Bike Rider Naturalist

When we're zipping along our city streets in our automobiles we're unlikely to notice anything about the plants, birds and other creatures that share our urban places let alone the finer details of human habitations and appurtenances. The bicycle offers the ideal mode of touring cityscapes for recreation, exercise and interest.

I began a ride on June 15th at 10th Street and Camelback, in Phoenix, Arizona. From here to past Northern Ave., 10th Street offers a wide, quiet path for the cyclist - there is a marked path along 12th Street, but this one is safer by my experience. At 10th & Camelback I found overflow parking up and down the side street left by patrons of Oregano's. The great appeal of this restaurant mystifies me. On the other hand a Tokyo Express is also at 10th & Camelback, a provider of appealing and healthy light meals. On north on 10th Street I rode. At the corner Pasadena and 10th there's a mature Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii), a tree that grows to magnificent proportions in riparian habitats, but normally struggles to grow well in too-hot Phoenix.

I've set up another Google Map is for a bike tour along Thunderbird-Paseo Park in Glendale, Arizona.

This ride begins at 10th Street and Camelback in Phoenix. North to Colter St., then west on Colter to Central Ave. Then Central Ave. south to Campbell. West on Campbell to 3rd Ave. Ride coninues s. on 3rd to Earl and finishing at Park Central Mall. View Bike Rider Naturalist in a larger map.

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City Birds Observed along this Bicycle Route

Northern Mockingbird     Rock Pigeon     Great-Tailed Grackle     European Starling
White-winged Dove     Mourning Dove     Inca Dove     House Sparrow    

West on Coulter I rode arriving at a row of mature Fan Palms (Washingtonia) on the campus of Humanities and Sciences Institute, 7th Street and Coulter. Crossing 7th Street, and passing Pizza Heaven on the southwest corner, I continued west along Coulter St. through green and shady neighborhoods well-watered by SRP irrigation. About ½ way to Central a very nice Southwestern Coralbean (Erythrina flabelliformis) is growing in a front yard (please do not go onto private property without owner's permission). Coral bean produces long lipstick-red flowers attractive to hummingbirds. Most residents here have berms around the perimeter of their yards to contain flood irrigation available at low cost from the Salt River Project. Thus most have deep green lawns and massive shade trees. A few have decided that a xeriscape is more appropriate to the desert urban environment.

Now at Central Ave. and Coulter St. I see the n.e. corner lot is designated for environmental remediation. The contamination is in the soil here and also at Central and Camelback and consists mostly of chlorinated hydrocarbons such as tetrachloroethene that were used for cleaning laundry and/or machine parts. The compounds are now being removed by Az Dept. of Environmental Quality by pumping up groundwater and removing the volatile organic compounds.

Two more eateries packed with patrons were on the west side of Central at Colter, Aiello's and Postino Wine Cafe. I think it best not to over eat or imbibe alcohol while riding. Maybe return later! I turned south on Central Ave. towards Camelback Rd. Arriving safely via the sidewalk along Central I find a new drive-thru coffee place with some outdoor seating that could accommodate riders, Dutch Brother's. Now on the southwest corner of Camelback & Central is the new Light Rail Station. You can even pop your cycle onto the rail and ride clear out to Mesa or ASU at Tempe! Some rather mediocre xeriscape plantings were put in around the station.

Continuing my ride south along Central Ave. I came to a quieter coffee spot with outdoor art in front: Lola's Coffee. On the west side of Central south of Lola's there's a vacant lot. Mostly barren, the only thing growing here in June were scattered gray-green Wheel-scale Saltbush (Atriplex elegans). These shrubby plants are common through the city, becoming evident after the hot weather begins. Just a block or so further south on Central Ave. is the bridge over the Grand Canal, with water rushing under. When driving a car this urban waterway would almost always go unnoticed. At Campbell I turned west three blocks to 3rd Ave. signed as the Phoenix Sonoran Bikeway (pdf) which runs from Cave Creek to South Mountain Park!

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Weeds growing along the road side catch my attention as I roll along. I like weeds ... they are constantly breaking our rules, growing when and where they can, regardless of our preferences. They are survivors in a harsh, trampled environment. Along side the ‘Yapple Historic District’ were Silver-leaf Nighshade (Solanum eleagnifolium), Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), and Spiderling (Boerhavia intermedia).

Apache Cicada The posted speed along 3rd Ave. is 25mph and the bike lane is well marked. That is until arriving at Osborne where the bike lane vanishes and the rider is left to fend off vehicles turning this way and that. At Third Ave. and Earl I heard the first cicada of the season, buzzing loudly from mesquites on the s.w. corner. This was the finish of my short ride and I just retraced my ride back to the starting point.

Spiderling is an abundant summer weed especially after summer monsoon storms. The blooms are very small and pink.

Silver-leaf Nighshade

Silver-leaf Nighshade

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Other Urban Habitats

Grenada Park     Scottsdale Ponds     Desert Botanical Garden

Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page

Desert Places

Urban Habitats

Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-13