Aaron Thompson, a doctoral student in sociology at Arizona State University, often bikes from his home on West Lynwood Street into Phoenix for classes. After years of living in cities like Baltimore and Los Angeles, he is familiar with the dangers of cycling on public streets. The added cycling lanes in Phoenix, such as those being expanded on both 3rd and 5th avenues, are a welcome improvement to residents like Thompson.
“There is an absolute need for bike lanes in this community,” said Thompson. “In all of Phoenix, really. This city is way too reliant on cars.”
The Phoenix Street Transportation Department is currently working on the expansion project of bike lanes along both 3rd Avenue, from McDowell Road to Muhammad Ali Way, and 5th Avenue, from McDowell Road to Thomas Road. According to the city’s website, this project will extend preexisting, two-way protected bike lanes and increase cycling connectivity in Phoenix. Construction is projected to end in winter 2024.
The initial lanes along 3rd Avenue were presented in December 2021, running between Roosevelt Street and McDowell Road and marking the first two-way protected bike lanes available in Phoenix. The project sought to create safer pedestrian paths using bollards, signs and cement curbs.
Although the project has generally created safer pathways, community members still observe issues with the current design model, namely the number of cars that hit the lane markers when turning.
“That lane is counterintuitive,” said Dana Naimark, a resident living alongside 3rd Avenue. “I like the idea of having a bike lane. I just think the design is confusing.”
Although the new lanes are a welcomed addition for cyclists, certain groups believe it is equally important for cyclists to ensure their own safety when riding in densely populated areas.
“All of the problems aren’t just from people driving cars,” said Bob Litchfield, the president of the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club. “Certainly, the bicyclists have a responsibility as well. We need to stay in bike lanes and obey traffic laws.”
Beyond this expansion project, the city is currently pitching new bike lanes throughout Phoenix, often in residential areas. Some recent proposals include those along 19th Avenue, between Telegraph Pass Road and Dobbins Road, and West Filmore Street, between 7th Avenue and Central Avenue.
According to Marielle Brown, the Active Transportation Principal Planner in Phoenix, the city’s current goal is to add approximately “30 miles of bike lanes per year.” This comes as a part of the Active Transportation Program, a design project to protect walkers and bicyclists through new, defensive infrastructure.
To approve these projects, the Phoenix Street Transportation Department is collecting a variety of surveys from community members. Through this, the department aims to create designs that will not disturb the surrounding community.
At a Roosevelt Action Association meeting on Sept. 19, Marielle Brown shared how the city seeks community input before it enters official planning stages.
“We’re reaching out to the community to hear what you think,” said Brown, when presenting the new bike project on West Filmore Street. “So, we can take that information and come back with proposals for a few different alternatives.”
Thompson, the cyclist in support of bike lanes, said more needs to be done to educate motorists about sharing the road, despite the varying opinions on the project on 3rd and 5th avenues.
“You have to start with changing driver behavior,” said Thompson. “You can put up as much infrastructure as you can, which has been effective. But the issue is Phoenix drivers in general have been able to call the shots in the city for 40 or 50 years. That’s learned, traditional behavior that’s hard for people to modify.”