bike lanes in Ahwatukee

Damage like this to the surface of bike lanes in Ahwatukee create hazards for cyclists.

Local cyclists continue to voice concerns for their safety over poor road conditions and narrow bike lanes in Ahwatukee.  

Some Ahwatukee bicyclists can be seen riding up and down Chandler Boulevard, taking the loop on Ray Road, and cruising down Desert Passage Foothills Parkway, but many others have chosen to take alternative routes or to stop riding altogether due to dangerous conditions on the streets and bike lanes. 

“Some of the bike lanes are dangerous,” said Joe Struttmann, a resident of Ahwatukee for nearly 20 years. “I would say I have a close call about once a week.” 

The City of Phoenix began a five-year improvement program last January. The program is set to complete by June 2023, but the plan does not answer some of the safety concerns of local cyclists. 

One of the biggest concerns to cyclists is the condition of Chandler Boulevard, which is not set to receive maintenance until at least 2021 according to the City’s Accelerated Pavement Maintenance Improvement Program. 

Other roads such as 48th Street, south of Ray Road – which cyclists say is not hazardous – will see treatment as early as 2020. 

“We have a scientific approach and we have a public engagement approach,” said Ashley Patton, spokeswoman for the city Streets and Transportation Department. 

“We have a technologically advanced van … and it looks at and assesses the current state of that pavement so we have scientific data to base upon the prioritization of that roadway,” she added. 

Cyclists said some streets’ conditions are more dangerous to them than they are to motorists and are prioritized lower on the improvement plan if scheduled at all. 

Ahwatukee cyclist Mark Schmisseur reports safety concerns and road conditions frequently to the city either on their “PHX At Your Service” web forms or contacts city representatives directly via email.  

“In general, the Streets Department has been very responsive to potholes. Those are within a couple of days,” Schmisseur said. 

“It’s the other surface problems, like long cracks that are length ways which are very dangerous, where we see nothing getting done,” he added. 

Laurie Smith, the city continuous improvement and engagement coordinator, said safety is a top priority, but addressing a hazard is done on a case-by-case basis and depends on the severity of the hazard. 

Schmisseur said he experienced two “close calls” a month ago when motorists drove too close to a narrow bike lane in poor condition, almost hitting him. 

Schmisseur was behind Stuart Anderson of Ahwatukee the day he died in 2017 when his bike hit a pipe protruding from the surface in a bike lane along Chandler Boulevard near Club West Golf Course.

“I’m not going ride past something. You don’t know when it could lead to something like that, so I try to get it addressed, fixed,” Schmisseur said.  

Some cyclists said they have been complaining to the city as far back as 2016. 

While Schmisseur is quick to document and report specific concerns on the surface of the road, Struttmann is more concerned with the systemic issues that delay progress and can leave bike lane hazards untouched for months. 

“They need to address in their system, in their process, how they designed these things in the first place, because then when you have a problem, you can address it as you go along and it’s not like this game of whack-a-mole,” Struttmann said. 

Struttmann recently vocalized concerned about Liberty Lane between Desert Foothills Parkway and 24th Street, which is considerably narrow according to national bike lane guidelines. 

After receiving the concerns for safety on the bike lane, the city made a plan to put signs telling motorists that that cyclists can take up the full traffic lane.

It took several months for the plan to be approved and can take up to two more months to install them. 

The Street Transportation Department will be introducing a community engagement division that will focus on meeting with communities and listening to their concerns.

There are also plans to implement “right-of-way” specialists that will preemptively address more immediate safety concerns.

“Safety is always top priority,” Patton said. “Our staff is dedicated to community engagement.”

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