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A new bill could end Arizona cruising bans. Lowrider enthusiasts say it's about time

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, February 22, 2024 - 11:09am

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Rick Ruiz
Entries from the Sophisticated Few Car Club at the Lowrider Magazine Civic Plaza Supershow.

Arizona lawmakers could follow in the way of California if they pass a bill that would end local bans on cruising. State lawmakers advanced the bill late last month, and lowrider enthusiasts are happy about it. They say there aren’t very many places left in the Valley where you can cruise, and it’s hurting their culture and community. California lifted bans on cruising last year. 

When the bill was heard in committee at the Arizona Legislature last month, one lawmaker harkened back to when cruising was popular on Central Avenue in Phoenix, and said there was smoking and trash, and cars driving so slow they were impeding traffic. 

But, Rick Ruiz says they know they need to police their own. He’s the vice president of the Sophisticated Few Car Club and has been in the lowriding community here for decades. He joined The Show to talk more about it.

Full interview

RICK RUIZ: Well, Sophisticated Few was founded in 1974. It was founded by seven of the original members that are still showing to this day. We have some active members that have been showing their showcase cars for 50 years. It started out in south Phoenix, and we've expanded throughout the southwest Texas, Los Angeles, Utah, we have chapters in Australia and the United Kingdom as well.

Wow. Wow. OK. So this is a big club. Tell me about you a little bit as well. Like what is it that you love about lowriders, about the club and about this culture in particular?

RUIZ: Well, the, the thing that I love most about lowriding is, is being able to spend the time with my friends and family that I'm involved with in the club. We're all close knit. We all help take care of each other and we're, we're trying to pass this dying culture onto our family, you know, trying to pass it down from generation to generation so that we can keep it alive.

Do your kids do this? Are they into it?

RUIZ: My son is not into it but my grandson, he's taken the reins with me, and he goes with me to the shows. You'll, you'll be seeing a picture of one of his bikes that we just had in the Arizona Super Show this past weekend.

Yeah. Yeah. So you've been around doing this a long time. And you talk about family here. One of the only things that comes to mind for a lot of us, I think when we talk about cruising or lowriders, is like this idea that that one time back in the day there used to be people cruising on Central. Do you have memories of that? Were you part of that?

RUIZ: Oh, yes. I have very vivid memories of when I was a child being able to cruise Central with my parents. My mom had a lowrider when I was young and that was kind of what sparked the fire inside of me to be able to continue that. And then as a teenager I was able to cruise Central for a little while until I left to go to the Marine Corps. And then when I came back, it was all gone. There was no more cruising in Phoenix.

So, right. So tell us what these no cruising laws like mean for you, for the club, for this culture. I mean, have you ever gotten in conflicts with law enforcement over this?

RUIZ: Unfortunately, yes. It's, it's not just narrowed to cruising, you know, us driving our lowriders just out in the regular street going from, you know, our house to an event. A lot of times we get stereotyped and get pulled over, you know, and, it's normally not until they, I pull out my driver's license and they see veteran on the bottom of it that they leave me alone. It, it's been like this for, for quite a while now.

So there's a bill introduced now in the state Legislature here that, that could change that and do away with these no cruising laws. What would that mean for you?

RUIZ: You know, for us and our families, it gives us a weekend outing to be able to go out on a Saturday morning or a Saturday evening and take our kids out with our families and, and our friends in the car club and just enjoy an evening of cruising around in your car, you know, and, and, and just promoting brotherhood.

Do you think that there's like a, a misunderstanding of this culture? Some of the criticisms that even came out in the hearing of this at the state Legislature from some lawmakers were that, you know, when cruising was allowed, you'd have trash, you'd have smoking, you'd have people impeding traffic. What, what's your reaction to those kind of criticisms?

RUIZ: You know, my wholehearted belief in this is that they are stereotyping all of us with the 2% that is bad, you know, just e everybody has that, you know, you go to NFL football games and there's issues there. But what we try to do is we try and police our own. When we do these cruises, we try and police our own by cleaning up our messes, you know, promoting a peaceful and family safe environment for all of us to cruise and enjoy and, and, you know, just being able to go out and enjoy these cars, you know, seeing all the different types of paint jobs that are on the cars and the artistry that has been involved in them, you know.

We don't try and block the roads. You know, we try and get these guys out of the road. Hey, get out of the intersection. We're not trying to block any traffic because we know once we do, it is closed down and we got nowhere else to go. So we try and we definitely try and police our own so that we, we can continue to cruise.

How many cities do you know around the Valley have these no cruising laws? Like, are there places you, you can go and, and still do cruise today?

RUIZ: The only city right now that does not have any cruising bans is Glendale. Tolleson has an active no cruising ban. There's a no cruising ban over by Metrocenter, Central Avenue from downtown all the way to south Phoenix. There's signs posted throughout, no cruising, as well as Mill Avenue.

So let me ask you then, if this law is successful and passes through and is signed by the governor, which is a long way off, I realize. I mean, where, what would you do? Like, where would you cruise first if you were allowed to?

RUIZ: I would cruise downtown Phoenix. It's just awesome when you're going down Central Avenue and you got the, the big buildings up with all the mirrors on the sides and you're seeing your car and as you're passing, people are giving you a thumbs up and waving to you. There's no feeling like that.

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