BAC concerned about streetcar’s impact on popular bike routes (with video)
Members of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee expressed their concerns about the modern streetcar during a presentation by the streetcar’s planners during Wednesday’s BAC meeting.
The streetcar team presented the lane layouts throughout several sections of the route.
The new tracks will be placed in the roadway in each direction rather than one track down the center turn lane. The streetcars, automobiles and bikes will all share the lane along Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard, two of Tucson’s most popular bike routes.
The designers said they are planning to use a newer track, which is slightly better for cyclists, but has a 1 and 5/8-inch gap between the track and the edge of the road — still wide enough to allow a tire to slip into the gap. The designers did not know how wide the gap currently is.
The design calls for narrowing the center turn lane and the the parking area along Fourth Avenue and University.
The narrowing leaves 15 feet for the travel lane. The streetcar will utilize eight feet of the 15, which allows cyclists six feet of space.
Several BAC members expressed concern about the space when a motorist opens a car door, which would limit the area for cyclists to manuever to three feet.
The team didn’t have numbers about how much room there would be if a streetcar passed on the left and a car door was opened on the right.
They did say that the streetcar drivers would not pass a cyclist if they could not give them three feet. They said they would work with the city to place sharrows in a location that would keep cyclists in a safe location.
Additionally planners showed various intersections with pavement markings designed to illustrate how cyclists should cross the tracks.
The planners gave a brief presentation about the streetcars’ general route , which will start around Congress west of I-10, wind through downtown, up Fourth Avenue, west on University Boulevard, through the UA and end near UMC.
The approximately 4-mile-long route will have cars that run every 10 minutes and take 26 minutes to travel the entire stretch.
The streetcar will be a part of Sun Tran’s system and will charge the same amount as the bus and accept bus transfers.
Check out the video to see what the planners and BAC members had to say.
YouTube version here.
Other streetcar points:
- The design utilizes stops located in the center of the street to minimize pedestrian/bike conflicts.
- The Fourth Avenue underpass is a separate, completed project and will not receive the more bike-friendly tracks.
- The route was selected by citizens and the city council.
- They have ordered eight cars and will have 17 stops along the 4-mile route.
- The streetcar construction is scheduled to start in 2011 and start moving cars in October 2012.
- There are not additional funds to create alternative bike routes to help cyclists avoid the streetcar routes.
Support for TPD bike police
The BAC approved a motion to allow the committee chairwoman to write a letter to the city council and the Tucson Police Department’s chief of police expressing their concern about substantially reducing the bike patrol program.
BAC members said the bike police often rotate through officers and teach them about issues that face cyclists in Tucson and don’t want to see the program eliminated.