Cyclists riding through the new Starr Pass Boulevard and Mission Road intersection will encounter several new road treatments for bikes, some of which haven’t been utilized in Tucson before.

Construction on the RTA project started in August 2010 and will cost about $2 million.

“It is a pretty complex intersection, but we got pretty decent bike facilities in there,” the city’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager, Tom Thivener said.

Check out the video and photos below to see what riding through the intersection looks like.

The most innovative piece of infrastructure occurs when cyclists are heading north on Mission Road. Now two lanes of traffic make a right turn and merge onto eastbound Starr Pass Boulevard.

“It is kind of like a freeway off-ramp when you are coming north on Mission,” Thivener said. “Instead of having them cross over two lanes doing an awkward shoulder check we pull them off.”

Cyclists who want to merge onto Starr Pass Boulevard from Mission Road continue in the bike lane. Cyclists who want to continue north on Mission Road actually turn right on to a concrete bike path.
A sign on the path shows cyclists the proper direction to ride. The path hooks cyclists around so that they can see oncoming traffic and cross the two lanes that are merging onto Starr Pass Boulevard from Mission Road.
Cyclists pull up to the road to check for a break in traffic.
Once a cyclist crosses the two lanes of traffic they merge back onto Mission Road heading north.
This cyclist actually continued on the sidewalk.

Cyclists riding the opposite direction (south on Mission Road  to head east on Starr Pass Boulevard) will have to use a crosswalk to access bike lanes on the other side of the two lanes merging from Mission Road.

The same is true for cyclists already heading east on Starr Pass Boulevard.

The city added a shared-use path parallel to the two lanes of traffic merging from Mission Road. Thivener said the shared use path allows easy access to the Santa Cruz River Path.

I made a mistake here. I should have continued to the shared use path that you can see along the side of the road after using the crosswalk.

Cyclists eventually merge back into traffic, but are provided a buffer while merging. You can see the buffer at the top of this photo.

Green paint is used to alert motorists to expect cyclists.

6 thoughts on “‘Complex intersection’ gets innovative infrastructure”
  1. Hey that looks pretty spiffy! I feel like a cat that just discovered a new box. I must go ride it! 🙂

  2. I have two quick questions about the video…
    2:45: Must the bicycles really exit?
    0:20: Did the light turn green right after you got there or did you run the red light?

    Are the paths two-way? I keep seeing these “bicycles go this way” insignias with the arrow on the left side of what looks like a center-stripe. Specifically the second and third pictures.

  3. Hi, Swerdna,

    1) The sign says you must exit, although I don’t know that legally you have to. I can follow up on that. Even is you could legally stay in the lane, it would be really unpleasant. The bike lane drops when the cars are coming down the hill and likely going really fast. Then once you get through the light you’d have to merge across the two lanes that were coming from Mission Road. And at that particular point, the two lanes from Mission are merging into one, which means they probably won’t be looking out as well as they should be.

    It’s tough because you certainly don’t want to have to stop, but it is also pretty sketchy if you don’t.

    Also an important point is that before there wasn’t any facilities for bikes in that direction.

    I used to live in that neck of the woods and I would actually bypass that portion of Starr Pass by taking San Marco Road and turning left on Mission:,+Tucson,+AZ&hl=en&ll=32.203106,-111.000452&spn=0.008134,0.017123&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=31.23349,70.136719&t=h&z=16

    2) I ran it*
    *= I sped up the video posted on YouTube, but in the original, I slow down substantially and the intersection is wide open and could see there was no traffic. But, technically, I ran it.

    3) What you are seeing is accommodations for bikes and peds. The left side is for bicycles heading in one direction. The right side of the path is for pedestrians and connects to the sidewalks. 

  4. I commute along Mission. Heading north I tried the official route once. It is far, far simpler to simply move to the left hand lane. Exiting, slowing and making another sharp turn is a hassle. The traffic is not bad. The time that I used the exit Iwould have been better off skipping it thanks to. traffic that appeared after my exit that forced me to stop.

  5. Went through this intersection this weekend. I have to say that I don’t like it. It seems to be designed for cars with bikes and pedestrians as an afterthought. In fact, I think the innovative infrastructure makes this intersection especially dangerous and will be avoiding it in the future.

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