A plain clothes TPD bike officer waits for the light at Sixth Street and Fourth Aveneue to change.

When drivers pass cyclists on Tucson streets, they may be passing Tucson police bicycle officers and not even know it.

Tucson bicycle patrol officers are participating in a specialized enforcement of bicycle and pedestrian laws. The increased enforcement is thanks to a grant given to TPD.

The bicycle officers dress in street clothes and have removed all the markings from their police bicycles in order to blend in.

Bicycle patrol officer Flores said drivers pay a lot less attention to them when they aren’t in their uniforms.

The bicycle officers work in conjunction with an unmarked car, which pulls over any drivers who violate the 3-foot law.

Officer George cites a driver for running the pedestrian signal.

On Wednesday the officers rode around the Fourth Avenue area looking for drivers who passed too closely. No one was cited for passing too closely, but one driver was pulled over for tailgating and weaving behind the unmarked police car.

After riding around Fourth Avenue, the officers moved to the pedestrian signal at Broadway and Park, looking for drivers who don’t stop at the pedestrian crossing.

They stopped one driver and one cyclist who didn’t stop at the crosswalk while the light was red.

The driver was on his cell phone and didn’t slow down. He said he didn’t see that the light was red.

Detective George speaks with a cyclist about riding through a red light at the pedestrian signal. The cyclist was cited.

TPD Detective Pete George, who was driving the unmarked car, said the officers would keep trying to catch drivers who don’t pass cyclists safely.

They planned to ride the section of Speedway between Stone and Euclid, but ran out of time. They’ll go back to that area because they think the lack of bike lanes and crowded roads might make it more likely drivers wouldn’t give cyclists enough room.

The officers also expressed an interest in hearing where Tucson cyclists think would be a good spot for them to set up. Any ideas? Leave a comment and let us know where you think would be a good spot.

22 thoughts on “Plain clothes officers on lookout for 3-foot violators”
  1. Downtown on Congress is often the worst for me but the lanes are so narrow cars have to get in the other lane to give enough space. Euclid between University and Broadway is another scary spot without a bike lane and narrow lanes. Although Broadway is wide and has a bike lane I’ll often find cars get pretty close – probably not paying attention.

    When the pedestrian crossing is red, can you just stop and go? Or do you have to wait for it to start flashing and/or turn off?

  2. Riding Glenn through the intersection at Swan has always been a challenge for me due to car right hooks, passing at less than 3ft, and cars driving in the bike lane.

  3. Downtown, definitely. Congress or 6th Avenue going north from Congress. The cops should pay special attention to the Sun Tran buses in that stretch- they are terrible about cutting off cyclists and riding too close.

  4. You need to remain stopped as long as
    the light is a steady red….when it starts
    to flash, it becomes like a stop sign and
    you can go when the pedestrian has
    cleared your lane. If you come upon
    it while it’s flashing, you need to stop….
    like a stop sign…then proceed, providing
    it’s clear.

  5. Tucson “Blvd” northbound segment between Broadway and 6th Street in the morning. Similarly Tucson “Blvd” northbound between 6th and 3rd Street.

    Same for Country Club, northbound between Broadway and 5th/6th in the morning.

    Both Tucson and Country Club seem to be used by cyclists on their way to 3rd St bikeway and are fairly narrow and congested with motorists who have turned north from Broadway and haven’t mentally adjusted to the changed conditions.

    Also, lower priority, Broadway westbound between Prudence and Kolb.

  6. I have heard that SunTran is very responsive to complaints. They have cameras on the buses. Have you contacted them with the dates and times of the problems? They might actually be able to help you with this by having a talk with the drivers.

  7. I second this… Tucson and Country Club between Broadway and Speedway are pretty tight spots and not untravelled. If I had three wishes, one of them would be to have a sharrow lane on Country Club from 22nd to Speedway. This would serve access to the park at 22nd and Country Club quite nicely.

  8. In my very limited anecdotal experience…

    Grant and Swan seems like a hub for sidewalk cyclists.

    I think it would be nice to get a survey of the streets of Tucson, figure out which ones are too narrow for a bicyclist and car two ride abreast of one another* and get sharrows installed (or signage indicating that bicyclists may use the full lane). This would serve on two fronts… It would help cyclists in that spot feel more comfortable taking the lane, and it would warn car drivers that they can and should expect bicycle traffic taking the full lane.

    * How wide? 3 feet minimum between the bicyclist and the curb. 3 feet minimum between the bicyclist and the overtaking vehicle. 2 feet width estimated for the bicycle.

  9. How about taking it a step further. Dawn the Lycra and ride a road bike on Old Spanish Trail where one of their fellow officers was killed a few years ago. I ride it every weekend and not only have cars violate the 3 foot law but drift in and honk.

  10. Sixth street between Main and Euclid, Tucson Blvd., Stone through town, Speedway between Euclid and Main, and Euclid between Broadway and Speedway. But I think a better expense of resources would be the more far-flung areas outside of downtown, where it seems drivers are less well behaved. I like the above suggestions about Golf Links, Swan, and elsewhere.

  11. You can call them at (520) 792-9222. I keep the number on my phone. You need to get the 4 digit number on the back of the bus to complain. A description of the driver helps, but is not needed.

  12. I live off of Wrightstown Road in the east, and although the speed limit is 35 for daytime and 30 at night, everyone speeds. I would never ride my bike on Wrightstown, even if the city puts in bike lanes. My husband and I were doing 35mph on Wrightstown one afternoon, and we had a woman weaving back and forth behind us and flashing her lights. She pulled off at Thirsty’s, a bar at Pantano and Wrightstown. It seems like every third driver drives like they are late for drinks at Thirsty’s. We really need speed cameras or some traffic calming in this part of town. I long to move back to bike-accessible Albuquerque.

  13. Seconded about Tucson Blvd northboard between Broadway and 6th. Heck, in the past, I’ve even had *Police Cruisers* pass me (as a cyclist) a little too closely on that stretch.

  14. Thanks for all the responses. I am going to keep collecting them for a day or two and then forward them onto TPD officer Jerry Skeenes. He is the one running the operation.

    Skeenes emailed me this morning, responding to Andrew’s question about the HAWK signal and said he would try out some of the places cyclists thought needed attention.

  15. Tucson just North of Broadway is horrible…no lane and drivers just don’t care. Swan Southbound at Grant is bad as the bike lane ends at the intersection and drivers let you know how mad they are when you take the lane. I’ve complained about that to the City and they said they were going to cut down the shrubbery blocking the “share the road” sign…never happened. A really really bad stretch is Alvernon between 6th and Speedway. Not sure why but I always get buzzed every morning by at least one driver…the hours between 6 and 8am are when it mostly happens.

  16. Flowing Wells/La Canada between Prince and the access to the river path. It’s especially sketchy North of Roger Rd. where cars are driving at higher speeds.

    Wetmore between Oracle & Flowing Wells.

    Tucson Blvd. between Broadway & Speedway suggestion.

    Euclid from Broadway up to Speedway.

    Prince between Tucson Blvd. & Flowing Wells. It’s fine when there’s minimal traffic at 5:30AM, but any other time of the day…

  17. The drainage pans along that stretch of Prince also make it tough. The seam in the middle of the bike shoulder (it’s not a bike lane, it’s a striped shoulder) means you end up having to hug the gutter (bad) or ride on the left edge of the bike shoulder.

    However, that’s a facilities issue for the city (and they know of the problem) rather than an enforcement issue for TPD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.