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It Took Phoenix Motorists One Week to Wreck The City's First Two-Way Protected Bike Lane

A new two-way protected bike lane runs along 3rd Avenue in Central Phoenix between Roosevelt Street and McDowell Road.
Screenshot via City of Phoenix
A new two-way protected bike lane runs along 3rd Avenue in Central Phoenix between Roosevelt Street and McDowell Road.

Phoenix's first two-way protected bike lane, which has only been open for use for around a week, has already been damaged by car drivers.

On June 8th, the City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department announced that the project was ready for cyclists. Running along 3rd Avenue between Roosevelt Street and McDowell Road, it has a concrete divider between vehicle traffic and the bike lanes. While it's not Phoenix's first protected bike lane, it is the city's only two-way protected bike lane. It had been under construction since May 2020.

The weekend after its debut, cyclists and residents were already reporting that yellow bollards that dot the length of the 3rd Avenue bike lane were damaged.

click to enlarge A damaged pylon along the protected bike lane at 3rd Avenue and W Culver Street. - PHOTO VIA WAYNE TURNER
A damaged pylon along the protected bike lane at 3rd Avenue and W Culver Street.
Photo via Wayne Turner
Ed Buckel, a 41-year-old cyclist and resident of the Willo neighborhood — 3rd Avenue cuts right through the area — posted a picture of a severely bent bollard on Nexdoor that he saw on Sunday morning while he was driving home from brunch.


"Surely this is a sign that Phoenix needs more protected bikeways and walkways," he wrote in the post. "I already count two that have been plowed down by careless drivers."

In a phone interview, Buckel said that the cycling community cynically expected Phoenix drivers who are unfamiliar with bike infrastructure to try to drive their cars in the bike lane (which was previously a car lane) and hit the bollards.

"We were all making jokes about how long it would be before somebody drove into one. I had made the joke, 'I bet it will be a month before somebody plows through it'," he said. "It wasn't even a week."

"Phoenix city streets are made for cars," Buckel added. "When you take that away from people [drivers], I think they forget that there are other things in the road than just themselves."


Dave Tapley, vice president of the nonprofit cycling advocacy group Phoenix Spokes People, said that while he wasn't surprised that drivers hit the bollards, he was surprised that it occurred "within a week."

Photos provided to Phoenix New Times by another cyclist who lives in the Roosevelt area, Wayne Turner, appear to show damaged pylons at three different locations along 3rd Avenue, including near Roosevelt Street and Culver Street.

Ashley Patton, a spokesperson for the Street Transportation Department, wrote in an email that city staff members are working to replace the three damaged bollards and that the repairs are expected to be "completed within the next week."

She added that the bollards worked as intended, which is to keep cars from using the bike lane.

click to enlarge A damaged bollard along the 3rd Avenue bike lane near Roosevelt Street. - PHOTO VIA WAYNE TURNER
A damaged bollard along the 3rd Avenue bike lane near Roosevelt Street.
Photo via Wayne Turner
"The bollards are meant to stop cars, but they are not designed to be indestructible, as that would increase risk to people walking, biking, and driving," Patton wrote. "That they were hit by vehicles does highlight the need for the devices, as the vehicles would have otherwise driven within the two-way protected bicycle lanes, potentially endangering people riding bicycles."

Patton said that the Street Transportation Department doesn't know for sure yet why the bollards were damaged.

"Without knowing more about how or when the bollards were hit, or if the driver was speeding or impaired, we cannot speculate as to why the bollards were damaged," she wrote. "The city will continue to promote educational information about the new two-way protected bicycle lanes. Any change to a street will take time for traffic patterns to settle, which is why we post signage in the area to alert people to changes."

Buckel said that while he has no issues using the bike lanes as an experienced cyclist, he worries that younger or less savvy riders could be endangered by careless drivers who try to use the new 3rd Avenue bike lane.

"It’s exciting to see more cycling infrastructure come to Phoenix — I feel safe out there," he said. But, he added, "If I had kids that were out there riding, I’d be paranoid. I'd be worried about them."