Cyclists draw ire: Town resident says issue remains despite police enforcement

A group of more than 30 cyclists use this Paradise Valley residential street as their practice course on a weekly basis, residents there say, inciting safety concerns. (Special to the Independent/Arianna Grainey)

Paradise Valley municipal officials and law enforcement personnel have worked together to mitigate concerns regarding rampant cyclists on the town’s residential streets, however, one local homeowner says the issue remains.

Heidi McCauley resides on east Quartz Mountain Road, along the north side of Mummy Mountain, where a local team of cyclists use her residential street around 6 a.m. to train.

According to Ms. McCauley, the issue is dangerous and efforts made by the Paradise Valley Police Department and town officials aren’t mitigating her concerns.

“We have a lot of problems with cyclists,” Ms. McCauley explained. “We feel like all they do is have a cop at the stop sign in the morning, and that’s supposed to fix the problem. It hasn’t deterred the problem at all.”

The issue remains on the weekends, the Paradise Valley resident says, and often causes drivers and pedestrians to stop in their tracks.

“You kind of hold on for dear life until they pass, and go on with your walk or drive,” she said. “You’re almost run off the road by these cyclists.”

According to Ms. McCauley, there is upwards of 40 individuals riding at high speeds — up to 40 MPH, she says — down a skinny, windy road with a posted speed limit of 15 MPH.

Complaints of cyclists in town was vocalized in 2017 and 2018, while the town worked through a proposed pedestrian and bicycle master plan. The plan was initiated in August 2016, when then-Town Council authorized a contract with Coffman Studios at a rate of $143,695.02 for the development of the plan.

The cyclists gain high speeds while navigating the mountainous terrain in town. (Special to the Independent/Arianna Grainey)

Officials then said the goal was to provide enjoyable bicycle and pedestrian paths for residents, while sufficing the needs of recreational tourists and avid athletes simultaneously.

In June 2017, then-Mayor Michael Collins presented an abridged version of the proposed bicycle and pedestrian master plan devising a new approach to avid cycling within town limits, prior to the plan being sent to Planning Commission.

At the time, many councilmembers said they got the impression from those who emailed them and those who spoke at the meeting felt the SOD’s language singled out cyclists, Independent records show.

Overall the bicycle and pedestrian plan included trails, sidewalks, bike lanes and recreational paths.

Deputy Town Manager Dawn Marie Buckland says the plan was tabled in February 2019, mainly due to the upcoming General Plan Update that is required by state statute.

“Since the Walk & Bike Plan was originally identified in the existing General Plan, it was thought the most efficient way to continue the discussion regarding the Mobility Element (bicycles and pedestrians) of the General Plan would be during the comprehensive General Plan Update that will begin early 2020,” Ms. Buckland said.

“The information collected from the Walk & Bike Plan effort will provide a starting point to the discussions on updating the Mobility Element of the General Plan.”

In a May 2018 letter to homeowners from the Town of Paradise Valley, the town looked at safety concerns raised during the bicycle and pedestrian plan update, which initiated Kimley-Horn and Associates to provide an intersection safety analysis.

Based on the analysis and additional staff research, signage and striping improvements were to be made at the two intersections of Hummingbird Lane and 61st Place and Hummingbird Lane and Quartz Mountain Road in the coming weeks.

A resident’s obstacle

Ms. McCauley has been vocal about the issue she sees unfolding on her front lawn regularly.

She has attempted to contact the town on the issue several times, and now says they have gone mute on the issue.

“It’s frustrating, at this point we don’t get any response from the town when we send an email,” she said, noting that she has spoken at public meetings on the issue as well.

“We don’t want a bike route through there. We would like something done to stop this reckless dangerous behavior every day of the week.”

Ms. McCauley says adding a stop sign to a down hill slope hasn’t slowed down cyclists, citing that when she spoke with the local bicycle group, they said stopping their bikes at a high speed is dangerous.

“Their motive is to scream and yell ‘get out of the way,’” she said of the bicyclists.

In a video taken by Ms. McCauley and sent to the Independent, nearly 40 cyclists passed by her house in 1 minute’s time. They were mostly riding in a single-file line, but did appear to ride in the center of the un-marked, non-sidewalked road.

In Arizona, it is legal for bicycles to ride in the traffic lanes, as long as they adhere to the same street laws as motorists.

To resolve the issue, Ms. McCauley says rumble strips or speed bumps would help.

“These are the fixes; we’re saying something has to be done,” she said. “Any time my husband and I drive, we’re filming bicyclists run through the stop sign. That’s not the deterrent. It’s going to have to be dips in the road. It would slow cars down too.”

Ms. McCauley says she is appreciative of the police officers who have been dispatched to enforce the area in response to the issue; however, she feels the police officers often aren’t present when the riders are speeding.

“There were two cops out this morning — neither one of them are down on the road when they’re speeding,” she said. “That’s the danger I’ve been trying to explain to them.”

Freshman Town Councilmember Anna Thomasson, who was elected in November 2018, started a campaign of “walking the town” last year to get to know her community and future constituents better. She says during that time, she heard some complaints of the cyclists, but not a lot.

