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Portion of streetcar route reopening; leaves little room for cyclists

The portion of Fourth Avenue between University Boulevard and Sixth Street is reopening after more than three months of streetcar construction.

Before the construction started, there was concern among cyclists about how narrow the road would become with parked cars, through traffic and two sets of streetcar tracks.

The gates were pulled down on Friday and cyclists begin to get a sense of just how much room they would have.

In the photo above the truck is parked about eight inches off the curb. Between the truck and the track is a little under seven feet.

Accounting for a four-foot door zone, that realistically gives cyclists under three feet until the edge of the track.

Of course when a streetcar is running, it will stick out beyond the track. A streetcar official told the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee several months ago that it would be about 18 inches beyond the rail.

That would leave cyclists a mere 18 inches with a streetcar on the track.

During the same BAC meeting, the streetcar team said the streetcar drivers would not attempt to pass cyclists in order to avoid the conflict.

Additionally, the tracks are not flush with each other. You can see from the photo above that the inside part of the track is between one and two centimeters lower than the outside. The gap is still large enough to swallow many sized tires.

31 comments
Edward
Edward

I disagree on this "leaves little room for cyclists". Yesterday. I rode around that new section of 4th ave with traffic and I didn't have to veer right to stay clear of car going by on the left. Concrete surface is my indicator thar car will travel on and that means tram and auto will travel in same path so cyclist have rooms to avoid dooring. If you veer onto concrete, you will feel some sort of vibration because the concrete surface are not extremely smooth asit has squiggly or wavy lines all over the surface whereas asphalts are smooth.

Vernie A
Vernie A

Why not show our numbers during the first week the MSC is running. We make a nice peaceful protest by just being there in large numbers making sure the MSC does not pass and abides by the rules. 

Orvis
Orvis

Not much of what the street car team told us at meetings is turning to be true.  We'll be doing the street car construction one block at a time with minimal disruption of commerce and traffic.  We won't be moving utilities so it should take a couple of weeks a block.  Huh?  Let's do the math on that.  3 blocks of 4th Avenue took 3 months to complete.  Why do I go to these meetings?  

Mike H
Mike H

Seeing this from afar, this is not great.  I remember going to UA and then riding into downtown.  The pavement was horrible on 4th Ave but at least the tracks were in the center of the roadway and easily avoidable.  Now, with the tracks firmly in place, this will be a challenge to address with other means. What about removing the center two-way left turn lane and instead replacing it with a bike lane in either direction.  In essence, this would be just like a bike lane on the right except that left turns would need to cross over the lane.  Perfect?  No.  But at least it would allow cyclists to avoid tracks and parked cars. I know that Seattle is building a two-way cycle track on one side of the road for its newest streetcar.  I think this solution really will just create more problems.  I look at the comparison of the bicycle trail along Aviation Parkway.  Turning vehicles sometimes yield, sometimes don't.

Orvis
Orvis

I'm having a hard time being sympathetic to the plight of the fourth avenue merchants.  For decades now they've resisted parking meters and any attempt at a sensible parking plan for the area.  Watch the parking spaces fill up every weekday morning, it's the store owners and their employees.  By not being proactive and dealing with the problem of parking they've made life miserable for anyone living within a block and a half in either direction.  Nothing like being awakened by drunk stupid people parked in front of your house at 3 am Sunday morning.   FAMA is now trying to get the peddler's ordinance suspension in the 4th ave area lifted. The net effect being that the sidewalk food carts will be forced to either relocate to private property or go out of business.  What they're seeking is a cartel.  Cartels are not good for consumers, prices rise and choices in the marketplace narrow.  No food vendors on sidewalks but it's ok if we don't deal with the parking of cars vital to our businesses,  sucking up every available space in a 28 block area.   Sure not every customer in the 4th Ave area is going to ride a bike or walk or take the Modern St Car to get to the avenue.  But when's it going to change?  The complete and total lack of an adequate parking infrastructure adjacent to 4th Ave is not new.  Can you imagine what life would be like near UA if they hadn't decided decades ago to start encouraging alternative modes of transportation?  UA actually has less sold parking than they did 10 years ago and enrollment has risen steadily in that time.   We're spending 100's of millions of dollars on a 3.9 mile long St car route and we're worried about losing some parking?  I thought the idea was mode shift.  Can you imagine the kind of bike ped infrastructure the Modern St Car funding could have bought?  It's simply unacceptable that the one decent east west bicycle route is going to lose major connectivity from Main Gate to 5th Ave and Congress.  Decades to nurture and develop the 3rd St bike path and we're going to destroy it in a 24 month construction frenzy by putting in tracks of death on the most important part of the 4th Ave/downtown bicycle route.   p.s.  let's not even start on the 4th Ave Tunnel

