Phoenix to Test Out Roosevelt Street Bike Lane After Outcry From Cyclists

A sign indicating a bike path at West Roosevelt Street and Seventh Avenue.
A sign indicating a bike path at West Roosevelt Street and Seventh Avenue. Steven Hsieh
The city of Phoenix will install a temporary bike lane on a segment of Roosevelt Street to connect two bike lanes in the vibrant downtown arts district.

The decision comes less than two months after the Street Transportation Department nixed a proposal to install a dedicated east-west bike lane on a half-mile stretch of road between First Avenue and Seventh Avenue, a segment that is flanked by paths for cyclists. Officials claimed removing a left-turn lane to accommodate a bike lane would increase traffic and endanger cyclists.

Cyclists protested the decision at the time, arguing that the move represented a misguided prioritization of cars over environmentally friendly, urban modes of transportation.

More than 91 percent of respondents to a city survey on options for an east-west bike path — including proposals that added lanes to the north and south of Roosevelt Street — chose the original, uninterrupted path.

Transportation officials made a concession to the cyclists earlier this month. Traffic lane striping crews will begin using "temporary materials" to create bike lanes on the relevant corridor of Roosevelt Street, according to a November 8 statement from Phoenix transportation director Kini Knudson.

The striping is slated to be completed on an unspecified December date. At that time, the city will begin a 30-day trial period to determine whether to keep the lanes or go with another option. People who use the Roosevelt Street corridor can submit feedback via email to [email protected] during the trial window.

"Installing and upgrading bicycle and multimodal infrastructure is a priority for the City of Phoenix," Knudson wrote. "A downtown east-west bicycle lane connection is an important addition to our transportation landscape."

Knudson's announcement followed a community meeting in late October at Burton Barr Central Library where city officials shared several alternative options for an east-west bike path connector.

One of the alternative options was adding "sharrows," or bright green markers painted directly on a street, along the relevant Roosevelt Street portion. Officials also presented options wherein the city would add lanes to the north of Roosevelt Street on Portland Avenue, and to the south, on McKinley Street and Fillmore Street.

Photos of the meeting show a packed auditorium. Several meeting attendees were part of a cycling group who had just finished a Mario-themed ride and were still wearing costumes representing characters from the Nintendo franchise.

According to David Tapley, vice president of the bicycle group Phoenix Spokes People, the room erupted in cheers when the city showed a Power Point slide of "Option A," the original proposed bike lane along Roosevelt Street.

Phoenix Spokes People and Urban Phoenix Project, a group that supports higher housing density and more public transportation options, both celebrated Knudson's announcement to install a temporary bike lane on Roosevelt.

But Tapley told Phoenix New Times he has concerns about the trial period. For one, he said, it's unclear how the city will evaluate whether it will be viable to make the lane permanent.

"One thing we have not been able to establish is: What are the criteria? Are they quantifiable criteria, or is it completely subjective?" Tapley said.

He also questioned the timing of the trial, as some Phoenix cyclists who would use the path may leave the city during the December holiday month.

Here are the city's proposed east-west bike lane options:

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Steven Hsieh was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from August 2018 to April 2020.
Contact: Steven Hsieh