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.

New striping and signage meant to make the road safer for bicyclists could be going up along Pecos Road west of Desert Foothills Parkway in the next four to six weeks.

The city of Phoenix presented a plan to the public during an open meeting on Feb. 25. About 100 people showed up to hear the details and while the changes are not going to solve all problems the crowd seemed pleased with what’s being done now.

In the next four to six weeks the right-turn-only lane, which exists on the westbound side of Pecos Road approaching 17th Avenue, will be converted back into a through lane. There will be a designated bicycle lane down Pecos Road west of Desert Foothills Parkway, which will remain on the shoulder. The bicycle lane will be painted green through the intersection at 17th Avenue with a bright green thermoplastic. Solar-powered radar signs will be posted on the side of Pecos Road and the speed limit will be dropped to 45 mph west of Desert Foothills Parkway.

“I hope that some of these changes are effective,” said Jeremy Pomeroy, a bicyclist who said he has traveled through that intersection hundreds of times. “I think that probably one of the other things that’s important is on the cyclists side to try to do what we can to be as visible as possible… I’m glad they’re making these changes and trying these things. I hope that the situation out there gets safer.”

Several residents asked about other ideas to make the road safer like the possibility of a traffic circle or traffic light at the intersection. City of Phoenix traffic engineer, Kerry Wilcoxon, said the intersection does not see enough traffic to warrant a signal and the topography of the land make a traffic circle difficult and costly.

Wilcoxon did say he’s working with the streets department to have parallel cracks in the road repaired and to work on better maintenance of shrubbery on the roadside.

“The topography of Pecos Road is unique,” said Kevin Cullen, a resident at the meeting. “Because that is not easily correctable, the program to cut down on the shrubbery is critical. If you get on that roadway, at certain points that intersection disappears and it’s pretty dramatic… I just want to say I think the maintenance is critical and we need to keep it going and that in a way may balance out this topography that is not correctable that is part of the problem.”

The city has conducted traffic and speed studies at the intersection of 17th Avenue and Pecos Road. They found that 8,500 to 8,700 vehicles pass through the intersection each day. The 85th percentile speed through the intersection was 57 to 65 mph, depending on the time of day.

“You cannot discount inattentive drivers,” said Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio. “It’s our responsibility. There’s nothing we can do to ensure 100 percent everyone will behave perfectly. I think what we’ve done is a fantastic job putting these changes together.”

The formation of the task force and the proposed changes were inspired by a fatal crash in November of 2014 when bicyclist Highly Falkner was hit from behind as he attempted to cross over the right-turn-only lane to continue heading westbound. The driver in that incident was later arrested. Police say toxicology reports showed drugs in his system at the time of the crash.

“Engineering can only do so much. Education can only do so much. Enforcement can only do so much,” Wilcoxon said. “None of what we’re going to talk about today would have prevented decisions that were made then, nor will they bring Highly back, but it may make the road safer for everybody. That’s what we want to get to.”

The task force that has been working with the city on these changes plans to continue working with city engineers to correct problems for cyclists in other areas of the Valley. The group is already taking a look at what can be done on Baseline Road.

The changes are expected to cost $50,000-$60,000. The funds are coming from a city account made to pay for safety improvements citywide.

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