and perhaps taking a break on sick/tired days.  By the way, even in the summer when I visit the desert I tend to drive without air conditioning out of preference.

RWD, thanks for the crime map!

Edit: I found some more data!

Strava app reports bike usage in Tucson area:
http://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#11/-110.86029/32.08374/gray/bike

A less precise but more colorized view of crime data:
https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/az/tucson/crime/
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 03:42:23 PM by wayfinder »

GoBigRed

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2017, 04:52:42 PM »
For managing the heat during summer months, most of my biking only happens as early in the morning as possible, or after sunset.  100 is not too bad, but I limit to about 5 miles or so, and mostly flat, easy rides.  Definitely helps to have lightweight jersey/shorts and change at the office.  I assume your office has showers.  I  see people commuting in their work clothes in summer and they are typically drenched. 

For monsoons, I typically just wait it out.  The bike lanes often become flooded, so I would plan on a route of sidewalks or bike paths on these days.   Don't worry too much about this one, but just note you may have to make alternative plans or change routes.

As an aside, you mentioned cooling costs, if you can find a one story home with block construction (instead of the stick framed homes), insulation, and newer windows that are north/south facing, that will also cut down on cooling costs during the summer.  Some of the older homes may also have an evaporative cooler as a second cooling option.  These work o.k. until it gets humid and the monsoons come, then they are not as effective.  But I never had air conditioning growing up, only an evaporative cooler, so its doable.  Comfortable?  No. But much cheaper than air conditioning. 

 

Kapiira

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2017, 10:06:34 AM »
My electric bill was high when I lived in Tucson, but that was almost entirely because I had a pool. Since you live in SoCal you're probably already aware about that money pit.

I had a swamp cooler that I would use pre/post monsoon and an air conditioner that I would use during monsoon.  I didn't find the electricity use of the air conditioner to be too bad.

wayfinder

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2017, 12:38:37 PM »
Yeah energy costs I can optimize over time once I get there.  $200/mo electric bill in summer sounds high (it's 10x my current bill! yikes!) ....but still easily swallowed up by the housing delta (double yikes!!).  It's not a deal breaker anyway.

The biking might be a deal breaker.  Certainly if I had to go from 90% biking (now) to 0% biking, it would be no-go. I think the actual biking case is trending somewhere between 90% and 0% which is bouncing back and forth between go and no-go.

AZDude

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2017, 02:16:27 PM »
Most high crime areas in AZ are going to be high property crime areas, not violent crime areas. This means your bike has a good chance of disappearing once or twice a year, but you are probably going to be safe. Even so, in AZ you can carry a concealed weapon without a permit. If you fear for your safety, carry a gun during your bike commute.

That being said, cars are probably more dangerous than people. AZ is not bike friendly but I'm sure you could find a route that works.

For the heat, in Tucson you are better off than in the Phx area, since Tucson is ~5F-10F cooler and it rains more often. I would second the notion that the monsoon storms are probably more dangerous than the heat, considering you are from SoCal and are used to some heat. Just remember the air is much drier out here, so dehydration will be your biggest enemy. Chug water all day if you are biking. If you get light headed while biking, stop and find shade right away and drink some water.

AZDude

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2017, 02:19:39 PM »
Yeah energy costs I can optimize over time once I get there.  $200/mo electric bill in summer sounds high (it's 10x my current bill! yikes!) ....but still easily swallowed up by the housing delta (double yikes!!).  It's not a deal breaker anyway.

Keep in mind that was our peak one month out of the year. Our average was $106/month, including winter heating (we had electric only, no gas).

Yep, electric bills are really high 3 months of the year and low to reasonable the rest of the year. 1500sf home here. In July, the bill was $320, last month(January), it was $75. You just have to plan for high bills in the summer and reap the rewards the rest of the year. 

bestname

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2017, 02:28:50 PM »
Don't know any specifics about Tucson, but a suggestion. Can you find a livable/bikeable neighborhood that is on a bus route to and from your work?

SimpleCycle

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2017, 08:17:52 PM »
I haven't lived in Tucson for almost a decade, so the only specific I remember is the wheel eating trolley tracks on 4th, and that many of the streets in downtown proper were narrow and people don't give much passing room.  There are also crazy numbers of goats head thorns, so ALWAYS have tire patching stuff AND a spare tube on you.  I changed more tires in a year in Tucson than I have in the 9 years since I left.

One of my coworkers didn't own a car in Tucson and made it work, but it did take a certain level of dedication.  I think full time bike commuting with that size of a commute is a little on the extreme side.  How long is your commute now?

Ebrat

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2017, 07:17:23 AM »
Have you looked into the west side of town? I have a friend who used to bike commute sometimes from the Silverbell/Speedway area down to the airport. Otherwise I'd vote Rita Ranch.

In contrast to what others have said, I always felt like Tucson was pretty bike friendly. There are a lot of cyclists there, so people are used to dealing with them. This article paints a pretty accurate picture, I think: http://tucson.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/road-runner-platinum-bike-rating-elusive-for-tucson-area/article_2568db78-50a2-5c5e-a071-5a20e17dd1b9.html (another issue with the stats, from what I've read, is that the League of American Bicyclists metrics include e-bikes, which in Tucson are mostly ridden by people who have lost their license for things like drunk driving, so not the safest people to have out on the roads whether in a car or on a bike)

wayfinder

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2017, 11:52:53 AM »
Ebrat:
Quote
Have you looked into the west side of town? I have a friend who used to bike commute sometimes from the Silverbell/Speedway area down to the airport. Otherwise I'd vote Rita Ranch.

