When construction is finished, the Warren Avenue underpass will be a dismount zone for bicyclists.
When construction is finished, the Warren Avenue underpass will be a dismount zone for bicyclists.

When the dust from the streetcar construction settles and the Warren Avenue underpass on the University of Arizona campus is reopened, bicyclists will no longer be allowed to ride through it.

Two weeks ago, the decision was made by the University of Arizona and the modern streetcar team to make a the Warren Avenue underpass a walk-your-bike zone because of safety concerns.

Shellie Ginn, the project manager for the streetcar, said since the underpass is on university property the city is going with the UA’s recommendation.

“They have had multiple meetings on this,” Ginn said. “We finally had a large meeting with the University. Several people were talking about the options for  the underpass. Ultimately the UA decided that they wanted to go with requiring bike riders to dismount when entering the underpass to provide the safest environment possible.”

UA transportation director David Heineking said the ramps are steep and in some sections the path narrowed to under 12 feet causing concern for the safety of both bicyclists and pedestrians.

“Given the mix of bicycles and pedestrians we think are going to be using it, we don’t see any safe way for bicyclists to be able to get through there,” he said.

Federal guidelines indicate shared use paths should be a minimum of 10 feet wide and 12 feet paths are preferable in high-use areas.

Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Ian Johnson said he couldn’t speak for the committee until they heard from the UA, but the decision comes as a shock to him.

“We were told that it would always remain open to bikes,” Johnson said. “So this is a big shift and this happened quite suddenly. I am certainly taken by surprise and the BAC was never asked our opinion about this. When they made this decision a few weeks ago there were no BAC reps in the room, they didn’t come to us to ask us what we thought.”

Ginn said the underpass has always been an issue, but once construction started happening and it became clear how narrow it would, the UA became very concerned.

“It’s never been ‘Ohh this is how we are going to do it and then somebody just changed their minds,'” Ginn said. “That has been one those of areas where it has been under discussion about how to provide the safest route through there.”

streetar-490x366Johnson said he it trying to reserve judgment until he hears from the UA at the next BAC meeting, but thinks it is a mistake.

“It’s crazy that they are thinking that no one is going to ride their bike through there just because it is a dismount zone,” he said. “I think that providing a little bit of guidance for cyclists will be better than saying they are never going to ride through here and if they do it is their fault. On the other hand I am not in the risk management department so I don’t see the world that way. I am sure if I did I would have a different opinion.”

Originally the streetcar was not going to utilize the Warren Avenue Underpass. Instead, it was going to cross Speedway Boulevard on Cherry Avenue, but UA concerns about chilled water lines running under Cherry Avenue prompted the move to the underpass, which ultimately resulted in the prohibition of bicycle riding through it.

Heineking said he hoped bicyclists recognized it wasn’t the choice they wanted, but felt that the safety of all the users meant they needed to make the decision.

“I’d hate to think cyclists are feeling put out,” he said. “It’s completely based on safety. The University really does support biking. We do our darndest to support biking and make it easy and convenient for folks that want to bike through campus or want to use it as their transportation to get here instead of a car.”

Comments on this site and others by bicyclists indicate there is a growing level of frustration from bicyclists who have to ride along the streetcar route and feel like their safety hasn’t been a priority, but Ginn said bicyclists have been a priority since the beginning.

“Safety has been a big push for us and I think it is somewhat exaggerating to say that this project has not taken into consideration  the bicycling community because it obviously has,” she said. “Now this is one area where it is just so tight that the overriding opinion is that safety is going to have to come first on this one.”

“The bike community has participated on this project for years and a lot of the design was done based on recommendations and input from the bike community. There are going to be some areas that are not going to be ideal for bicyclists and we are going to have to make sure that we are all working together to provide that education, signage and striping to make sure they they can ride through these areas with the least safety problems,” Ginn said.

Johnson agreed that bicyclist have not been ignored, but says they certainly haven’t been the priority.

