I have a lot of thoughts about this stretch of roadway in Phoenix: 48th Street (turns into Guadalupe Rd), north of Piedmont. [google maps]
It involves the odd geographic position of the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix; and the the almost complete lack of connectivity for Ahwatukee residents to anywhere else, (Tempe, Chandler, and indeed the main portion of Phoenix) except by car-choked umteen lane roads.
Ahwatukee is called — sometimes derisively, sometimes happily — the world’s largest cul-de-sac. Setting aside 48th street for a moment; Ahwatukee’s ONLY ingress/egress is Pecos Rd (which is loop 202, a limited-access highway), Chandler Blvd (10 lanes?), Ray Road (10 lanes), Warner Road (only 6 lanes?), Elliot Road (10 lanes?). So these are all either a limited-access freeway, or humongous monstrosities that have interchanges with I-10.
In short, these are all car-choked, car-sewers. They are not particularly bad for cyclists; two (Ray, and Chandler) have wide-curb lanes; Warner has nice narrow lanes; I find Elliot road to be most annoying as it is “critical width“; that is to say not wide yet not narrow enough to be perceived as too narrow to share by many motorists. Yet many cyclists, understandably, don’t want to do it. It is a thoroughly obnoxious experience for pedestrians, too.
48th Street/Guadalupe is the ONLY bridge over I-10 that is a reasonable human scale, it is 2-lanes (only 1 in each direction!), and has no interchange with the freeway, it’s just a bridge. Thus this makes a vital connection for anyone wishing to bike between Ahwatukee and, say, Tempe/ASU. And it also forms the ONLY connection for Ahawatukee bicyclists wishing to get to the rest of Phoenix (through The Pointe at South Mountain, now called ???. Using what are actually private streets but there’s some sort of public easement).
Why are there no other non-interchange bridges over I-10? E.g. in Tempe, Hardy Dr crosses US60; and there is a ped-bridge just a mile or two away at College. Ahwatukee is like 5 miles. Why don’t ANY collector roads, e.g. Knox Road, cross I-10?
Back to the present case
Here are a bunch of captioned pictures: azbikelaw.org/images/48thGuad
So this stretch of 48th street has been a continuous bone-of-contention for years. North of Piedmont, the road consists of two no-questions-about-it narrow lanes (perhaps 11 feet, excluding gutter pans) in each direction. The posted speed limit is 35mph. There is no shoulder (only an odd edge line just to the left of the gutter-pan joint on the northern half — this was removed after the resurfacing done in fall 2013). There is a raised median; the median appears to be approx 18 feet (curbface-to-curbface) wide.
Let’s be very clear: cyclists may (legally) and should (for safety) be riding IN THE MIDDLE OF THE (right) LANE when going straight ahead.
It appears the best thing the city could do would be to install Shared Lane Markings (SLM, a.k.a. “Sharrows”). The standard calls for “the centers of the Shared Lane Markings should be at least 4 feet from the face of the curb”… in my opinion placing them at the minimum 4′ is confusing far to the right in an 11′ lane (who came up with that spec?). The gutter pan is about 1 foot, perhaps a little more — I would want to see the center of the marking to be something like 6′ from curbface.
Bikes May Use Full Lane Signs
As of 1/5/2012 the BMUFL (R4-11) signs are in place; it looks like there are six of them. I think these signs are great — that is, unlike a “share the road” sign, they have less chance of being mis-interpreted. I was a little surprised at how many cyclists I saw just in 15 minutes while taking pictures. I noted 5 cyclists total not counting myself: 3 southbound ( #1 shows a motorist waiting to turn right , #2: showing some good motorist passing examples, and #3: a gutter bunny where motorists don’t change lanes to pass), one northbound, and one northbound conterflow on the sidewalk. Given the time of day, 4pm, the predominant traffic flow was southbound as expected.
I do have a gripe with the signs, at least two of them are heavily obscured by other signs, and thus are less likely to be seen by motorists. I have no idea how easy it is to address this problem, in one case some of the obstruction is from tree branches which seems simple enough to fix. In other cases, it may be that there are just too many (other) signs.. dunno.
This one is obscured by some tree branches and the “welcome to Phoenix” sign. I took this from the median, the view from where a driver would be is far more obstructed. Could the BMUFL sign be hung on the same post as the welcome sign? — that would make it a lot more visible. Another is obscured by a really big directional sign. Not sure what the solution is, the road curvature is a problem.
[update 1/17/2012. There is an email from city engineer Kerry Wilcoxon explaining more about the situation and plan for fix/finishing here. In paraphrase, the city is having some delay/difficulty procuring thermoplastic SLM’s — once they do, they with fix the bad ones and apply correctly in thermo all along the whole stretch; but there is not timeframe given. (this never came to pass, read on…]
[updated ~ Feb or March 2012; well, the sharrows that were painted have been blacked out and moved to the center of the lane. Yay! We are still awaiting (any) sharrows on the rest of the project… they remain missing as of March 2013. Here is a photo of the original sharrow placement that has since been moved to the center of the lane.]
[updated 11/20/2013: the “northern” section was (finally) re-surfaced (“overlay”, i think they call it) sometime in fall of 2013 and the SLMs were finally installed today pic1 pic2 pic3. Oddly, the thermoplastic stencils, mentioned above, were not ever used.]
One consistently odd thing is the symbol used by the city of Phoenix is not the one specified by the MUTCD, figure 9C.09 , see graphic at right compared to the photos… this means the symbol is an “illegal” traffic control device, as it does not appear in the MUTCD or AZ supplement. The MUTCD part 9 FAQs even caution specifically to not use the “helmeted bicyclist” symbol:
Q: Can I use the Helmeted Bicyclist Symbol pavement marking in lieu of the conventional Bicycle Symbol pavement marking for incorporation into the Shared Lane Marking shown in Figure 9C-9?
A: The Helmeted Bicyclist Symbol pavement marking (see Drawing B in Figure 9C-3) may be used for the Bike Lane Marking. However, for uniformity the conventional Bike Symbol pavement marking (see Drawing A in Figure 9C-3) as shown in Figure 9C-9 should be used for all Shared Lane Markings because that was the symbol tested during the experimental stages that yielded the best result.
The city refreshed paint on the sharrows in early May 2016. (I think for the first time?). They were pretty faint.
The Private Section of 48th Street.
for no reason other than it’s close to where 48th Street and Guadalupe Road split…. The section near 48th Street, Point Parkway East, through what used to be called the Pointe at South Mountain resort is a private street since it was built in the 1970s. A public easment was maintained but was apparently always under threat of closure. This would leave Ahwatukee completely disconnected for the main part of the City (except for the freeway; or to detour over to Tempe, and back to Phoenix). in 2016 a deal was struck to make it public. It involves Charles Schwab for some reason.
…A significant portion of 48th Street, between the Point Parkway West traffic circle and Baseline Road, had been operated as a private road since its construction in the 1970s, and it was a portion of the road that constantly, if quietly, faced the threat of closure. However, on Jan. 6 the Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to pass a development agreement that would finally make the road a fully public street owned by the city by mid-2018. . . . The city has allocated $500,000 for maintenance of the road over the next several years, funding that will come from the Street Transportation Department’s Capital Improvement Plan budget…
if CoP wishes to add bicycle facilities, they should consider shared lane markings (and maybe BMUFL signs) for the downhill section to East Beverly Road instead of bike lanes (BLs would be OK for uphill) per AASHTO Bike Guide, 4.6.2., p. 4-12 (2012 edition). During peak traffic, downhill bicyclists operate at speeds close to the posted 25 mph maximum speed limit.