franktellez
franktellez

Eliminating something is the answer. I say eliminate parking. With the new student housing going up right off 4th the vendors will soon get a ton of new foot traffic so they don't really need the parking spots as much as they think they do. Eliminate parking and widen the sidewalk. If that doesn't work close the street to car traffic with some bollards and turn it into an outdoor mall thing like Times Square in NY did. If the vendors complain give them a million dollars or something to spruce up the place. They'd like that.

Sluggh McGee
Sluggh McGee

Looks like I'll be riding in the middle of the rail line, between the tracks. So no, the streetcar drivers will not be passing.

cadence
cadence

Closing 4th Ave to car traffic and/or taking away parking is not the answer. The businesses on 4th Ave need customers to strive. Just take a look at how businesses are currently struggling with decreased access from construction. Yeah, people could ride the streetcar, but not everyone visiting 4th Ave (or anywhere along the streetcar path) is going to be interested in always doing so car-less. As for folks not understanding the green bike stripes, we need more signage along the striped areas to educate. Perhaps even a campaign with pamphlets and T.V. commercials to educate the public.

Jeff
Jeff

I can't imagine passing a car anywhere near the trolley. I don't like riding over the tracks, but I am going to have choose between the tracks and being doored by an inattentive driver. I believe there are going to be a lot more doorings on 4th Avenue. I would love to see parking moved to off of 4th Avenue. It wouldn't affect me at all.  But people have to park their cars somewhere.

foeag0
foeag0

So many drivers have no idea the green stripes mean for bikes only, now I see the "protective poles"around the green bike area at 4th and Speedway (to keep cars out of the lane) have been run down again, can we have the small concrete poles like at 3rd and Country Club?  Maybe then they'd have a clue? I see cars in the green zone at Speedway and 4th everyday.

foeag0
foeag0

3rd ave is a nightmere for travel during school hours due to Roskruge parents who can't seem to pull into a parking space, and Tucson high student drivers. 4th won't be safe as long as cars are allowed on it.  Ever been doored on 4th? I was nearly killed, no way to get the space you need to avoid that, and not be killed by the street car or cars on the road.  You can't always tell when someone's going to exit a car suddenly.

cadence
cadence

I rode 4th Ave Sunday with parked cars and it seemed more spacious for cycling than I expected. It will be interesting to see how it feels with the streetcar running, and the lines painted. I do see the potential for problems regarding folks opening car doors into cyclists, and also not parking close enough to the curb. It would be nice to see signs along the track reminding motorists to look before opening car doors. I wonder if painting a green bike route stripe would help 'remind' everyone that bikes belong.

Orvis
Orvis

The street car is not able to legally pass a bicycle on the route.  There isn't 3 feet of clear to do it in.   So we're doing multi modal by adding a mode then taking away another one?   Anyone else have the opportunity to walk or bike the unopened block of repaved 4th Avenue between 6th St and 5th St?  That carless stretch was so open and uncluttered.  From the claustrophobia of the fences to complete and utter openness.   The solution is obvious, just ban parking along 4th Ave and University.  Better yet ban cars on 4th Ave altogether.  Compromise, ban parking during daylight hrs.  Too bad the alternate solution of re-routing bikes on to 4th St and 3rd Ave. is ruined by that parking garage at Tyndall and 4th St.  This is the problem with ceding public right of way to developers.  Once it's gone you can't ever get it back and the unforeseen consequences end up being cast in several hundred yards of concrete and asphalt.   Big empty parking garages that no one will use.  "The High Cost of Free Parking", Donald Shoup.  http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/   Been in the Plaza Centro garage lately?  1 car on the 2nd floor last Friday.  Otherwise it was empty.  The elevator leaks when it rains and the elevator to the tunnel walkway locks out after 7 at night.  I guess that's because a car can't use it.  The garage one works fine except for the leak.   It's all an outrage.  

