The Culture of Cycling in Flagstaff: A 10‑Year Boom

Seth Muller is a writer for Mountain Living Magazine who does as much of his job as possible by bike — not the writing part, which he probably does sitting in a chair with a computer in front of him — but the part where he rides around reporting, and interviewing people, like me.

Seth Muller
Seth Muller | Photo:

I sat down with Seth about two months ago for an interview about “The Culture of Cycling in Flagstaff.” But here in Flagstaff (as elsewhere), I’m a nobody. I’ve only lived here for about five years, and I have not managed (or tried) to hang out with the cool cyclists in town. The hang out at the Pay-n-Take, so I’m told.

We sat at local coffee shop, and I broke the ice with Seth by telling him an interesting personal fact. I wanted to be relevant to his article, even if I’m not one of the cool kids.

“My dad, whose name is the same as mine, used to write for a magazine in Colorado called Mountain Living! I’m a newcomer to town, but that’s interesting, isn’t it? Huh?”

Seth didn’t smile or raise an eyebrow.

“Yes. It’s why we refer to ourselves as Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living.”

I felt like I was on a blind date with someone named Cleopatra, and I said, all eagerly, “Have you heard of this other Cleopatria!” And she rolls her eyes and yawns.

My coffee went cold. Actually, now that I remember, it was an iced coffee.

So that didn’t particularly interest him. He’s a journalist, not a blind date. Still, I wanted to be interesting and relevant. Maybe generate some free publicity for Bike Shop Hub.

Bicycle Friendly Community  Flagstaff, AZ | Silver LevelSo I told him that six or seven years ago, it was an article in Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living that convinced me to consider Flagstaff as a place to live.

In that article, I read about a guy named Jack Welch, who lived in Saint Louis, then retired to Flagstaff, where he became the Obi-Wan Kenobi of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. His charm, persistence, and gentle Jedi influence has done more than any single person to create the 10-year boom in Flagstaff’s cycling culture — earning a Silver Level Bike Friendly Community designation from The League of American Bicyclists.

Ted's Quote in Northern Arizona's Mountain Living
My quote begins on page six, Mom.

And as I’ve become more involved in cycling advocacy, I always think of Jack Welch — one soft-spoken guy who shepherded his community to become more liveable.

He didn’t do it alone, of course. Flagstaff Biking Organization and its members deserve much of the credit.

But the guys who hang out at the Pay-n-Take had less to do with Flagstaff’s “boom” as a cycling city than did Jack.

My story about how I was lured to Flagstaff by walkability, bikability, and Jack Welch made it into the story Seth wrote. Nice recovery.

The article which contains my interview — along with interviews of other Flagstaff cyclists — is available online here:

The Culture of Cycling: Flagstaff’s Evolution Toward a Bicycling Mecca

In my interview with Seth, I must have yammered a bunch about towns I’ve visited in Colorado, because the quote that got featured in big magenta quotation marks was all about how Flagstaff should have Colorado envy.

Now the cool kids will never talk to me.

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6 thoughts on “The Culture of Cycling in Flagstaff: A 10‑Year Boom”

  1. Anthony says:

    Ted, you are always welcome to sit at us nerdy kids’ table in the lunchroom.


    -Anthony & Dave

  2. Karen says:

    I thought you were a cool kid! Now I’m finding out your not?! I feel a bit mislead Ted. Oh, well, I was impressed to see you quoted in Mountain Living. BTW, I also saw you last night in the FBO promo film at Clips of Faith, where all the cool kids were last night.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      There are worse things than not being ingratiated into the cool group.

      Keith Earickson (who occasionally guest blogs here) says, “Cool People are the worst kind of people.

      I tend to agree.

  3. Allan Blair says:

    I hate to be disagreeable, but having been a bicycling enthusiast for about 50 years, I think I know a little about bicycle friendly communities. A place where bike lanes just end with no indication of where to go next, and where bike lanes move to the sidewalk with no warning is not really bicycle friendly. I challenge anybody but a knowledgable local to ride west on Butler through the Enterprise (now Ponderosa) intersection without breaking traffic laws and/or endangering himself.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      You go right ahead and be disagreeable, Dr. Blair. I have my specific gripes about Flagstaff’s cycling infrastructure as well.

      Imagine what this town would be like without the work of cycling advocates over the last ten years. There are plenty of choke points in the bike-specific infrastructure. And locals who know the system — warts and all — can either grouse about it, or they can work toward improving it. So I hope you take your disagreeablity to FBO and to City Hall.

      I was recently in a town in Virginia that couldn’t have been a more stark contrast to Flagstaff — in a bad way. If you spend some time in the ultra-car-oriented parts of this country (and maybe you have), you’ll understand why Flagstaff is way above the national average for trips made by bike and on foot.

  4. Jeff Gardner says:

    Dr.Blair. Depending on govt infrastructure to provide the definition of ‘bicycle friendly community’ is a low-percentage move. We all know of many more places where local govt does pretty well but the people are unappreciative or clueless. The ‘community’ is people, not the bureaucratic fiefdom. The experience of cycling is our own, not what All the Unenlightened King’s Men say it should be.

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