City's plan will implement alternative cycling routes around streetcar
Hailey Eisenbach / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Crosswalk for bicyclists and pedestrians located at intersection of University Boulevard and Stone Avenue.
A city department’s plan aims to increase bicycle safety by introducing new cycling routes near the proposed route for the Sun Link Modern Streetcar.
The Tucson Department of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program is working on providing an alternative bicycle route to the streetcar corridor. The program will also add green paint, signs and road markings along the streetcar corridor to provide a safer riding experience for bicyclists who wish to continue using University Boulevard.
The city already has funding and is moving forward with adding a bicycle boulevard to Fifth Street, from Fourth Avenue to Euclid Avenue. The program is also looking to install a toucan signal
crossing, a signal that accommodates bicyclists and pedestrians, across Euclid Avenue on Fifth Avenue.
Ann Chanecka, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the city, said that they are trying to provide alternate routes for cyclists who prefer to stay away from busy streets. Bicycle boulevards in
residential areas throughout Tucson are one way to hopefully attract more riders, she added.
“Different types of cyclists prefer different types of routes, and even without the streetcar at Main Gate [Square], you have a lot of pedestrian traffic and a lot of cars backing up,” Chanecka said. “I think providing a balance of options is always important.”
While there is funding to install the signal crossing and the bike boulevard, Chanecka said there aren’t sufficient funds to repair Fifth Street from cracks and potholes at the moment, but that the city is always looking to improve roads when there is funding.
“The street on fifth is really messed up — it’s like riding off road basically because there’s so many cracks,” said Michael Giansiracusa, a junior at Pima Community College who bikes through and around the UA campus often. “If it were nice and paved it would be awesome, because then you could bike on a non-main car street.”
This story has been updated for accuracy and clarity.
For those who wish to continue riding along Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard, there will also be improvements along the streetcar corridor. Green paint in the pavement will guide cyclists across curved tracks.
Michael McKisson, an adjunct professor at the UA School of Journalism and publisher at TucsonVelo.com — a news website that focuses on local cycling — said green paint is only good if cyclists are educated about what it means.
“If you put it down, that doesn’t mean people know what to do,” McKisson said. “You have to let them know why the green paint is there, what it’s for and how to use it.”
Shared lane markings followed by two arrows will be placed between the door zone of parallel parking and the streetcar track to help position cyclists away from both danger zones. McKisson said that the area between the two leaves about one foot for cyclists to work with.
“It’s frustrating in that our safety wasn’t really a primary concern and so now bicyclists are having to be relegated to other routes,” McKisson said, “pushing us off the routes that we’ve used for years and putting us somewhere else to make us safe.”
The blue signs showing cyclists that their tire can get stuck in the tracks if they don’t cross properly are currently in temporary positions but will be permanently placed along the route as construction is completed.
The old yellow trolley signs that tell riders to cross the tracks with care will also stay in place for the modern streetcar. Giansiracusa admitted that signs aren’t very helpful, though.
“A green paved section that shows you how to cross the tracks would be more helpful than, say, a sign, because people are looking at the ground while they’re biking and not at the signs,” Giansiracusa said.
Chanecka said cyclists are still expected to ride along University Boulevard and Fourth Avenue because of the many destinations in those areas. Cyclists are not being banned from the streetcar corridor, she added.
“We’re trying to make improvements on the streetcar route but also provide some alternatives where we can for those that prefer to take a different route,” Chanecka said.
Although the streetcar is a good mode of alternative transportation, McKisson said, other cities with a streetcar have found ways to accommodate the needs of bicyclists better.
“I think there are going to be a lot of people who are not going to feel safe,” McKisson said. “Right now it’s just a track you have to worry about, but then you’ll have a streetcar on the track that you’ve got to worry about.”