“As I walked the town and talked to people, occasionally the issue would come up, like ‘why do they do it or get away with it?’” Ms. Thomasson explained. “It’s not something I heard a lot about.”

Anna Thomasson

But she says she understands how even at 6 a.m., the cyclist teams could be an annoyance.

“The thing at 6 a.m., especially in the summer, people are walking their dogs or doing morning exercise. This might be when they’re heading out to work early,” she said.

Ms. Thomasson says she is aware of Ms. McCauley’s issues and complaints into the town, and she has been at the meetings where she’s spoken during public comment.

“She’s been consistently vocal, I’ve been at meetings where she’s attended to express concerns. She’s the most vocal and consistent resident concerned about cyclists,” Ms. Thomasson said.

“The neighborhood where she lives, the back of Mummy Mountain, it’s not isolated to that neighborhood but that’s where the biggest problem is. It’s a really popular route, cyclists there have a chance to gain some speed and it’s pretty. It is a significant issue in a specific neighborhood. For those neighborhoods, it’s a very real issue. I think the answer is enforcement.”

(Special to the Independent/Arianna Grainey)

In attempt to be present

The draft bicycle and pedestrian master plan from a couple of years ago primarily focused on the recreational or casual cyclists use of the pedestrian network, Ms. Buckland explained.

“The avid cyclists were also considered during deliberations, but they are much more likely to use designated bike lanes or ride in the vehicle travel lane depending on the roadway type,” she said.

“From the outreach efforts, the Town was made aware of issues between avid bicycle riders (i.e. pelotons) and neighbors and the draft plan responded to these conditions in several ways, but they were never considered by the Town Council as that will happen with the future General Plan Update.”

Ms. Buckland says the town does receive bike complaints periodically. She says the municipality initiated an Intersection Safety Evaluation for the intersections of Hummingbird Lane and 61st Place, and Hummingbird Lane and Quartz Mountain Road, where the greatest number of complaints were imitating.

Based on the evaluation, the town installed new stop signs, signage and striping. She says since the improvements were installed in the summer of 2018, the complaints regarding cyclists in these areas have been significantly reduced.

“Our most common bike complaints are through email, and that is handled through directed patrols,” she said.

“Typically when we are in the area, the bike riders obey the traffic laws. We have our motor officer adjusting his schedule to be able to accommodate the directed patrols. In addition, we periodically conduct operations in the area that can include officers riding bicycles and driving in unmarked vehicles.”

According to police officials, since learning of the issues along Hummingbird Lane specifically, they have begun enforcing the area more heavily.

Unless the cyclists are breaking the law somehow — speeding, running stop signs or riding more than two abreast — they can’t give the riders a warning or write a citation.

Paradise Valley Lt. Freeman Carney says the police department’s deployment of officers to the area isn’t new, as they’ve been deploying increased enforcement to the area for two or three years now.

“We try to patrol that area. It seems like early mornings is when more bikers like to get out and ride, so we try to station out there early,” he explained.

“Our motor officer will adjust his schedule once a week to come in early to be present for those bikers. If we have other calls for service, obviously we can’t get there in the morning, but we try to get over there especially in that area.”

Patrol Lt. Freeman Carney (submitted photo)

The police department’s motorcycle officer is beneficial because it can’t be noticed from far away, unlike their regular Chevy SUV patrol units. Lt. Carney says they will use officers on bicycles to be there early in the morning, in addition to the motor officer, and use unmarked vehicles in the area.

“I think it’s similar to vehicles, we have a portion of drivers that obey the law and a portion of bikers that obey the law,” Lt. Carney said of quantifying the issue.

“When we’re there with a vehicle, cars typically don’t go fast. When bikers see us, they typically don’t break the law — it’s tough to be everywhere. We try to be there when a majority are there, such as early in morning.”

The police department has provided education on traffic laws to several bicyclist groups that ride throughout town, Lt. Carney says.

  • Tips for cyclists include:
  • Obey stop signs at intersections. There is no Idaho Stop in Arizona.
  • Never ride more than two abreast, especially when it is dark. Do not take over entire roads.
  • In traffic, cyclists should ride single file on the right side of the road.
  • Anticipate hazards and slow down at intersections and driveways when vehicular traffic or pedestrians may be present.
  • Increase your visibility through bright clothing, lights and reflectors.
  • Obey the speed limit. Use speed that is reasonable and prudent for road conditions.
  • Ride slowly around blind curves and be cautious on steep inclines.
  • Do not cycle on private property, such as steep private driveways or through private, open gates (HOAs or resorts).
  • Avoid headphones use as they impede the ability to hear approaching traffic.
  • Be courteous, especially when riding in a group.
  • Be particularly careful during early morning hours when it is dark to ensure that you do not hit or have a near miss with early morning walkers and joggers.
  • Don’t hit vehicles that are in motion.
  • Do not urinate on public roadways or on private property.
  • Avoid taking risks.

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

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.

Facebook Comment