New cameras keep traffic flowing for Scottsdale bicyclists

The Republic made a list of its favorite biking spotsThe Indian Bend Wash is the most popular shared-useThe canal banks in Scottsdale are some of the mostScottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve boasts moreThe city is always rebuilding its streets to add bikeThe city is always rebuilding its streets to add bike lanes and other extras.

For example, Indian School Road underwent construction to add bike lanes, wide sidewalks, landscaped medians and public art, Conklu said.

Similarly, Indian Bend Road was rebuilt with a bridge over Indian Bend Wash. The award-winning project includes bike lanes, sidewalks, a path crossing and art.

This year, crews are working on a streetscape project along Thomas Road between 73rd Street and the Indian Bend Wash.

The construction, which started in late December and will last about a year, will make safety improvements to the median and turn lanes and add bike lanes, sidewalk improvements, landscaping and art, according to Scottsdale.

Construction is on hiatus for spring training, a city official said. (Photo: The Republic)The bike routes and paths run along Pima Road's north-south

Something as simple as navigating an intersection can be treacherous terrain for Scottsdale-area bicyclists.

Just ask artist Sally-Heath Lloyd.

“I’ve almost been hit a couple of times where a person (in a car) would be looking left to turn right,” she said. “They don’t even look to the right when they start to turn.”

Luckily, there’s a solution in sight to prevent cyclists and motorists from driving each other crazy on the city’s roadways.

The Scottsdale Department of Transportation began installing 15 new cameras capable of detecting small vehicles such as bikes and easing their paths through busy intersections.

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The cameras signal to traffic lights that a bicyclist is waiting to cross an intersection. Without the signal, riders can get stuck waiting for a car to trip the light, tempting them to travel across the lanes without a green signal or a pedestrian walk sign.

For $5,000 a piece, or $20,000 for a four-way intersection, the cameras will create safer, more-effective streets, senior transportation planner Greg Davies said. While the sticker price is high, the cameras should require comparatively little upkeep and fit well with the city’s goal of continuing to build a bicycling infrastructure that connects communities, Davies said.

The city began discussing the cameras in 2013 as funding became available through a portion of a transportation sales tax that voters approved in 1989. While the main goal for adding the system was to increase the efficiency and safety of the city’s bike ways, a few suggestions from residents didn’t hurt, Davies said.

“We had many people call and say, ‘I’m stuck at a signal I can’t get across unless a vehicle comes up,'” he said. “Oh yeah, citizens have called and voiced their frustrations.”

The city has 15 cameras for now, but hopes to expand the program to all 135 intersections that involve bicycle lanes within the next few years.

The improvements are just part of an extensive overhaul of the city’s Transportation Master Plan, last revised in 2008, said Susan Conklu, also a senior transportation planner. Other updates to the plan include potential new trails and signs along existing paths to help direct both residents and tourists, she said at a community forum recently.

The cameras are a good place to start to promote biking around the city, said Mike Fimea, a software tester who lives in Scottsdale. He enjoys riding 8 to 9 miles at a time, but plans his routes to avoid major intersections because they’re too difficult to cross. Better lights would mean better access to different places to ride.

“You’ve got to have an environment where people feel safe while they’re riding in terms of dealing with traffic,” he said. “And when you have to cross a busy intersection, you have to know that you’re not going to get wiped out when you try to go across the street.”

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