“Bikes have not been ignored, but I think other interests have gotten more attention than we have,” he said. “Particularly the needs of the merchants and the perceived need for on-street parking has gotten a lot more attention than the needs of people using our streets to get to their destination.”

Johnson said safety along the route is a major issue.

“You always had to be careful, but now there is so little room for error,” he said.

As for alternate routes, Heineking said cyclists can cross at Cherry Avenue, one of the other underpasses to the west, Campbell Avenue if they are skilled riders or, “They could jump on the streetcar. The streetcar is going to have bicycle accommodations on it.”

27 thoughts on “Bikes to be banned in Warren underpass on UA campus”
  1. Sure you can cross at Cherry or Mountain but you’re waiting at lights which is the reason people were using the underpasses for cycling.  You can also use the 2 underpasses to the west but the connectivity isn’t the same through the University and on the north end getting east is dangerous.  Helen and Mountain is a dangerous intersection and Cherry is no picnic either.  The only reasonable clear path through the medical center is the path that runs under Warren.  It’s not any one thing, it’s the sum total.  The solutions for many of the problems encountered with the path and construction of the Modern Street Car have come at the expenses of cyclists.  Our major east west route through the university and the connection between 4th Ave and the downtown have been marginalised to the point that many bicyclists are likely to abandon these routes and fro what?  A 196 million dollar plus Disney ride.

  2. BOO to Shellie Ginn for her disingenuousness. Cyclists spoke but no meaningful safety accommodation was incorporated into the project. 
    Here’s some signs…here’s some paint. Thanks a lot.
    Could have been a model for multi-modal transportation.

  3. I don’t need the streetcar to get to 1702, Bentley’s, or the U of A mall from north of campus where I live. 
    That said, I’m less concerned about walking through the underpass (I dealt with that at the other underpass for years) than I am about on street parking along 4th ave. That they haven’t made moves to get less cars on the street already is insane.

  4. Steep ramps + cycling shoes with cleats = dangerous combination.  Definitely more dangerous that rolling slowly with rubber tires on the concrete and brakes on the wheels. Someone has not thought this through and apparently doesn’t ride a bike.

  5. I’m disappointed as well.  The Warren underpass has no real substitute from a cyclist’s point of view, and I’ve missed it in the time since streetcar construction closed it.  The problem should have been foreseen from the beginning since it’s not as if the underpass suddenly got narrower.
    Further, posting signs that say “walk only” isn’t going to stop many cyclists from riding through anyway.  The university’s liability concerns may be taken care of, but the real level of risk for pedestrians and cyclists will not change.
    I, for one, support the streetcar (multiple modes of transit are important, and we have to start somewhere, even if it’s not perfect), but I am sorely disappointed in how marginalized some stakeholders have become.  I agree with Orvis’ comment:  it’s not any one decision, but the sum of all of them.

  6. As much as I like the idea of streetcars, they should be a part of multi-modal transportation, not something to be implemented at the cost of other options. We already have automobiles doing that.

  7. Also it’s going to be interesting to see just how wide the streetcars are when they start to pass cyclists on University, 4th Ave, and the other streets with on street parking, car doors, and the like.   I might not want to be anywhere close to them even on the wider streets, or it may not be a problem.   But this ban is disappointing, I’d rather make my own judgement.

  8. I’d be fine with this if it were also a “push your golf cart” zone also. Why is it OK to drive heavy vehicles (including FM trucks) through a pedestrian zone, but not light, nimble bicycles? Don’t tell me it’s a speed issue, either- that is a nonsense argument.

  9. They’re insane if they actually believe they’ll be able to enforce this.

  10. It’s not clear what the piece is about. 
    If the problem is bike and ped congestion in the Warren underpass itself, that is easily solved by placing Jersey Barriers to bisect or, really advanced and mind-spinning for a Great Big U facilities/transpo guy: *trisect* the underpass in such a way that cyclists and peds are physically separated and get to use the underpass safely and efficiently.

