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Community Commentary:

Some tips to improve the Chandler Bikeway

January 14, 2009|By Robert Phipps

The Chandler Bikeway can be dangerous. It has seen at least one serious accident. Without changes, I expect to see more.

Since the pathway was built in 2004, I have walked it more than 3,000 times for more than 1,000 hours and seen the activity there. The danger is caused by heavy vehicles moving fast and close to people and dogs moving slower.

In November, I spent more than six hours, during different days and times, monitoring the use of the Chandler pathway. I viewed 571 users, including walkers, joggers, toddlers, dogs, rollerbladers, skateboarders and people with strollers, on scooters, wheelchairs and bicycles. Including dogs, those on foot constituted 69.2% of the users. Those on bicycles were 23.6% of the users.

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The bicyclists I saw constituted three types and speeds. There were slow bicyclists; often children on bikes, who were just ambling along at speeds up to 5 mph — which I clocked with my car.

There were those who were traveling from 5 to 10 mph, often with backpacks, seemingly headed for destinations — work, school, home. And then there were the bicyclists who were apparently there for a strong physical workout, for speed and/or distance, often in serious bicycling outfits, riding 10 to 20 mph or faster. It is this last group — the speeders — that poses the danger on the pathway.

Of the 135 bicyclists I viewed, 62 were going slowly; 58 were the medium-speed riders; and only 15, or 11%, were the speeders — and they were only 2.6% of all the pathway users. Those 2.6% — the speeders — were the only ones who were using the pathway in a manner inconsistent with the use and safety of all other users.

It seems to me we have four goals: one, make the Chandler pathway as safe as possible; two, make the pathway more user-friendly; three, spend as little money as possible to do it; and four, add little or no cost or burden for police enforcement. I believe these goals are attainable with these five steps:

 First: Widen the pedestrian lane from 6 feet to 7 feet, and make the two 4-foot-wide bicycle lanes into one 7-foot-wide bicycle lane.

For pedestrians, the 6-foot width is too narrow in many instances, and adds to the problem. An extra foot of width would help keep pedestrians from leaving their lane (narrowing the lane would only exacerbate the problems, as would removing a foot of user-width to paint a hatched median).

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