I will check out those roads!  I am considering the west side of town, mainly due to bike loop proximity and lower crime patches.

That news link you posted is a bit depressing, but at least it shows some people out there care at least somewhat.  Comments section linked a couple useful things for maintenance requests:

https://www.tucsonaz.gov/tdot/street-maintenance-improvement-request
http://www.bicycletucson.com/pothole-reporting
https://seeclickfix.com/tucson

Bestname:
Quote
Don't know any specifics about Tucson, but a suggestion. Can you find a livable/bikeable neighborhood that is on a bus route to and from your work?

Definitely worth looking into!  I'm looking into bus routes (kind of hard to extract useful info from their websites).  I think that even if the bike route is sound, having a bus alternate would be wise given the heat/monsoons.  I'm not ready to make the leap to car-free just yet, but it's good to act like it.

AZDude
Quote
Most high crime areas in AZ are going to be high property crime areas, not violent crime areas. This means your bike has a good chance of disappearing once or twice a year, but you are probably going to be safe. Even so, in AZ you can carry a concealed weapon without a permit. If you fear for your safety, carry a gun during your bike commute.

Valencia (according to the crime data someone linked) is actually pretty high in violent crime.  Although it seems wise to carry where possible, I don't think it will be possible at work.  And even errands in no-gun areas like university and libraries.  Now I'm imagining a comical image of locking up a gun with a bike!  Unless someone knows how to make that work?  If anywhere, it'd be AZ.

AZDude

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2017, 03:12:26 PM »
Some places have gun lockers. I cannot imagine locking up a gun with your bike, but for a daily commute you could probably make it work.

Although to be honest, you are giving up alot to move from SoCal to Tucson, AZ. Hopefully there is a really good reason?

wayfinder

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2017, 04:06:53 PM »
Quote
Although to be honest, you are giving up alot to move from SoCal to Tucson, AZ. Hopefully there is a really good reason?

Am I really though?  Seems very subjective.

waltworks

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2017, 07:40:26 PM »
I'd look around the U. The commute would be (IMO) fine. Had some friends who lived way out on Ajo who commuted in (to the U) every day and it worked out fine - the weather is really never that bad for bike commuting in Tucson as long as you're ok with heat (or can time your commute for early in the AM in the summer).

Personally I don't like the sprawl of Tucson, but if you mostly want to be around the U (concerts, bars, art) anyway, and you are going to work at the airport - it could work pretty well.

-W

Jaketucson

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2017, 10:19:59 PM »
Lots of opinions here...here's mine.  I'm a firefighter in Tucson and work at the station that serves the southside area you posted about.  I respond to a fair amount of violent crime in that area, but it almost always has something to do with the fact that people are involved in things they shouldn't be involved in, or domestic violence.  And it seems fairly "contained" in my observation.  There is historically gang violence in the area, though lately it doesn't seem as bad.  Just anecdotal on my part, I haven't seen actual statistics in awhile.  Tucson is a great cycling town...some areas are certainly better than others.  Park Avenue has a bike line all the way from the UofA area down to Valencia.  If you want your non-work life to be in a vibrant area, the UofA area or even some of the rehabbed areas in/around downtown may be your best bet.  The bike commute would not be bad from there if you are used to 10-15 mile bike commute.  The summer heat is definitely different.  Hydration, hydration, hydration, and keep the sun off your skin.  I used to work at UofA before my firefighting life, and bike commuted about 7 miles once or twice a week.  The mornings aren't bad mid summer, but the 5-6 o'clock afternoon bike ride was hot as f**k, especially in traffic with the heat radiating off cars and asphalt.  It always took a couple weeks to acclimate, but once I got used to it, it wasn't too bad. Hydrate though.  Seriously.

toucansurfer

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Re: mustachian suitability of Tucson AZ?
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2017, 04:01:25 AM »
Good one on living in tucson.  use to live there and had to be hands down the cheapest city i've ever been in that wasn't a complete hole.  One thought on safety is that my only experience with violent crime in tucson are generally people trying to score drugs/something sketchy and it goes south.  Generally the worst you would experience would be someone steels your bike/vehicle/ breaks into your apartment which appeared to be bad regardless of where people lived.  If anything the south side houses/apartments at least had good bars on the windows/security screens and much less likely to get broken into then the "nicer neighborhoods" where it was easy for thieves to break in.  Mother in law lives in an area considered dodge city by many in Tucson resident and she's never had an issue due to the good setup.  Not good for fires but that's up to you on that one.

If you're really paranoid about the personal theft get renters insurance.  its not really that much. 

In regards to the bike, don't buy a nice bike it will be stolen unless you bring it into your work.  Had so many bikes stolen in that town even the crappy ones.  Just bring it into your office/ maybe a janitor cupboard at work (worked best for me). 

Recommend renting an apartment as they are stupidly cheap in that town and probably a little safer on the property crime from personal experience.

Either way enjoy.  its a rocking city all around.