    If the problem is with how the Warren underpass interfaces with the street car thereabouts, again,  barriers, routing and signage can address the problem and make interface as safe and effective as possible for all modes.

    Cowardly and resume- bedazzled rationalizations, absolutist last-minute “solutions” as well as the implicit ignorance of transpo problems, the oh so professional piggish feeding-at-the-trough indifference of David Heineking and Shellie Ginn are the problem. Dumb and greedy.

  11. @MikeI I have heard the cars overhang to the concrete edge of the track path.

  12. Red StarI like the part where the UA transportation director says the streetcar poses a threat to pedestrians and cyclists, the very users for whom the underpass was originally intended. My suggestion is that they walk the streetcar through there.

  13. Red Star Apparently it wasn’t clear enough. At 11-12 feet you can’t separate bikes and peds instead it has to be a shared use path similar to The Loop system. They say the ramps and the number of people biking and walking make it unsafe. 
    As Johnson points out it might be more about risk management than actual safety.

  14. Modern St Car like express buses isn’t transit.  It’s an economic development tool. When the city touts the benefits of the MSC they aren’t talking about all the rides per day and relieved congestion.  What they talk about is how much money it will bring to the area and how property values will rise.  MSC isn’t transportation planning, it’s economic gerrymandering.  It’s also gentrification in the real sense in that government by spending money is trying to alter what businesses and types of people inhabit an area.  The creative class. 
    It would be one thing if the routing of the MSC even remotely resembled the routes proposed by the group formed to review the possibilities.  That we have what we have is a result of us having what was possible not what worked best for the community   That we have tracks of death down University, 4th Ave and Congress lets you know what the powers that be think of the bicycling community as a political force.  Losing Warren to the MSC is just another indication of what the city thinks to role of bicycling is in this community.  I sure don’t see platinum in their future. A once in a lifetime investment in infrastructure and so far all we have to show for it is lost opportunity, demised businesses and a whole bunch of badly built student boxes occupied by people who really really like to drive cars.  So far it looks like the Chuck Huckleberry model of cycling is winning out.

  15. MikeMcKissonRed Star 
    Yes and it’s understandable.

    David Heineking was asked about time-of-day limited cycling,
    day-of-the-week limited cycling, UA session calendar-limited cycling
    cyclist access to Warren underpass, what did he say? Other than an
    occasional homeless human, there are no peds in that underpass at 5 a.m.
    Looks like UA’s David Heineking has set up a nice little ticket trap
    for quota-obsessed UAPD to feed on in the wee hours.

    COTDOT was asked about installing a Toucan or two thereabouts on
    Speedway to correct for this modern streetcar’s effect, what did they

    And of course, the irony of medical, nursing,
    pharmacy students having to walk, yes, walk in an underpass to a trolley that never
    should have gone north of Speedway (via Warren underpass or whatever) is
    there. What do they want next–chaufffer?

  16. Let me see…, so Warren underpass is about .25 m or at most .5 m from Highland underpass… IS this really a problem? Or we are making it into one?I do not understand. Is Warren exits into better bike passes on either sides compare to Highland?I do not think so….Sounds like a power struggle to me

  17. The initial choice of route was not too bright and we will live with the result in many ways. 200 million bucks for a track that goes basically nowhere. While it should have run along a major corridor, really moved people and had room to expand, say to the airport, we got a poor design that followed the location of an hobby streetcar. The cramming of what could have been the start of a great system into a tight neighborhood  is a classic example of functional fixity. Poor Tucson.

  18. This is total crap.  The Warren underpass is the perfect route for cyclists to UMC, the COM, and the whole medical school complex.  Every other route is inferior in one way or another.  Cyclists were the primary users of that underpass before the construction with no end began.  It is so frustrating.  Maybe time for some civil disobedience.

