Cyclist safety continues to be major concern surrounding streetcar tracks
A bicyclist rides his bike past the Tucson Sun Link Modern Streetcar on June 26 at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street. From August 2012 to April 2014 86 injuries occurred along the streetcar route,according to the Living Streets Alliance.
The implementation of the Tucson SunLink Modern Streetcar has been met with both criticism and praise. Since construction began in 2012, the streetcar anticipates providing many benefits to Tucson residents including environmental efficiency and easy accessibility. However, the hassle and potential harm the streetcar brings to people who cycle around campus has been a recurring issue.
The Living Streets Alliance, a Tucson-based organization that works to encourage healthy communities through social and outdoor activity, is one of many organizations to take notice of the trend of bicycle collisions along the streetcar tracks. In a May 19 report, the LSA published its first set of data that focused on the bicycle crashes along the streetcar route.
The data, consisting of 86 crash reports from August 2012 to April 2014, showed recurrences in areas where crashes occurred and the causes of bicycle crashes along the route. While crash report locations are scattered along the route, a large number of accidents occurred near the Main Gate area, the Toole Avenue and Fourth Avenue intersection and the Fourth Ave. and University Boulevard intersection. All filed reports consisted of bicyclists hitting the pavement after the wheels were caught in the tracks, with injuries that ranged from minor scrapes to broken bones.
Hannah Hollins, a UA alumna and avid cyclist, is no stranger to these growing concerns. In February 2013, a bicycle ride down Fourth Ave. and University Blvd. ended in frustration and a broken elbow.
“I had been riding my bike past the cafe when I noticed a parallel-parked car was sticking out too far,” Hollins said. “The owner opened the door and I swerved to avoid hitting the car.”
As a result, Hollins’ bike got stuck in the tracks and she fell.
Hollins said the secret to riding successfully on the streetcar tracks is to act cautiously and ride perpendicular to the tracks as much as possible. However, at the time of Hollins’ crash, there was parking alongside the streetcar tracks, which leaves less space for cyclists to navigate around the tracks.
According to the LSA, the Tucson Department of Transportation eliminated the parking zone near the intersection of Fourth Ave. and University Blvd., which has helped reduce the frequency of crashes at that particular location.
In the wake of these accidents, the UA Parking and Transportation Services has decided to take action. It has created brochures, found on its website, that provide in-depth instructions of how to ride safely around the tracks and other vehicles. Likewise, Pima County sponsors a variety of bicycle safety courses that are taught by skilled League of American Bicyclists cycling instructors. These classes not only teach proper cycling techniques, but also supply free helmets, bike lights and u-locks with participation.
The City of Tucson, LSA and the UA Parking and Transportation Services seem to have united around one common goal: to create a plan that streetcar riders, drivers and cyclists can all benefit from. However, Hollins believes not everyone can win in this situation.
“In trying to modernize Tucson, it is extremely difficult to make everyone happy,” Hollins said. “Someone’s needs are bound to be swept under the rug, or on the tracks for that matter.”