Updated: Fourth Avenue sharrows violate national guidelines, streetcar plans

doorzone

Editor’s note: I incorrectly wrote that City of Tucson crews installed the sharrows along Fourth Avenue. It was actually the contractor hired by the city to perform the streetcar construction that placed the sharrows. 

The recently added sharrows along Fourth Avenue are between one and two feet too close to the curb, violating national guidelines and the city’s own streetcar plans.

In most cases, the streetcar plans called for the center of the sharrow to be placed 12 feet from the curb, but measurements taken by Tucson Velo indicate the actual placement of the sharrows are between ten feet four inches and ten feet nine inches.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which provides guidance on the use of traffic devices from the federal department of transportation, indicates that sharrows should be placed no less than 11 feet away from the curb when on-street parking is present.

The current positioning would place cyclists in a dangerous location, which could increase the likelihood of a dooring.

Streetcar construction manager Joe Chase did not return a phone call about the sharrow placement, but Tucson’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager Ann Chanecka  said they were investigating the placement of the sharrows.

This sharrow positions cyclists into the back of a car. It's likely that parking in this area will be eliminated, but will then require cyclists to merge in and out of traffic.

Car parking will be eliminated here.

Plans indicate that parking along the north and south end of Fourth Avenue will be eliminated because the street is too narrow making the sharrow above more appropriate.

This sharrow is not in the plans for Fourth Avenue.

 

19 comments
EdCantrell
EdCantrell

Those sharrows have been removed, leaving some dent in the road...    The method they used to remove was lame...   It was a new road which is now already damaged!  oh boy

pedalpics
pedalpics

Man I love that sharrow leading right into the back of that car in front of Epic Cafe. To bad I have yet to see it. I have now counted 7 work commuting days in a row that I went by and a car was parked in that no parking space. Not sure when it was ever even free enough to paint the sharrow or snap the pic.

JamesDonohue
JamesDonohue

Is the measurement taken from the edge of the sharrows symbol? What if the sharrows stencil was made to a different scale?

IIRC, the distance from the head of the rail must be at least four feet. Literally , you're between a rock and a hard place. Twelve feet might put your bike in the path of the streetcar.

MikeMcKisson
MikeMcKisson moderator

@JamesDonohue My measurement is taken from the center of the sharrow, which is what the MUTCD says to do. That is where most people will try to ride. 

Harrison Smith
Harrison Smith

But even if the sharrows are moved to 12 feet from the curb, streetcars will still not have the mandatory 3 feet safe passing distance from bicyclists. The problem is the placement of the tracks, which are now permanently set in concrete.

Sorry for all my griping comments, I promise I to stop. I just wish that these issues could be resolved before they are permanently installed. It certainly does not bode well to convert two of the city's key connecting bike routes to potentially deadly obstacle courses.

MikeMcKisson
MikeMcKisson moderator

@Harrison Smith The streetcar planners said drivers will have to wait behind bikes if they can't be safely passed. In actuality, bikes will probably be moving faster than the streetcar. 

DrTriKat
DrTriKat

Does anyone know why the tracks in the center of the road are not NEXT to each other? So much wasted space, and it looks so dangerous. What exactly is the strip of asphalt between the two tracks supposed to be used for?

Harrison Smith
Harrison Smith like.author.displayName 1 Like

@DrTriKat I've been curious about this as well. It seems like this would have been the obvious first thing to eliminate, before street parking, and certainly before bike lanes. It strikes me as a bit odd that on a street like 4th Avenue, where we really need to calm traffic, we should appease those who are too impatient to occasionally slow down for a car stopped to turn..?

Orvis
Orvis

@Harrison Smith @DrTriKat As much as I'd like to see traffic calmed on 4th Avenue and along University I think sublimated cars doing random things to get around stopped vehicles waiting to make turns is actually worse for cyclists not better.  It's not the tracks that scare me or even the St Cars because, well they can't swerve and hit me.  Nope it's the cars doing unpredictable things while they hunt for parking, drop passengers while double parked or u-turn to double back for a spot on the opposite side of the roadway.  Why 4th Avenue is so perilous now is all about the unpredictability of the cars and the very increased possibility of being doored.  

