Phoenix Caves to Uptown Residents, Will Abandon North Central Avenue Bike Lane

A rendering of the proposed lane changes on North Central Avenue.
A rendering of the proposed lane changes on North Central Avenue. Screenshot via City of Phoenix
click to enlarge A rendering of the proposed lane changes on North Central Avenue. - SCREENSHOT VIA CITY OF PHOENIX
A rendering of the proposed lane changes on North Central Avenue.
Screenshot via City of Phoenix

After neighborhood residents fiercely objected to a proposal to add bike lanes along a portion of North Central Avenue, Phoenix transportation officials have killed the project.

In a memo released at 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon, City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department Director Kini Knudson stated that the agency is spiking its own proposal to restripe Central Avenue between Bethany Home Road and the Arizona Canal and add bike lanes and a center turn lane. The project would have reduced the four-lane road to three lanes to accommodate the new bike lanes and the turn lane.

"Based upon detailed review of the community input received, the Street Transportation Department is no longer pursuing the proposed lane changes on Central Avenue, between Bethany Home Road and the Arizona Canal," Knudson wrote. "We will proceed with the pavement treatments on Central Avenue and restripe the road with the existing lane configuration."

The decision comes roughly a month after Street Transportation Department officials held a virtual community meeting about the project where neighborhood residents denounced the proposal as dangerous, inconvenient, and inefficient. One resident who lives along Central Avenue complained that residents would have to stop to watch for passing cyclists, while another claimed that it would be "horrible" for children. Many argued that it would push traffic onto side streets.

At the time, Street Transportation Department officials had touted the proposal as a way to prevent car accidents, improve safety, and add bike lanes in accordance with the city's Transportation 2050 plan, which calls for 1,000 miles of new bike lanes in Phoenix. Research has shown that similar lane reduction projects, also known as "road diets," can reduce vehicle collisions by as much as 40 percent.

Cycling advocates and bike infrastructure proponents denounced Knudson's decision to kill the project.

"It's sad that the Streets Department caved to individuals in a wealthier area that might benefit from a more convenient car ride at the expense of a network that could allow for people to use bikes and other modes of transit," said Ryan Boyd, a spokesperson for the Urban Phoenix Project, an urbanist advocacy group. "We’re not asking for I-10 to be a bike lane corridor. We’re asking for residential streets to have bike lanes and a turn lane."

"We’re incredibly disappointed," he added. "It’s kind of cowardice, to be honest."

Dave Tapley, vice president of the nonprofit cycling advocacy group Phoenix Spokes People, said that city officials are unwilling to take on "NIMBYism."

"This seems to happen again and again," he said. "It’s pretty sad."

Phoenix City Councilmember Sal DiCiccio, who has been an outspoken critic of the Central Avenue bike lane project, celebrated the death of the project in a statement released on Friday afternoon.

“We did it! As you know I strongly opposed this stupid idea of putting this ridiculous road diet on Central Avenue," he said.

Ashley Patton, a spokesperson for the Street Transportation Department, denied that Knudson's decision to spike the project undermined the city's broader goals of building a robust network of bike infrastructure as outlined in Transportation 2050 and the Comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan.

"The Street Transportation Department remains committed to adding and improving active transportation options, including bicycle lanes, across Phoenix," she wrote in an email. "The goals set forth in those plans are citywide, and we are steadily working towards them across our entire transportation network of nearly 5,000 miles of streets."
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety