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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Bike box’ aids cyclists

    Students ride bicycles across the intersection of Highland Avenue and Sixth Street on Thursday evening. This Saturday a special bike box will be painted on the north side of the intersection to designate an area for cyclists to wait in front of cars rather to the side.
    Students ride bicycles across the intersection of Highland Avenue and Sixth Street on Thursday evening. This Saturday a special ‘bike box’ will be painted on the north side of the intersection to designate an area for cyclists to wait in front of cars rather to the side.

    UA cyclists will soon get a head start at a nearby intersection.

    Bike safety is one of the issues that is and always will be very important to Parking and Transportation Services, said Bill Davidson, marketing manager. This is why on Saturday, Feb. 21, the UA, in partnership with the City of Tucson, is installing the region’s first “”bike box.””

    The bike box will be installed at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Sixth Street and will clearly designate a waiting area for cyclists at the intersection, Davidson said. Bikers will wait in front of cars at the stoplight, in full view of the drivers.

    Bikers will cross the street ahead of the drivers, and once through the intersection, they will merge back into the bike lane.

    The box will be marked with slip-resistant, bright green thermoplastic on the ground. There will be signs in the area telling bikers and drivers what do to, as well as fliers explaining the box, Davidson said.

    Tom Thivener, bicycle and pedestrian program manager from the City of Tucson, said southbound lanes on Highland Avenue would be closed Saturday starting at 7 a.m. for several hours to put down the thermoplastic. The right turn lane will remain open.

    “”Basically (bike boxes) are used to make cyclists more visible and reduce conflicts between cyclists and drivers,”” Davidson said.

    On Valentine’s Day a year ago, Kira Runtzel, and biochemistry senior, was struck by a car while she was riding her bike to school that morning. She still attends physical therapy for a torn ACL that she suffered from the accident, she said.

    “”I think all ideas (for bike safety) are welcome, any way we can improve,”” Runtzel said.

    Runtzel was struck by a driver while turning left at the intersection of Speedway Boulevard and Treat Avenue. The driver did not see her and switched lanes, running into the rear end of her bike, she said.

    “”The more people I told (about the accident), the more I found others who have gotten hit on their bike. It’s like a common camaraderie. Hearing about this new project, I think it’s a good idea,”” she said.

    Davidson said there are more than 6,000 students and faculty from off campus who travel by bike each day, which is why bike safety is a very important issue.

    “”I think sometimes the dangers of it keep people from riding their bikes. But it’s better environmentally and physically,”” Runtzel said.

    She said she still rides her bike to school and as much as possible recreationally, even after her accident.

    “”They thought this (intersection) would be a good place to try (the bike box) out. It’s kind of a connection from the south part of campus to the rest of Tucson,”” Davidson said.

    Residents of the neighborhoods south of campus came to the city and asked them to do something about the difficulty bikers have crossing Sixth Street. The street narrows and bikers have to compete with cars for space, which is why the city suggested the bike box, Thivener said.

    Davidson said there are bike boxes in Portland, Ore., that have been highly effective for improving cyclist safety.

    “”I’m sure they’ll want to try them out it other areas of Tucson too,”” he said.

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