While no formal action was taken on the modern streetcar during the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday night, the BAC expressed interest in a future where Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard are car free.
The discussion about a car-free Fourth Avenue came after BAC member David Bachman-Williams, who has been the point person between the BAC and the streetcar design team, presented several notes from a recent meeting with the streetcar planners.
Former BAC member, Dave Boston suggested removing cars from Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard altogether, which would eliminate many safety concerns.
Bachman-Williams said the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association sees convenient car parking as essential to their success.
Boston said he performed unscientific counts and noticed between 20 and 30 cars parked on University between Euclid Avenue and Fourth Avenue and 120 cars during peak hours on Fourth Avenue.
He said it made sense to partner with the streetcar team to push for eliminating cars along the route because if cars were removed from the area, more people would utilize the streetcar.
Bachman-Williams said it was probably wise to look for a future where Fourth Avenue was car free, but said the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association sees cars and parking as essential to its success. He said removing cars would be a long term goal.
Several BAC members suggested opening a dialog with the Fourth Avenue Merchant’s Association to discuss moving car parking off of Fourth Avenue.
BAC member, Ian Johnson pointed to State Street in Madison, Wis. as an example of how businesses could be successful while being car free.
Boston said rather than make it a future goal, that the BAC should start trying to make it reality in the near term.
Bachman-Williams said the streetcar team is pursuing design elements that strike a compromise between functionality and friendliness to cyclists.
He said they will be using a type of rail that poses the least amount of risk to cyclists because of the design. Bachman-Williams said it doesn’t mean there isn’t some risk associated with it, but it is the best possible rail available.
At all intersections where cyclists will be making turns, they are including green paint that illustrate where cyclists should ride to cross the tracks safely.
Along Fourth Avenue the design calls for shared lane markings which will be placed between the tracks and the parked cars. The markings will show cyclists where they should ride, but due to the width of the street and the track placement, the markings will be be four feet away from the parked cars.
The League of American Bicyclists says cyclists should ride five feet away from parked cars to stay out of the way of opening car doors.
Bachman-Williams said five feet put the cyclists too close to the tracks.
Several BAC members expressed concern about the placement saying that it could be dangerous and potentially harm the ability of the region getting platinum status from the LAB.
The design team is also looking at several options to make Congress and Broadway more friendly for cyclists, but because the streets vary widely in width, it will not be consistent throughout the stretch. Some areas may accommodate bike lanes, but other areas will not.
Bachman-Williams said the streetcar isn’t perfect, but he believes it will actually benefit cyclists by slowing traffic down.
Several BAC members suggested additional options including removing the left turn lane down Fourth Avenue to provide more room for cyclists.
Bachman-Williams said The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association opposed the removal of the turn lanes.
Another BAC member asked about lowering the speed limits on the streets where the streetcar will operate to 20 miles per hour, but state law says local governments can not create speed limits lower than the state 25-mile-per-hour standard.
Lastly, they asked about putting up signs along the route reminding drivers to look for cyclists before opening their doors.
Cyclovia in need of sponsors
Tucson’s second Cyclovia has been scheduled for March 27, 2011, but is in need of sponsors to make it happen.
According to Ann Chanecka, who is working on Cyclovia, they recently had to scale back the route because they don’t have the funds to pay for police officers at all the intersections.
She said they have gone from a five mile loop to a three mile out and back route.
She said the five-mile route had many more stop signs, which require and officer at each one. Last year there were less stop signs along the route.
She said they are still in need of a title sponsor and that is has been hard to raise money in the current economy.