Tucson’s new streetcar line: A serious hazard for cyclists

Tucson Street Car

A new map and survey released by the Living Streets Alliance (LSA) in Tucson reveals a staggering number of bike crashes along the route of the new streetcar line.

During the self-reporting period over the past 18 months since August 2012, a whopping 86 bicycle accidents were logged by cyclists. All the cycling crashes occurred when riders attempted to ride alongside the streetcar tracks, or cross them.

This non-scientific, self-reporting survey includes the type and severity of injuries suffered by the rider, the suspected cause of the accident, the cyclist’s level of experience, and the mapped location of each crash.

 

The tracks are a trap for bicycle tires

Most of the crashed cyclists reported the same phenomenon:  One or both of the bike’s tires became snagged when a rider attempted to cross the tracks, throwing the rider to the ground, where many suffered injuries.

Unfortunately, data analysts believe that far more accidents have gone unreported, since statistical studies show that under-reporting is common in such situations. The Alliance launched this survey because Tucson authorities don’t monitor streetcar-related bike crashes separately from other accidents.

 

Spotlighting an unrecognized hazard

The Alliance is hoping the results of the survey to-date will help city transportation authorities to identify and fix places which are especially hazardous to bike riders, and also alert the public about this cycling deathtrap.

 

The release of the bike-crash survey has ignited a firestorm of controversy about whether motor vehicles and bicycles can coexist with streetcars on the same thoroughfare, especially around the North Fourth Avenue shopping area, where two-wheeled traffic must also navigate through a thicket of parked vehicles.

 

 

 

Worrisome statistics

 

Cyclists may feel crowded by motor vehicles everywhere in Tucson, but the streetcars add an extra element of danger. According to the survey map, most crashes are clustered around three areas:  Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard, the Fourth Avenue underpass by Toole Avenue, as well as the Main Gate Square location near the University of Arizona.

 

At least 40% of the injured riders were downed while crossing the tracks at a “bad angle,” and another 30% struck some sort of obstacle in the riding lane.

 

The reported obstacles ranged from pedestrians and parked cars to construction equipment. Many crashes were reported following riders’ evasive maneuvers to avoid suddenly-appearing hazards, such as vehicles stopping in traffic lanes.

 

Few riders escape unscathed

 

Sadly, only a tiny 4% of crashed riders emerged without injuries. Although most injuries were fairly minor, about 26% reported broken bones and other significant injuries.

 

Tucson officials have reportedly taken some steps to reduce the number of accidents, mostly in the form of new signage. However, much more needs to be done. In the meantime, until the streetcar route is made less hazardous, cyclists need strong advocacy.

 

In Tucson, Bob Barber is the leading bicycle injury attorney. He can make a difference in the outcome after any cycling accident.

 

If you or someone you know has been hurt while riding along Tucson’s streetcar line, or anywhere else in Pima County, Bob Barber can advocate for safer cycling conditions, help protect your rights, and to win the financial relief to which you’re entitled.

 

To assert your rights today, call the Bob Barber Law Firm at 520-293-4440.