Photo illustration: The new pavement will be about 4-feet wide and provide a smooth lane for cyclists. The ribbon would be placed outside of the door zone on the edge of the travel lane.

The City of Tucson means it when it says they are prioritizing bikes on the Fourth Avenue/Fontanta bicycle boulevard.

The city is trying a new repaving scheme that will provide a smooth riding surface for cyclists only.

The plan is to cut away a three or four-foot wide ribbon of asphalt and repave it with smooth pavement. The placement of the new pavement is in a location which is optimal for cyclists.

Tucson’s transportation director Jim Glock says the idea is to give cyclists a smooth riding surface without having to replace the pavement from “curb to curb.”

“Anyone who rides on 4th Avenue knows it can be teeth-chattering,” Glock said.

For now the the city is limiting the experiment to Fourth Avenue between University and Speedway.

Martha Retallick is a long-time cyclist and lives along the corridor. She says her neighbors aren’t impressed with the idea and she tends to agree.

“You’ve got this nice new section of pavement on either side of the road meanwhile the drivers have to put up with something that is a bunch of junk,” Retallick said. “It is just going to create more resentment toward bicyclists. I think they are shooting themselves in the foot.”

Tom Thivener, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager said the pavement should be completed in the first few weeks of the project which started on Feb. 7.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of the asphalt ribbon for cyclists?

20 thoughts on “City experimenting with bike-only pavement upgrade”
  1. I don’t know if this approach is optimal for all circumstances, but for this stretch of 4th Ave, it is a critical. If the 4th Ave/Fontana Bike Blvd is ever going to work, this stretch had to be addressed. I think it is an efficient approach when funds are limited.

    I think City staff also have to be very clear (and persistent in saying it) that funds used toward the Bike Blvd are designated for bike projects and are NOT taking away from other roadway projects such as paving.

    On a related note – I think certain people are going to resent bicyclist no matter what – with or without a new strip of pavement.

  2. Is this similar to what they did along sections of speedway and Campbell?

    Those changes were implemented in an exceedingly stupid manner, putting a seam between new and old asphalt (where they ripped up lane markers for repositioning) right under the expected path of a car’s driver side tires. In places, this seam is already starting to chip away and erode, leaving a series of inconveniently placed potholes for drivers to avoid… likely by veering over to the right, toward the bike lane.

  3. I think the ‘boulevard’ designation of bike boulevard implies a reasonably comfortable experience of travel which hasn’t been had on 4th Ave. for many years. To not have this surface treatment done would be to fall short of people’s expectation of the concept. Cars can look at it as half of their ride being improved.

    Fishbert’s point is well- made. I’m not aware of any attempt to seal the areas of pavement that were roughed up to remove the markings. Bikes get the blame for Tucson’s shortcuts or omissions to maintenance.

  4. Martha the cranky bike boulevard neighbor here.

    Years ago, when I lived on Roger Road, the city decided to add a bike lane. This was done on Roger between First and Campbell.

    My neighbors didn’t waste any time in saying, “Lo0k, Martha. Look what the city’s doing for *you* – wow!” If you’re getting the impression that my neighbors weren’t bicyclists, you’re right.

    Any-hoo, the city paved brand, spanking-new bike lanes along the outer edges of a very deteriorated Roger Road. The contrast was jarring, to say the least.

    A few years later, Pima County decided that it was time to install bigger sewer pipes beneath (you guessed it!) Roger Road. Which meant that the whole shebang had to be torn up so that the new pipes could be installed.

    When that project was finished, all of this one-mile stretch of Roger Road got repaved, and yes, that included yet another brand spanking-new set of bike lanes.

  5. I think it’s kind of an odd thing to do, especially with it smack dab in the middle of the road (between asphalt street parking and drivers), but I guess we will see if it works. Are drivers going to be more upset at me having my very own strip of flat pavement or with me riding in the middle of the road to avoid being thrown off my bike?

  6. Assuming the technical deficiencies (durability, etc.) can be worked out, what are the pros and cons of doing this type of upgrade on 3rd Street especially between Country Club and Campbell? It would seem the costs and disruption as opposed to curb-to-curb repaving would be minimized on this heavily used and aging segment. Do you have a “pet segment” you would like the city to repave for cyclists and motorists and residents in an intelligent way?

  7. Might I also add – Outside of the door zone? are they narrowing the center lane on 4th? Getting rid of it? Is it going to be striped as a bike lane?

  8. The idea with the bike boulevard is that the road can be shared more easily because of the low traffic levels.

    My understanding is that it won’t be striped. I’ve found that drivers tend to be OK with cyclists riding more to the center on these types of streets because it is easy for them to drive around a cyclist due to the fact there is lisstle oncoming traffic.

  9. One of the drawbacks I see is the width. I’d like to see it be 6 feet wide. One of my favorite things about riding on the neighborhood streets is the ease of riding side by side with someone.

    It is really nice to be able to ride next to someone and chat without worrying about holding up traffic or getting swiped.

    At 3-4 feet you are going to have one person riding outside the new pavement or a person riding right on the crack.

  10. I’m not sure I can imagine it on 3rd street… the number of cars parked on 3rd in that stretch varies quite a bit. It seems like if they drew the strip far enough away from the curb that cars could be parked, then when there aren’t cars parked – you’d be sort of awkwardly out in the middle of the street for no reason.

    I’m not familiar with the 4th Ave stretch in question to know what it’s like there…

  11. If the intent is to provide a smooth riding surface for cyclists (see source article), then why *not* do it on heavily-used and worn out 3rd Street (Sam Hughes segment, more segments to follow perhaps as the decades go by)? It’s not clear to Red Star that the intent is to channel cyclists into any particular lane or way of riding…you would still be free to ride other public roadways, such as they are.

  12. Why is it a “bunch of junk?” It isn’t bothering anyone. I think it will be nice. People shouldn’t put up so much resistance to change. Experimenting is how things get better people. If you don’t try new things nothing evolves.

    The facts of life are, driving and biking on 4th sucks and now there’s going to be a stupid trolley. Do you think traffic will improve by magic? Something new has to be invented there.

  13. If we look at the street repaving that is done after a pipe is replaced that runs along in the direction of travel – most recently 9th Street – Park Ave. northbound from 6th St. to Speedway that create de facto bikeways, they don’t hold up very well. Maybe it’s just sloppy finish work or lesser quality asphalt, but we get a longitudinal crack eventually along the whole length and the weight of cars tends to break up the pavement….at a faster rate?…most of it is so lousy, it’s hard to tell.
    They could experiment with Park Ave. north to Grant if they wanted. Just redo the shoulder – right of the white line.

  14. There will be a seperation crack in a very short time. Black top roads only have a short life (esp. in hot climates) and if a pipeline is installed and not packed as well as the surrounding roadway, it will pack down lower than the road, we see this all over town. Then crews come around and over fill the sunken hole and you get a bump in the road. Does anybody think this won’t happen to this type of bike lane? If the whole street isn’t paved, it’s just a short term fix. I like to call that a waste of money

  15. I think there are basically 3 options here:

    1. Leave the poor surface conditions along 4th Ave alone
    2. Pave the strips per the article
    3. Find additional funds to pave entire street (may require waiting several years?)

    I vote for #2 – what about you?

  16. #2: It’s an experiment, per the article. So yes, carry on with the experiment! Learn. (realizing, of course, that experts, non-experimenters, default to #1 and #3)

  17. ” It is just going to create more resentment toward bicyclists. ”

    This is why I support dismantling the existing bike infrastructure in its entirety and giving it to cars. Then, after we have totally eradicated all resentment toward bicyclists we can start again.

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