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Love Cyclovia but hate traffic? Here are some low-stress routes in Tucson

If Sunday’s Cyclovia Tucson demonstrated one thing, it was that there are thousands of Tucsonans who like to ride their bikes.

But many of those who turned out on Sunday might not feel comfortable riding when the party is over and the roads are opened back up to traffic.

Recently I was standing with an acquaintance in Reid Park when we saw a young woman riding south on Country Club Road, which has zero bike facilities.

She was pedaling as fast as she could and looked panicked. My acquaintance muttered, “Doesn’t she know she doesn’t have to ride there?”

We live in a region that provides cyclists options for getting places around town. But many people, especially newer bike riders, aren’t familiar with those alternatives.

For the most part, motorists are only familiar with the roads they drive on and the bike lanes that hug the sides of those roads. But for many people who are considering riding, bike lanes on busy streets don’t look appealing.

How would a motorist who drives across town everyday on Speedway or Broadway Boulevards know that the Third Street bikeway exists?

Here are a few options for routes around Tucson that have light traffic and offer a Cyclovia Tucson feel every day of the year.

Susannah Sanchez rides across the Mountain Avenue bridge at the Rillito River.

Rillito River: A continuous car-free bike and pedestrian path which stretches from I-10 to Craycroft Road. There are a few businesses, including Trader Joe’s and several parks with easy access from the path. This is the first place we went riding with Luci when she was six-months old. We went back and forth along this stretch for months before taking her on a road with cars.

The intersection of Third Street and Treat Avenue.

Third Street: Third Street is the most popular bikeway in the region because it is a low-stress way to access the University of Arizona area. It stretches from Campbell Avenue on the west to Wilmot Road on the east. It follows quiet neighborhood streets through Tucson and prevents all non-local traffic from using it as a cut-through street. Check out the interactive map below to follow the route. West of the University, this road turns into University Boulevard, which has more traffic, but is still a decent route.

Cactus/Treat Ave: This north-south route stretches from the Rillito River path on the north to the Aviation bike path on the south. Although there isn’t a great way to get across Broadway Boulevard, it does have bike-friendly crossings at the other major intersections. This would be a great way to access Reid Park and the zoo.

This bike boulevard is currently under construction, but is rideable now.

Fourth Avenue/Fontana Avenue: This north-south route will become Tucson’s first official bike boulevard and stretches from University Boulevard on the south to Prince Road on the north. The bike boulevard will prioritize bicycle travel and prevent motorists from using the route as a cut-through street. It also provides nice access to the 4th Avenue-area shops and restaurants. Once south of University and around the shopping district, there is a substantial increase of motor vehicles and obstacles. Use care riding in that particular section. You could park your bikes at one of the bike parking corrals and walk the busy stretch of Fourth Avenue.

Mountain Avenue with cross hatch lines.

Mountain Avenue: This route has the most traffic of any of the routes on the list, but is also one of the most popular routes for bicycles because it connects the University of Arizona to the Rillito River on the north. Between Speedway Boulevard and Ft. Lowell Road, the route features a bike lane that is buffered from traffic by several feet of bricks. From Ft. Lowell to the Rillito River, the bike lane is decent, but not as roomy as the southern stretch.

Blacklidge Drive: This east-west route connects to several north-south routes including Treat Avenue, Mountain Avenue and Fontana Avenue. It has a bike/pedestrian crossing at Campbell Avenue and starts at 10th Avenue on the west and Columbus Boulevard on the east. This route can get you to Beyond Bread, Sauce, an Albertson’s grocery store and Nico’s Taco Shop.

Lester Street: This east-west route connects Mountain Avenue and the Fourth Avenue bike boulevard, which allows cyclists to avoid the busier section of University Boulevard.

Santa Cruz River: The Santa Cruz River path is another car-free bikeway, which starts at 29th Street on the southern end and continues north to Grant Road, although construction is underway to stretch the path all the way to Ruthrauff Road.

Aviation Path: The Aviation bikeway is another car-free route which starts just outside downtown Tucson and continues east to Kolb and Escalante Roads. There are several points where the path crosses major intersections via a crosswalk, which requires caution.

View Low stress bike routes in Tucson in a larger map

Those are a list of my favorite low traffic bike routes. Do you have your own low-stress routes that I didn’t list? Add yours to the comment section.

Also check out the map sent to me by a reader. It shows family-friendly intersection crossings throughout the entire region.

View Safe Bicycle Street Crossings in Tucson AZ in a larger map

Lastly, download the region’s bike map to help find a route. The green routes are considered low traffic streets and more often than not provide bike/pedestrian crossings at major roads to help people get across.

Please consider sharing this with some of your friends who may be considering riding their bikes more. Bike to work week might just be the motivation they need.

And check out Tucson Velo and Chris Hinkle Photography’s photo booth images from Cyclovia here.