Tucson denied platinum bike-friendliness status

League of American Bicyclists cite safety, low ridership as reason for denial

In many measures the ‘gold standard’ is tops, however, bike friendliness is measured on a different scale where communities strive toward ‘platinum’ status. And the City of Tucson will keep their gold status until, at least, 2016. This comes despite efforts by local government officials in Tucson and Pima County the Arizona to achieve the upgraded earlier this month.

Currently there are only three platinum communities in the US, which include Davis, Calif., Portland, Ore. and Boulder, Colo. Tucson will have to settle for their gold level status and will not be able to apply for an upgrade until 2016.

The League of American Bicyclists cited remaining safety issues and low ridership numbers as the biggest factors that kept Tucson as a gold community. It was noted that the ridership in Tucson is far lower than the three aforementioned platinum communities.

While upwards of 21 percent of people ride to work in Davis, and about 12 percent in Boulder, and even eight percent in Portland, only three percent of Tucson residents take two wheels over four.

So how can the city improve its chances to reach that platinum status in 2016? Wayne Cullop, president of the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association in Tucson, told BikeRadar.com that for one Tucson should strive to be more consistent in its treatment of intersections with respect to riders, and should consider increasing the number of people involved in bicycle-related decisions.

“The city needs to have two full time bike-pedestrian coordinators to work issues and review every road improvement plan,” said Cullop, who stressed the problems with the intersections. “Every intersection improvement needs to address bicyclists making left turns especially large intersections. The city is currently redoing a major intersection where cyclists had to cross two lanes to get to a lane where left turns were permissible. When it is done, cyclists will have to cross four lanes. Not a good design for cyclists.”

Simple solutions could be encouraging rides and commuting to work. Cullop added that even organizing group rides can be difficult with riders having to obtain permits. “To put on a bike ride, one has to go through ‘permit hell,’” Cullop explained. “For example, Greater Arizona Bicycling Association, GABA, sponsored the Ride of Silence this year. The club wanted to serve some pizza to the riders after the event. When the city found out, they wanted GABA to purchase a food permit and have all the items as if they were making the pizza. The pizza would have been purchased locally and delivered. It would have been a serve yourself affair.”

Even small moves such as an over reach bike advocacy committee could make a difference Cullop noted. “There are many clubs, organizations and individuals all wanting to improve cycling in the area. But they remain fractured. They need to come together and become a single force of many.”

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