Phoenix bike summit provides opportunity for bicyclists and officials to discuss safety
Phoenix bicyclists met with city officials in an annual bike summit hosted by the city’s Street Transportation Department Saturday to discuss issues that could increase the safety of local bicyclists.About 60 bicyclists, including several spandex-clad enthusiasts who rode to the summit, came to the Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix. They focused much of their attention on possible locations for new bike lanes.
City of Phoenix Traffic Safety and Bicycle Coordinator Joseph Perez began the six-hour meeting, providing statistics and possible solutions to obstacles facing Phoenix bicyclists.
Perez discussed High-intensity Activated Crosswalks, or HAWK, pedestrian crossings. The signals stop traffic for pedestrians crossing the road, and are cheaper than full traffic lights. Perez said Phoenix currently has nine HAWKs, but none downtown.
Kerry Wilcoxon, a traffic engineer for the City of Phoenix, mentioned “road diets,” which involve reducing the number of car lanes in a road and using the space to add bike lanes.
A road diet on 15th Avenue near Bethany Home Road effectively decreased traffic in a residential area, and made the avenue more navigable for bicyclists, Wilcoxon said.
Wilcoxon said the bike summit was especially important for Phoenix officials to get direct opinions from the bicycling community.
“The main thing you can do is be here today, and follow up on what we’re doing,” Wilcoxon said.
Phoenix police officer Toby Ehrler discussed traffic laws involving bicycling and said Phoenix police are not currently sufficiently trained in traffic laws that relate to bicyclists.
“I would say the training is somewhere between zero and, in all honesty, no more than a couple hours,” Ehrler said.
Ehrler said he was in the process of trying to make a mandatory training video focusing on bicycles for Phoenix police officers.
About 12 people raised their hands when Ehrler asked how many in the crowd had been hit by a car while riding a bicycle.
“Subconsciously, as a driver or as a motorist, you’re looking for a car,” Ehrler said. “You’re looking for a truck. You’re looking for the UPS guy because you’re expecting that package. You’re looking for everything other than a bicyclist.”
One of the “break-out” sessions included bicyclists from specific areas in Phoenix, like downtown and Ahwatukee, drawing on maps of their neighborhoods where they thought improvements could be made for bicyclists.
Brent Freiberger, a downtown resident who has commuted by bicycle since 1993, said many downtown bicyclists wanted a bike lane on Third Street from Indian School Road at least as far south as Fillmore Street.
Wearing bright yellow and red cycling apparel after riding his bike to the summit, Freiberger said he came to learn about the issues affecting him as a bicyclist. He said bicycling had made him feel more independent than people who rely on cars.
“Maintaining a car was an unnecessary burden,” he said. “With the combined insurance cost and fuel cost, I discovered I could live a fuller life without being shackled to a car.”
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