36th and Equestrian traffic circles

Ahwatukee is getting two traffic circles courtesy of the City of Phoenix’s collector street mitigation project. One at Equestrian Trail and Appaloosa Drive, and the other at 36th and Coconino Streets. At the same time, the bike lanes were re-configured on 36th Street. Equestrian Trail also has a bike lane; that has not been altered other than to allow for the circle.

The funds for this program come from a 2006 bond issue.

The circles are made of temporary plastic bumpers and break-away reflector posts, and of course a lot of paint. The city will evaluate their function over the next few months and then make some recommendations.

There was a news article on the Equestrian circle in the Ahwatukee Foothills News, June 24, 2009.

There was a failed mitigation project being proposed for 36th street, just south of this stretch. That was to be a road-diet; that area is 4-lanes, the proposal would have taken it down to one each way plus a TWLTL, and bulb-outs for ped crosswalks. The project failed because of resident complaints.

36th Street; Before

The bike lane has been reconfigured between Knox Road, and Equestrian Trail, where 36th Street terminates. This road is ungodly wide, and consisted of one extremely wide lane in each direction, plus the bike lane. I’m guessing it was ~ 55′ wide. Despite the abundance of space, the bike lanes were snuggled right up to the curb. The travel lane was ~ 20′ (!) wide. The posted speed limit is 25/30mph. 25 on the northern part nearer Equestrian, and 30 on the souther end nearer Knox, where the 30 continues to the terminus of 36th Street at Ranch Circle. In this not-quite before picture, you can see the black slurry that was used to “erase” the bike lane and the center line. The new two-way left turn lane has already been created. Some stretches have sidewalks and other don’t — this particular area pictured it was pretty common to meet a jogger head-on around this blind curve. There is also a driveway hidden by the curve. Being so far away from the center of the lane, the bike lane accumulated lots of debris. In short it was a bad configuration for a bike lane and I never rode in it.

36th Street, After

The posted speed limit remains 25/30mph, and still one travel lane in each direction, now a reasonable ~ 11′ width. The bike lanes have been moved out from the curbs. A two-way left turn lane (TWLTL; a.k.a. “suicide lane”) has been created. And of course the traffic circle has been added.

There is a potential for this to be a “Door Zone Bike Lane”; on the other hand, parking is going to be rare anyway; and getting the bike lane away from the curb helps in many other ways. I am not sure what will be done regarding parking, e.g. in this shot, you can see the no parking anytime sign below the bike lane sign. This is the same signage from before. Elsewhere near the church, along the west side of the street it was marked no parking M-F daytime hours; in other words, parking was allowed in the bike lane at all other times. Normally you would see parked cars in the bike lane only on Sunday mornings, or occasionally when there was some event at the church.

Here is the circle at at 36th and Coconino Streets. The only hassle for bicyclists is they now need to merge into traffic ahead of the circle since the bike lane just “dissolves”, and the intention is to squeeze the size of the opening down to (hopefully) slow down speeding motorists. Each entrance is marked “Yield to traffic in circle”.

36th Street, After After

Then, after the installation was in for a couple of weeks, in early August 2009  bike lane “bypass” was added to the 36th Street Circle, as pictured here. The bike lane was bent over to the right. The effect is to delay the point of merge to the very last possible point. I suppose this is good in the sense that at that point motor vehicle traffic is going to be going at its slowest. But, on the other hand, the whole thing feels un-VC (Vehicular Cycling), and I would recommend merging ahead (when safe, of course) at a  point of my (the cyclist’s) choosing. I just so happened to snap a pic of a cyclist doing just that. So all in all, I preferred the earlier arrangement, the dashed stripe; it made it clear to everybody involved what needed to be done. This is a low-speed, low-volume road so it’s not that big of an issue but still… it raises a niggling little legal detail as to whether a cyclist is required to use the bypass or not. In the original striping there was no question; the bike lane was entirely interrupted. The way it is now, who knows? And for the purposes of §28-735, does the bypass count as a “bicycle lane or path (that) is present and passable?

The “bypass” is only along 36th street, not Coconino. And the Equestrian circle (below) wasn’t modified at all.

Equestrian Trail

The existing lane striping has not been changed; the road has a bike lane right next to the curb, and one wide (~15′) travel lane in each direction. The existing posted speed limit of 25mph has not changed. Complaints by residents of speeding have been perennial, and it’s easy to see why. Many more homes are directly along Equestrian compared to, say, 36th street. There are no sidewalks,  nor on-street parking. this leads to nearly constant and predictable obstructions in the bike lane; joggers/walkers, garbage bins, recycle bins, landscape and service trucks, as well as overflow parking from the residences. Also, there are a profusion of driveways (there are two driveways to each home). All of this adds  up to a bike lane that should rarely be used, or possibly never — even if it appears clear the many driveways offer hidden obstacles of cars suddenly backing/pulling out.

