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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Cyclists wary of streetcar, heavy traffic

Cecilia Alvarez / The Daily Wild
Cecilia Alvarez/ The Daily Wildcat Students cross over the street car tracks located on 2nd street on Sept. 23, 2014

With the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar now securely a part of urban Tucson life, the lack of bicycle lanes has raised doubts about overall bike safety.

Jessica Mitchell, a community outreach specialist for Tucson Medical Center, said that while biking can be fun, a great form of exercise and beneficial to the environment, safety is important.

“We have a simple saying: ‘Use your head, wear a helmet,’” Mitchell said. “It is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes.”

Cyclists are expected to follow the same traffic laws as motorists, but the streetcar has added more traffic to the streets surrounding the university.

Living Streets Alliance, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the importance of streets and how to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists, published the results of crash data from cyclists on its website, where people can self-report crash incidents related to the streetcar.

The report stated that many incidents occurred near the Main Gate Square area, where foot and motor traffic was high, and that these incidents were less likely in the downtown area due to the streetcar having a dedicated lane.

Mary Lauran Hall, communications director for the Alliance for Biking & Walking, said infrastructure that takes bicyclists into consideration helps improve bike safety.

“Streetcar tracks can be dangerous for people riding bikes when bicycle tires become lodged in the tracks,” Hall said. “Ideally, streets should be designed in such a way that bicyclists are assisted in only crossing the tracks at perpendicular angles. Lacking such design, bicyclists should be careful to only cross the tracks at 90-degree angles.”

Joey Iuliano, president of the UA Cycling Club, said that the streetcar is great for Tucson, but it does have its downfalls for cyclists.

“It’s great to see the positive impacts it has had on Tucson,” Iuliano said. “However, I wish the project had considered all road users a bit more.”

Iuliano said that the streetcar route near Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard is too crammed for the streetcar, vehicles and cyclists.

“Having to share a lane with moving traffic but not having enough room to dodge an opened door or driver not paying attention is a problem,” Iuliano said.

Despite this, Iuliano said he disagreed that a protected bike lane is what the city needs to prevent any accidents related to the streetcar, and that he doesn’t think bicyclists should be removed from the streetcar route.

“I think that’s the wrong answer all together as it could eliminate a good amount of business from shops along the route,” Iuliano said.

Iuliano also said that street parking along the route is a big part of the problem cyclists are facing, especially when drivers park too far from the curb. He said he thinks Tucson is over-parked.

“One of the beauties of riding a bike is being able to go from your door to the door of your destination without too much effort in finding parking or having to take a special route,” Iuliano said.

Follow Ariella Noth on Twitter @sheba201

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