  19. “Given the mix of bicycles and pedestrians we *think* are going to be
    using it, we don’t see any safe way for bicyclists to be able to get
    through there,” he said.
    Here’s an idea… let bicycles and pedestrians use it when it finally opens, and do a study THEN. With, you know, actual people down there monitoring the situation so that if it suddenly hits critical mass they can start asking bicyclists to dismount. Watch it for a week or two and make an INFORMED decision, instead of making a guesstimated preemptive decision. 
    Also considering students are just about to leave for the summer, at least don’t close the route to bicycles until fall.

  20. No one is going to dismount at the UA. They’ll just ride through, especially since any enforcement of the rules is limited to about 2 days per year at the beginnings of each semester. Some small number of riders already ride on the narrow sidewalks at UA with little to no regard for pedestrians, so this “rule” is merely a check box on a list for funding. Its a shame they wasted so many meetings on something the administration will never enforce anyway.

  21. I’m used to it being closed. And the Highland underpass is 300 yards away.

  22. “Originally the streetcar was not going to utilize the Warren Avenue Underpass. Instead, it was going to cross Speedway Boulevard on Cherry Avenue, but UA concerns about chilled water lines running under Cherry Avenue prompted the move to the underpass, which ultimately resulted in the prohibition of bicycle riding through it.”
    Wish they went ahead with Cherry instead of Warren. When they changed to Warren was because they didn’t want to disrupt Speedway traffic. it was never about chilled water lines till now as you reported… I find this utterly bullshit! Visit Modern Streetcar website you won’t find this remark anywhere… None of us discussed this change in the past. Although there were two choice in route… they choose warren to avoid tearing up speedway/cherry intersection… bullshit!

  23. This is what Warren underpass would looks like when completed:  http://www.tucsonstreetcar.com/index.php?pg=5   hmm

  24. Wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper to move the ‘chilled water line’?

  25. Well, while I was googling on this such subject of chilled water lines, one thing is that I wasn’t aware of this: “A Value Engineering (VE) Study was completed for the modern streetcar project in April 2009.” (on page 4)
    On Page 33:

    The VE Study recommended moving the alignment to Warren Avenue to avoid conflict
    with the UA chilled water line underneath Cherry Avenue.

    Relocating the UA chilled water line on Cherry Avenue is cost prohibitive.

    The Warren Avenue alignment avoids existing traffic circulation issues on Cherry

    Avenue, particularly during special events. 

    As for bicycle/pedestrian use in warren underpass on page 47
    The realignment of the track at the east end to use Warren Avenue will use the existing Warren
    Avenue underpass, which will be reconstructed to accommodate the modern streetcar (using a
    single track operation) and bicycles/pedestrians. The streetcar will operate on a single track on
    the east side of the underpass, while bicycle/pedestrian access will be maintained on the west
    side (Figure 11). Further detail is provided in Appendix H. 

    On page 53
    Warren Avenue Underpass

    The Warren Avenue Underpass will be reconstructed to accommodate the modern streetcar.
    The streetcar will operate on a single track on the east side of the underpass, while
    bicycle/pedestrian access will be maintained on the west side (Figure 11 in Section 3.11). All of
    the Warren Avenue Underpass materials are included in Appendix H. 

    and in this PDF on page 62 it said they did consult…

    Downtown/University Bicycle Advisory Committee (May 18, 2009) 

    Downtown-University Bicycle Advisory Committee (March 15, 2010)

  26. It’s very difficult to find anything written or e-written, and the secret story goes back a few years, but the Warren underpass was given over to streetcar based on some whack UA fear that another competing med/pharm/nursing school would be developed in Maricopaland.That’s why the streetcar will go to and from UAMC…for show, for pissing contest. In the grasping, selfish, childlike minds of UA administrators, a streetcar that screws UA peds and cyclists as wells as the larger community is part of the antidote.

    How many years from now will there be another tunnel built for cyclists and peds?

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