Rangers in Saguaro National Park East are going to begin using, what Rincon Mountain District Ranger, Paul Austin calls the “4 Es” to help improve interactions between different groups and make it safer it for everyone.
While improving the interactions between walkers, runners, drivers and cyclists is a goal, safety is the main priority.
Austin, who is also a cyclist, wrote a report outlining the issue and how they hope to improve it. You can download the entire report here.
“One of our most concerning statistics at the park is that we have averaged 7 major bicycle related accidents a year over the past 5 years on the Cactus Forest Loop Drive. These are accidents that require helicopter evacuation, ambulance transport, and/or hospital time. Considering we have close to 25,000 bicyclists on the Cactus Forest Loop annually, that number may seem low. However, we know bicycling accidents are drastically underreported.. We are committed to reducing bicycling injuries in the park, as safety is always a priority.”
“We’ve had three bad accidents in the last 36 hours,” Austin said in a phone interview.
Austin plans to use the “4 Es” to help increase the safety in the park. Here is an excerpt from the report.
Goal 1: Education
Educate all road users, bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists, on legal, predictable and safe behavior. Continue and expand implementation of both adult and child bicycle driving and traffic education programs incorporating the mission of the National Park Service and Saguaro National Park. Coordinate with Pima County, area school districts, and with the state.
Goal 2: Enforcement
Establish and implement targeted enforcement of specific traffic laws for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, based on the documented, most frequent bicyclist–motorist crashes.
Goal 3: Engineering
Plan, design, construct and maintain facilities that meet or exceed accepted standards and guidelines.
Goal 4: Encouragement
Encourage use of bicycles for recreation. Encourage use of the park to experience the natural wonder of Saguaro National Park rather than a personal training ground (or only train hard while going up the hills). Encourage multi-modal use of all facilities.
“I ride myself, I know what it is like, Austin said. “I love to ride the loop, but it is not a race course.”
Austin said one of the big factors often contributing to crashes is speed.
Statistics show us that the majority of accidents in the park involve speed as the primary or a contributing factor.
Due to these results, focused enforcement patrols will be targeting speed. Do not be surprised to see Rangers with radar as well as radar trailers on the loop drive.
While his rangers have the authority to write tickets for infractions by motorists and cyclists alike, Austin said that isn’t the goal.
“Our goal is a partnership in recognizing what an amazing loop it is, but that it is also a loop for everybody,” Austin said. “It is a great place for us to ride, but it is also great place for that 82-year-old couple from Michigan to check out the Sonoran Desert.”
Austin is also working with GABA and Bike Ambassadors to organize a ride though the park on April 10, 2010. Here are the details:
The Saguaro National Park East is sponsoring two rides through the park on Saturday, April 10. The first ride starts at 8:00 AM followed by a ride at 9:30 AM. The rides on the Cactus Trail road are intended for those who have never ridden the route or have not done the loop in many years. The rides are supported by the Park Rangers, GABA and the Bike Ambassadors. Safe riding techniques will be emphasized and support provided to those who may find the climb on the back side a little more difficult than expected. So please come out and enjoy a ride through our magnificent National Treasure. Please remember to bring your pass or be prepared to pay applicable entrance fees.