Paradise Valley looks to address influx of bicycle enthusiasm

It’s streets like this one in the Town of Paradise Valley that become training grounds for road bike enthusiasts of all walks of life. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Paradise Valley is seeking a better understanding of how serious bicycle enthusiasts — those typically donning cycle suits atop road bikes of varying degrees — can belay the concerns of residents watching and listening to bike groups whip through neighborhoods.

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. The motion carried 5-1, with then Councilwoman Maria Syms dissenting, and Mayor Michael Collins absent.

“The outreach we feel has been fairly extensive,” said Jim Coffman of Coffman Studio at a Feb. 23 work session discussion.

“We are considering a minor General Plan amendment that would run concurrently with this plan. We have created standards that will reduce conflicts and just make getting around much safer.”

Mr. Coffman, along with Paradise Valley Senior Planner Paul Michaud, presented to town council the extensive outreach conducted by the duo to better understand resident needs and wants. Those efforts include:

  • Making contact with 87 residents;
  • Hosting seven open houses;
  • The completion of three digital surveys;
  • The hosting of two town events.

Mr. Coffman and his consulting team have created potential additions to the town’s General Plan.

“We have created a new cross-section for local streets,” he explained to town council. “We wanted to make the point that there has been some work on including bike routes. We wanted to give folks loops in the local community.”

Jim Coffman

Members of Paradise Valley Town Council expressed concerns over the creation of a shared-use path along Lincoln Drive and the possibility of reducing car lanes along McDonald Drive.

“Our best plan is a shared-use path along Lincoln Drive,” Mr. Coffman told the local governing board. “This can happen with the existing curb and gutter. We think this is a lighter touch for a recreational use.”

Mr. Coffman points out landscape medians along the popular bicycle route on McDonald Drive create tight spots for both motorists and Tour de France hopefuls.

“The trickiest spot to avoid a bicyclist on McDonald Drive is the landscape medians,” he said. “The town would probably have to acquire some right of way. These are all site specific things.”

Mr. Michaud, who is spearheading the master plan effort, says the idea is to create a resident-driven diagram of how bicycle and pedestrian traffic can better get around the municipality.

Another big piece of the still-in-development master plan is how the municipality can offer connectivity to already established trailhead pathways in neighboring communities.

The cost of recreation

Members of Paradise Valley Council brought into question cost estimates not available for many of the proposed design options discussed during the Feb. 23 work session.

Scott Moore

“Did you include any of the right-of-way costs?” asked Councilman Scott Moore. “The costs in there are just averages, at a generic level of cost but not specific to McDonald Drive? What would be the width of the roadway as you approach the intersection in a car?”

Councilman Moore offered the creation of a Statement of Direction to help town leaders — and the subsequent Planning Commission evaluation of the proposed minor General Plan amendment — better nail down options worth pursuing.

“I don’t like the idea of just going in and changing something up based on a consultant study,” he explained. “I think, we as a council, need to look at this and see what we really want to do. This is very complex and cost is a major issue. I am in favor of an SOD for the Planning Commission so we can work together on this.”

A Statement of Direction is an official document dictating the scope of scrutiny members of the Planning Commission are to use when evaluating a proposed project.

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner agrees an SOD is a good option for such an intricate design project.

Jerry Bien-Willner

“What I do see, and what people do complain to me about, is there are people who look like they are training for the Tour de France everyday going through our neighborhoods,” he said during the work session discussion.  “I don’t think they are adding to our community, I think they are taking away from it.”

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner says the primary focus of this effort needs to hinge on two items: safety and resident issues.

“This is purely recreational. Safety and residents here are what we should be looking at,” he said. “It’s a safety issue and it’s a resident issue for those who are not participating in that.”

Paradise Valley Town Council members don’t appear to support the idea of adding more signage or stripes on roads, according to the work session discussion.

Paradise Valley Mayor Collins suggests the matter could go to a public vote.

“I know legally it doesn’t have to, but do you think that this could come to a community vote?” he asked of Mr. Michaud and Mr. Coffman.

“If perhaps, as a starting point, if staff could bring back a general outline of what we discussed today — signage and striping is not preferred. It seems getting more granular on cost was a common theme. We don’t want to hand down an unfounded mandate to a future council.”

The Town of Paradise Valley is hosting a March 21 citizen review session, town leaders say.

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