Bike master plan entrenches Paradise Valley Town Council

Coffman President, Jim Coffman speaks with residents during a break-out group at a pathways master plan open house Sept. 14, 2016. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

At an April 27 Town of Paradise Valley study session, several residents who live along Hummingbird Lane gathered at Town Hall to provide council members a better understanding of the dangerous bicycle culture that has evolved on neighborhood streets.

The town council agenda included a 90-minute item to begin looking at the first steps of a bicycle and pedestrian master plan, a guideline to serve the town for future years, town officials say.

Jim Coffman

In a presentation by Town Planner Paul Michaud and Jim Coffman, president of Coffman Studios, numbers show most residents walk or ride their bike for recreation and exercise, according to a resident survey.

In August 2016, Paradise Valley Town Council authorized a contract with Coffman Studio at a rate of $143,695.02 for the development of a bicycle and pedestrian master plan.

Since work has commenced on the bicycle and master plan, efforts include: making contact with residents; hosting seven open houses; the completion of three digital surveys; and the hosting of two town events.

While resident input includes wanting emphasized pedestrian facilities, the most popular complaint amongst residents is outside competitive bicyclists who train within the neighborhoods of Paradise Valley.

Identified by Mr. Coffman as pelotons — which are three to 15 bicycle riders — groups are said to start or stop their trip just outside of Paradise Valley, and ride into the town.

Cycling past people’s driveways at high speeds has irritated each of the 10 residents who attended the town council study session, the group collectively voiced. Additionally, public urination is an unspoken problem, Councilwoman Julie Pace said.

“I hate to say it but we have a urination problem,” Ms. Pace explained. “That’s a real problem. We have all these people coming through and we don’t have any public restrooms — we don’t have any businesses — so it’s on top of the cul-de-sac.”

While Mr. Coffman and Mr. Michaud presented a proposed plan which includes four types of solutions throughout town, the council ultimately decided they are far from creating a statement of direction on the plan.

The proposed plan includes:

  • In-Street: bicycle and motor vehicles share the roadway, with no designation or signage for bicycles;
  • Bike Route: distinguished by vertical signs or lane markings, reduced motor vehicle speed, and no bike lanes;
  • Shared-Use Path: for non-motorized users, may be striped, off-street paved path;
  • Buffered/Separated Bike Lane: pavement markings or specialty paving creating a buffer, distinguished by signage and/or pavement markings.

With the constructive input of Hummingbird Lane residents, the town council listened to concerns and requests of the neighbors, which included increased police presence ticketing law-breaking bicyclists and the restriction of bicycles. Personal antidotes shared during the meeting included cyclists who run stop signs, yell at drivers and bang on vehicles.

The residents opposed painted bike lanes or paths, citing the street is already dangerous as is, and creating a more narrow path for vehicles will only exasperate the problem.

While each of the councilmembers voiced their appreciation for the efforts by Mr. Michaud and Mr. Coffman, the council decided to slow down the process and begin looking at the town in sections.

Pointing to resolved problems in Echo Canyon years ago, Mayor Michael Collins says improvements within the town undoubtedly draw visitors from neighboring municipalities.

“There’s a lot of concern that we don’t see that exact same phenomenon associated with new bike routes, because when we create bike routes, as you know in the General Plan, they migrate up to the MAG bike route maps that get distributed,” Mayor Collins said. “The impact doesn’t always come from residents using the facilities.”

Town Manager Kevin Burke agreed with the mayor, saying he’s found the heart of the problem.

“I think you’ve hit the heart of the issue — which is the challenge,” Mr. Burke said. “You’re trying to resolve conflicts and make it safer — which means new facilities, but new facilities make it safer so more people come. So it’s a vicious cycle.”

Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner says he is kicking-the-tires on the initial question at hand.

“What I’ve experienced myself is when we’re looking at balancing the ‘conditions,’ as a policy question, the existing conditions is not what our residents are looking for,” Mr. Bien-Willner said.

“The initial question for me, is what kind of a use do we want to see of the roadways in our community.”

Jerry Bien-Willner

Mr. Bien-Willner says the council might need to look at the issue from another angle.

“In terms of pelotons of bikers, people peeing on the cul-de-sac as Julie was saying, and other undesirable outcomes, and to the extent we’re looking to accommodate and observe existing conditions, that might not be the right way to look at the policy question in my mind,” he explained.

With the Hummingbird Lane group as a guinea pig, Mayor Collins believes other residents throughout town will most likely echo what was heard at the meeting.

“My neighbors are going to say the exact same thing. We might not be on a hill, but it’s windy, it’s curvy,” Mayor Collins said. “We’re looking out for bikers and walkers now the way it is, so constricting the road bed is going to be a huge challenge. I think you’re going to see the same response from residents across the community relative to making changes to local neighborhood streets.”

The town council is expected to continuing looking at the pedestrian and bicycle master plan segment by segment, at future council meetings.

“What I’m hearing as related to Hummingbird and it may be consistent with other streets, the status quo is not acceptable and the proposed solution is not acceptable,” Mr. Burke said. “So I’ve got two bumpers to work from, it’s somewhere in between.”

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.