Here is a shot of the circle at Equestrian Trail and Appaloosa Drive; the issues for bicyclists are the same as noted above at the 36th St circle.

8 thoughts on “36th and Equestrian traffic circles”

  1. Azbikelaw,
    I am the engineer responsible for the striping changes and the traffic circles. Concerns about getting bikes through these circles has been a question that comes up periodically but I am not sure what the greater biking community thinks. If these circles go permanent we will be installing bypass ramps for bicyclists to leave the road but I would like some input on what bikers who choose to stay in the travel lane would need to feel more comfortable in the circles. I have heard conflicting opinions about what bikers think of traffic circles but other than the bypass routes which many will not use, I have not sat down with the bike community to take a look at what would work best.
    I was thinking of striping the lanes using charrows but am not sure if that would be appropriate or would even be understood. I would be interested in opinions of others or even sitting down with the bike community to discuss this issue.

  2. 36th and Coconino: who yields to who if same direction cyclist and motorist meet up at the circle? — seems like an unnecessary conflict has been created. Plus, some pedestrians (e.g. runners with strollers) are going to be using the “bypass” bike lane, for northbound 36th anyway since the sidewalk ends well before the intersection. At Equestrian and Appaloosa expect pedestrians to the roadway since there are no sidewalks.

  3. Local news story:
    Few are happy with traffic circles, August 19, 2009, Doug Murphy, Ahwatukee Foothills News

    Besides what i would call “the usual” complaints — the story quotes traffic volume figures: “Of the two streets, Equestrian Trail has the least amount of traffic, just 300 to 500 vehicles per day, with under 10 percent traveling 10 mph over the posted limit. On 36th Street the city data shows over 2,000 vehicles a day, with 45 percent traveling 10 mph or more over the posted limit.”
    I’m not sure what to make of the disparity between 10+ mph speeding — though i do have a hard time believing that only 10% are 10+ over on Equestrian. But the volumes seem wrong. I really can’t believe Equestrian every has as few as 300 vehicles per DAY.
    There are a whole bunch of homes that feed Equestrian directly, and most of them are generating multiple trips a day, and many of those trips are going to lead them out to Warner/Elliot. Plus the pass-through traffic, that I would imagine in itself would be several hundred per day.

    Furthermore, in 2005, 36th (north of Knox) had 5,800 vehicles per day according to the City http://phoenix.gov/ftpalias/payf/vmap05.pdf

  4. The traffic circles are dangerous and ineffective.

    You’ll notice that because the roads are not large enough to install a true roundabout the engineer was forced to send the traffic on these streets into the area in which bicycles and pedestrians would normally flow.

    I live closer to 48th and Elliot, but I have personally witnessed two potentially dangerous situations. In one instance a man, a woman and their daughter were walking westbound on the north side of Equestrian. As they passed Appaloosa a car entered the traffic circle heading in the same direction. The driver noticed without a second to spare that the traffic circle was leading him into a collision with the pedestrian. He stopped and waited for them to finish passing Appaloosa before he was able to proceed.

    In the second instance, I was riding my bicycle northbound on 36th St. When I reached the traffic circle, I continued on the “bypass” lane. A fast moving car was heading in the same direction as I was. I arrived at the traffic circle just moments before the car did. The driver of the car was surprised by our pending collision, as was I. She had to brake quickly, while I sped up. The accident was averted, but in a different situation, with a less attentive driver, I can see it turning out fatally.

    In terms of being ineffective, in my experience of riding my bike in this area has shown that cars are still traveling at speeds of 10+ mph over the speed limit before and after the traffic circle and right at the speed limit through the traffic circle. The location monitoring lines across the road to measure the speed and volume of traffic is flawed also; they are located very close to the traffic circle. If they were located farther west on Equestrian, I would guess that the speed has not decreased much, if at all.

    I’m not sure what the right solution to this problem is, but I’m wondering why a few speed “humps” wouldn’t be much more effective and not cause potential collisions.

    Kerry- if you read this again, I and other cyclists can meet with you to discuss cycling concerns. You can contact me at codyzafacon at gmail dot com.

  5. Here’s an older news story from Arizona Republic, with some further detail on speed data.

    “Before the temporary circles were installed, he said, the average speed on Equestrian Trail was 27 mph, 2 mph faster than the posted 25 mph limit. More than 5 percent of drivers on Equestrian were driving 35 mph or faster”
    “On 36th Street, he said, the average speed was 36 mph instead of the posted 25 mph. More than 85 percent of drivers driving south on 36th were driving 10 mph or more over the limit”

  6. Azbikelaw,
    By way of an update on the circles in Ahwatukee, the permanent circle proposed for 36th Street at Coconino was not approved by residents and the temporary circle in place now is being removed this week. We will also be removing the experimental thermo-plastic BICYCLIST YIELD TO TRAFFIC IN THE CIRCLE on the pavement.
    The permanent circle proposed for Equestrian Trail at Appaloosa was approved so we will leave the temporary circle in place now on the ground until the permanent is built.

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