Red Star
Red Star

Close the problematic streets in the "District" to motor vehicle traffic (except emergency vehicles)? It's possible, but how would it go over with residents and businesses? In other words, is it attainable? Another interesting issue is that of bikes being transported on (actually on, as in within the streetcar cabin rather than standing outside on a rack on the front of, al la Suntran buses). The pdf of FAQS at the streetcar website states: "Streetcar vehicles can carry bikes, allowing cyclists to move within the city center easily and safely." But that is vague. What kind of bikes? Folders? Non-folders? How many? The streetcars could probably carry a couple of elephants, but that doesn't mean the streetcar authority will actually do that. We just don't know.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

Well, we can kiss riding on 4th Avenue goodbye. And forget that north-south alley that runs past The District. I'm not interested in becoming the hood ornament for some out-of-state college kiddie driving a Beemer, TYVM. So, looks like it's 3rd Avenue for this camper.

Alan Solot
Alan Solot

" During the same BAC meeting, the streetcar team said the drivers would not attempt to pass cyclists in order to avoid the conflict." What a ridiculous comment.

Fred
Fred

Don't forget about the other issue, there is a joint between the asphalt and concrete that is bound to shift and heave in the future.  Check out the heaving that is already happening along the track installed two years ago with the 4th Avenue underpass.  There is already a notable gap forming there as well.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

Why do I go to these meetings? Ummm, because you're a glutton for punishment? Because it's fun to see how marginalized bicyclists truly are around here? And to understand why sucking up to the powers-that-be is such a waste of time? I say that we become like the 1980s AIDS activists and start acting up.

zz
zz

This picture doesn't show it, but some of the street car stops are going to be in the center so that kind of kills that.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

 I was at the streetcar construction kickoff earlier this year. I distinctly recall Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood saying "Get people out of their cars." I couldn't help thinking that a lot of streetcar users won't have cars in the first place. Reason: Cars have become too expensive for a lot of people.

James
James

 How many people will get killed before 4th ave gets closed to car traffic? We can save lives now by putting a cycle track on one side of the street and only allowing parking on one side of the street. ANYTHING BUT full traffic and full parking. Not allowing traffic isn't the thing keeping people away from 4th ave Businesses. It's the lack of access. The fences, the dust, the noise. Major streets are limited or closed to traffic right now, not just 4th. The street car is being put in for a reason. People can park somewhere else and use it. Don't tell me it wouldn't work, because when someone gets maimed by a streetcar or SUV on a Saturday night, that's what doesn't work.

zz
zz

According to the city, there's only 9,000 some spaces along the streetcar line...ample to absorb the 100 or so along 4th. It's the 'inconcenience factor' though; the heck with bicycle safety.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

 Roger on the school hours problem, foeago. I've encountered the same bozo parents with the parking space impairment. And don't get me started on the Tucson High driver-dolts. Oh, anybody know anything about that pedestrian mall in central Burlington, VT? I think it's closed to all vehicular traffic, but I am not sure.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

Outrage. And paid for by our tax dollars too. I say we start having bike-ins. Or wearing shirts that say "We Are Traffic." I've seen such shirts. And I want one. Let's start making some noise, bicycle community. Time to stop being so nice to the powers-that-be in hopes that they'll like us.

tucsonvelo
tucsonvelo

Sorry that probably wasn't as clear as it should be. The STREETCAR drivers won't attempt to pass cyclists.  I'm wondering how that will work though if a cyclist is going 15 and the streetcar is on a specific schedule going a particular speed. 

Mike H
Mike H

 Oh, crap!  You're right zz.  Well, that shoots that idea.

zz
zz

And you don't get 'em out of their cars by marginalizing bikes. Street car/trolley has been given twice as much room...cars must cede some space. Otherwise it's less multi-modal, transit oriented than before.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

 Zeez, it's the heck with bicycle safety unless we in the cycling community get loud. And you know me, I have a big mouth. You've heard it firsthand. Get a bunch of bicycling bigmouths together and watch things change in a hurry. Who else is with me? Can I get a second here? And speak up so we can hear you.

Mtngoat
Mtngoat

 Three words: Pearl Street Boulder