Toole Avenue was repaved and the lanes were reconfigured to include bike lanes and shared lane markings along the quarter-mile section from Sixth Avenue to Stone Avenue. Watch the video below to see how it looks.
Tom Thivener, the City of Tucson’s bike and pedestrian program manager, said there are other bike lanes on streets leading into the area but Toole is the first bike facility in the heart of downtown.
Prior to the repaving project, Toole had two lanes in the northwest direction, but traffic engineers changed it to one lane in each direction to add the bike lanes.
“Obviously this in not a heavily trafficked road, so losing that lane is not really a disadvantage to the motorists,” Thivener said. “It is a great advantage to the bicycling community by taking that space and adding bike lanes.”
Ian Johnson, a Tucson Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee member and downtown resident, said he rode the new section Saturday night and really liked it.
“It was great,” Johnson said. “So few streets in downtown Tucson have any bike amenities. It was a real luxury to ride in downtown and not be crowded in the lane by cars.”
Heading east from Stone Avenue, Toole will have buffered bike lanes. The buffer is on the right side of the bike lane separating bikes from parked cars.
“You get a little elbow room from the doors,” Thivener said.
Eventually the road gets smaller and the buffered part of the bike lane ends. Then, the road is too narrow to accommodate bike lanes, so the city will utilize sharrows.
Sharrows or shared lane markings show cyclists where to ride in the street and alert motorists to expect bikes to be in the travel lane. The sharrows will continue on Toole from Sixth Avenue to Congress Street.
Johnson said it wasn’t ideal that the bike lanes ended, but said he recognized it was probably the best they could do. He said he would be curious to see how drivers react once the shared lane markings go in.
The sharrows haven’t been applied to the street because Thivener said it takes 30 days for the asphalt to cure. Once the road has cured the city will also repaint the bike lanes using a permanent reflective paint.
Thivener said he didn’t think using several types of bike lanes and pavement markings would be a problem.
“As long as it stays consistent to the bicyclists that they should be there, the bicyclists just flow from one facility to another,” Thivener said. “I don’t think it is going to be a big deal from the bicyclists point of view to go from one facility to another. It is one constant bike facility, just the look and feel it does change a bit as you head down.”
The project was funded through federal stimulus money.
Thivener said Toole was selected because it was one of the worst sections of road in Tucson.
“Really it was one of the bumpiest stretches of road that I can recall riding on,” Thivener said. “I am reminded of it constantly by cyclists in Tucson who always complain about it.”
Thivener said adding bike lanes on Toole is a good first step.
“This is a great step forward in a way because the historic view of downtown streets is that bicyclists can just take the lane and fend for themselves,” Thivener said. “We are slowly putting our foot into the door and saying, “No, we actually do want facilities that we feel comfortable and safe on.”
Watch the YouTube version of the video here.