Robert Lane
Robert Lane

My assumption of this design is so that a left turn vehicle (in the two way left turn lane between the tracks) can stage/store in the lane while waiting to turn while also allowing the street cars to pass safely on either side (like cars do now, usually). 

DrTriKat
DrTriKat

@Robert Lane That doesn't sound DANGEROUS at all (sarcasm). I am envisioning a Hummer standing there as two streetcars pass by on either side. Screeeeeech - Ouch.

DrTriKat
DrTriKat

@Robert LaneThere are two major streetcar designs in Europe, where they have been running for over 100 years. Either in the center of the street, next to each other, or separated at the very edge of the street, next to the sidewalk. Left turn lanes are "dead space" because they are not used 99% of the time. In Europe, left turn lanes ONLY exist at intersections, yet cars can turn left everywhere without a problem. Why are Americans obsessed about left turn lanes? They are fine as long as you have unlimited road width. Streetcars should ALWAYS have the right of way. It seems to me that in the effort to please many different modes of transport and have them coexist in a limited width of street, neither form of transport will work (well), and bicycles in particular are getting the short end of the stick. Its like a multitool: it can do many things poorly

Robert Lane
Robert Lane

Well, I guess you'll just have to make sure you don't go down there in your Hummer, if it's wider than 11-12 feet?

In my experience, streetcars are not wider than a full-size pick-up (not even dually wide) and therefore would stay within the lane they occupy (beside the fact that it is, of course, on rails). Therefore, the danger of a car in the TWLTL with two streetcars passing is only slightly higher because the streetcars can't move off the tracks if the vehicle occupying the TWLTL is not within the lines painted for them. Average vehicle width is between 5'-6" and 7'-6" with average lane width between 10'-6" and 12'.

If you put the tracks/streetcars in the middle of the roadway, you will need to eliminate left turns altogether or create new traffic laws regarding the right-of-way of streetcars vs cars.

Mtngoat
Mtngoat like.author.displayName 1 Like

There are public meetings coming up to follow up on the community design charrettes the Streetcar team held in January. I suggest we stop being so nice about our opposition (and complaining about it places that the streetcar team are unlikely to ever see).  Please attend one of these meetings and speak out:

Dates and meeting places:
Meeting 1: West University & 4th Avenue Business District (central segment)—Monday, August 5 at 6:00 p.m. Main Library, 101 N. Stone Avenue, Lower Level Meeting Room
Meeting 2: Eastern Terminus & Main Gate—Monday, August 12 at 6:00 p.m. University of Arizona Student Union, 1303 E. University Blvd., 2nd Floor, Kiva Room
Meeting 3: Downtown Entertainment Districts & Downtown Cultural/Convention District—Monday, August 19 at 6:00 p.m. Public Works Building, 201 N. Stone Avenue, Basement Conference Room C
Meeting 4: Western Terminus—Monday, August 26 at 6:00 p.m. Public Works Building, 201 N. Stone Avenue, Basement Conference Room C

zz
zz

@Mtngoat Why would the streetcar 'team' not look in places where ideas and concerns are expressed about their very interest? It isn't like there are hundreds of them and it would be sooo time consuming. Bikes have been more than a minor concern in this project. They should be well aware of what has been written here. I don't consider Tucsonvelo to be an unofficial forum for bike community expression and communication. What else do we have? Don't say the BAC! I almost don't blame them when their eyes start to glass over during the course of those meetings. 

jeff
jeff

This is the first I have heard about eliminating parking spaces. How much of the north and south ends are going to lose parking spaces? Is the city going to do anything to replace those parking spaces? I am glad that this is happening. I ride 4th Avenue almost every day and the first day I saw where the streetcar was going to be and where the end of someone's car door was going to be when they were getting out of their cars, I knew something wasn't going to work.

MikeMcKisson
MikeMcKisson moderator

@jeff About 100 feet on both ends. It'll be about when the tracks move back in after the turns. 

rynsa
rynsa

So the city is responsible for lying to the the general public via faulty construction plans, or it is responsible for hiring inept contractors and not holding them accountable (ie, for putting lives in danger through improper sharrow placement).  "Bike friendly city," my ass.