Bicyclist killed in crash on Tucson’s northside

super high speed merge ramp / Pima County

Read the deets on

1/24/2016 11:45am Tucson-area (Pima County Sheriff’s dept investigates).

A (somewhat elderly, coincidentally) female bicyclist traveling west on Sunrise Drive was killed by a very elderly motorist who was merging from Skyline Drive and apparently failed to yield. The bicyclists was later identified as 69 y.o. Patricia Lyon-Surrey.

Take a look at the aerial view of Sunrise and Skyline Drives. This is a fairly appalling and odd roadway design I would describe as having the geometries of a super-highway merge/acceleration ramp. It’s pedal-to-the-metal, there’s virtually no reason to ever stop or slow, so why bother? The only bump in the road, so to speak, for mergers would be from a bike lane (painted blue, no less) crosses their path. wow.
This configuration seems to have been done by someone who favored bike lanes rather than prudent roadway design.



If a freeway-style acceleration ramp is really what is desired; this scheme could be used… though a retrofit to this style looks difficult. In this version the bicyclist yields to the ramp traffic.

I think a freeway style free-flowing high speed ramp is totally inappropriate.

Quick Fixes?

One possibility is to add a series of alternating side chokers to narrow the effective width of the ramp dramatically. The problem now is it’s ~ 15′ wide (curb-to-curb) with a huge radius, motorists feel comfortable whipping along at 40mph.

The maximum width of a vehicle body is 8.5′, ten-feet of effective lane width is plenty; so adding a series of 5 foot wide chokers / chicanes would slow ramp traffic naturally and dramatically.

tusonComProposals story about fix – proposals.

Where there is a yield now, should probably be replaced with a stop (not that anyone complies with stop signs generally, but they do slow down) but there you have it. A stop (or even a yield) isn’t indicated here except for the odd criss-cross bike lane. In a June 2016 story County listening to cyclists on Skyline-Sunrise redesign, it sounds as if the “short term” plan is to add a speed table, and leave the yield a yield, and oh yes, change the blue paint (which is wrong, as noted below) to green (which is ok, as noted below, but Pima County must still seek approval for it’s use).

What about the Blue Paint?

Although colored pavement bike lanes have interim approval (“IA-14”), jurisdictions must still seek approval for their use.

The first thing i wonder is why I can’t find Pima County on the list of IAs?

And assuming they have the approval, I wonder why the paint is blue, because the current (for years) approvals have been only for green.

The Shark’s Teeth are Backwards

This seems like a major engineering booboo?! I hadn’t noticed this until I saw it mentioned on a comment. Here’s the def’n from MUTCD; the direction they are pointing is nonsensical because no vehicle is or can approach from the direction they are pointing:

Section 3B.16 Stop and Yield Lines
If used, yield lines (see Figure 3B-14) shall consist of a row of solid white isosceles triangles pointing toward approaching vehicles extending across approach lanes to indicate the point at which the yield is intended or required to be made.

Designated Bike Lane?

As usual, with the long-standing confusion in Pima County (and perhaps Tucson) — there is/was a question about whether or not these things that are being referred to as bike lanes are in fact designated bike lanes, see e.g. references here about the Pima Co Bike map, or that  Pima County / Tucson does not have “Bike Lanes”, they, if asked, insist there are no bike lanes, but rather they are “Bike Routes with Striped Shoulders“

Speed Tables Installed

The county installed a couple of speed tables in July 2016. Not sure how that’s worked out; as I write this about 9 months have gone by so maybe there’s some consensus, or better yet, data? I still think chokers to narrow the effective width to about ten feet would do a better job of slowing.

Here’s a nice video that Damian Alexander made of the speed tables:

4 thoughts on “Bicyclist killed in crash on Tucson’s northside”

  1. Do they have FHWA approval to experiment with blue bike lanes? Green has interim approval, within limits, but blue seems totally nonstandard and would seem to invite liability even for a prudent design.

  2. ADOT to Test Driver Who Struck Cyclist (Publicity Value: $38,985)
    Link to video from KGUN-TV Tucson yesterday at 6 p.m.:
    …joining us. i’m guy atchley. i’m stella inger. it’s still undecided if an elderly driver will be charged in a bicycle accident that left a rider dead. it happened sunday where skyline drive merges into sunrise. an 89 year old man hit and killed a 69 year old woman as she rode a bicycle where the bike lane and the merge lane come together. kgun 9 on your side’s craig smith is live where the accident happened with more on what investigators are looking at. sunrise and skyline are both busy roads where drivers drive between forty and fifty miles per hour. it’s popular with cyclists too. drivers and cyclists need extra caution when their paths cross right here. it was sunday just before noon when a man a few blocks from his home ran into a cyclist who makes her home in vermont. pima sheriff’s deputies say 69 year old patricia lyon-surrey was cycling in the bike lane on sunrise, just as 89 year old james jacobson merged from skyline onto sunrise. his car hit and killed her. jacobson stayed on the scene and cooperated with deputies. part of their investigation will take him through a series of test with adot to assess his fitness to drive, including a test drive that looks for evidence of any medical coniions that impair his ability to drive safely. the intersection of sunrise and skyline could challenge any driver, or cyclist. cory foster works for a bike shop nearby. cory foster/oro valley bicycle: “it’s a little daunting cause there’s a lot of traffic and people do come off that hill off skyline, pretty fast and it’s a pretty long stretch where they’ve got that painted shoulder, a lot going on, a lot of movements.” drivers merging from skyline are supposed to yield to traffic on sunrise but the merges can be fast, and aggressive. even with that, the sheriff’s department says this intersection does not stand out as an accident hot spot. the last accident here, was a car versus car and it happened two years ago …

    Link to video from KGUN-TV Tucson yesterday at 5 p.m.:

    …”at the sheriff department’s request, adot is going to run that 89 year old driver through a special medical evaluation. it will look at things like vision and hearing but there’s also a medical drive, is what they call it, which looks at other factors that could affect his fitness as a driver. one thing we’re learned about elderly driver is sometimes they’ll have problems like arthritic necks which can affect their ability to check and make a safe merge.”

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