Biking safety

A bike on the side of Pecos Road marsk the spot where a 59-year-old man was hit and killed Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Allison Hurtado

Weeks after an accident on Pecos Road that left a 59-year-old bicyclist dead and hundreds of people questioning the safety of the intersection, the 24-year-old driver in the case was arrested and booked on charges of manslaughter.

A toxicology analysis confirmed drugs in Diego Ivan Venegas’ system on Nov. 12, said Sgt. Jonathan Howard of the Phoenix Police Department. He was taken into custody without incident on Dec. 24.

Venegas is accused of hitting Dwayne Highly Faulkner with his car on Nov. 12. Faulkner was riding his bike down Pecos Road, near 17th Avenue, and crossing over a right-turn-only lane to continue westbound when he was struck.

Since the accident, questions have been raised about the safety of the intersection. On Nov. 20 City Councilman Sal DiCiccio met with the public and engineers from the city of Phoenix to listen to those concerns and see what could be done. At that time, DiCiccio formed the Pecos Road Action Group to help evaluate the intersection.

Since then, the city has re-studied accident information and traffic patterns at the intersection. While the amount of traffic at the intersection does not warrant a signal, city engineers have come up with five options for separating and slowing traffic. Each of the options are being considered by the Pecos Road Action Group to determine what changes might make the road safer for cyclists and drivers.

All of the options being considered include widening the right shoulder near 17th Avenue and Pecos Road, to give cyclists more of a buffer, better lighting on the corner, permanent solar-powered speed radar signs, narrowing west-bound Pecos Road to one lane just before 17th Avenue, lowering the speed limit on Pecos west of Desert Foothills Parkway to 40 mph, and designating an actual bike lane west of Desert Foothills Parkway.

“We can’t say enough how open the city has been to work with us,” said Brandee Lepak, owner of Global Bikes and head of the Pecos Action Group. “We’ve had no resistance to listening to our ideas and explanations.”

Members of the Pecos Road Action Group have said they would prefer to keep the bike lane in the right shoulder on Pecos Road, and not cross over a right-turn-only lane at 17th Avenue in order to continue westbound. The majority of the designs city engineers are considering for re striping the road do have cyclists crossing over a right-turn lane at some point. The goal is to lower the speed of drivers coming up on 17th Avenue so they can be more aware of cyclists also using that stretch.

The city has asked the group to review five options and get back to them with suggestions about which option they prefer. Kerry Wilcoxon, with the city’s Street Transportation Department, said they would like to move on changes quickly. They’re also working with cyclists to identify large cracks that need to be filled in for cyclist safety.

The South Mountain Freeway is being proposed by the state to be constructed down Pecos Road, but the city has said the construction of the freeway will not have any effect on changes they are willing to make.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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