A heated meeting led to the formation of a task force and promise to get back to the public within 45 days to address the problems between cyclists and motorists at Pecos Road and 17th Avenue.
About 100 avid cyclists and concerned residents showed up to the meeting Thursday night with City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, the city’s new street transportation director Ray Dovalina Jr. and Kerry Wilcoxon, city traffic engineer. For more than an hour, the city’s representatives listened to the problems at the intersection and possible solutions.
The concerns center around the way the intersection is designed. In June, the city re-striped the road and moved the bike lane slightly so that it crosses over a right-turn-only lane, rather than keeping cyclists on the north shoulder of the road moving west.
The change was made because the majority of traffic at the intersection was turning right from westbound Pecos onto 17th Avenue and turning left onto 17th Avenue from eastbound Pecos. Traffic engineers believed it would make the intersection safer to create a designated right-turn-only lane and reduce the number of lanes cars are crossing to turn left.
The meeting was organized after a cyclist was hit and killed near the intersection on Wednesday, Nov. 12. Dwayne Highly Falkner, 59, was struck from behind by a vehicle as he attempted to cross over that right-turn-only lane. Speed and impairment are possible factors in the crash but it is still under investigation and will be for the next several months, Wilcoxon said. The incident was the second cyclist death at the intersection in recent years.
Cyclists said they’ve seen many near-accidents caused by cyclists not negotiating the speed of oncoming cars correctly as they cross the lane, by motorists running the stop sign turning left off 17th Avenue onto east Pecos Road, and by motorists turning too quickly from Pecos onto 17th Avenue because they didn’t realize in time that the intersection was coming up.
“I’ve cycled that road for five years but I hadn’t driven it in my car,” said Jamie Hammonds during the meeting. “I went last week to pay my respects at the ghost bike and I had to actually stop and figure out ‘How am I supposed to drive this?’ because you changed stuff up. As a car, I had no idea … If you have lights at every single street, why change that? If you’re used to having cyclists in a bike lane, and all of the sudden you’re going to put them in traffic, the cyclists is going to lose every time. It’s a no-brainer.”
Wilcoxon said the city originally was putting traffic signals along Pecos Road but they stopped at 17th Avenue because the traffic volume didn’t and still doesn’t warrant a signal. Typically intersections need to see about 20,000 cars a day on the arterial street and 10,000 on the intersecting street to get a signal. Pecos Road got only 4,000 to 5,000 cars that far west when the city studied it in 2013.
Putting a signal in where the traffic volume is low can actually cause more problems with traffic flow and also with crashes, Wilcoxon said. Where there are signals, left-turning crashes occur more often as do pedestrian-involved accidents.
A majority of people in the audience raised their hands when they were asked if they had ever seen a close call at that particular intersection between a car and bike. Only a few of those people had reached out to the city about the problem.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Laurel Arndt said there’s no easy mechanism for cyclists to submit comments to the city. She has reached out to the streets department on several occasions and never heard back. Joseph Perez, who responds to email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, said resources in the department are minimal and interest in biking is growing rapidly. It’s sometimes difficult for the city to keep up.
While a signal may not be a good fit for the intersection, some residents asked that the city put rumble stripes on 17th Avenue approaching the intersection to encourage drivers to slow down. They also asked for the bike lane to be put back onto the north shoulder of the road.
DiCiccio promised the group he would form a small task force, led by Brandee Lepak, owner of Global Bikes, to come up with ideas for the city to address the problems at the intersection. A local traffic engineering company, CivTech, will also be helping with some ideas for free. The company has a passion for making roads safer for cyclists. Wilcoxon said they could return with some options in the next 45 days.
For more information on the efforts to make Pecos safer for cyclists, contact the councilman’s office at email@example.com.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.