Officials to consult with cyclists on Ahwatukee intersection changes

City officials told cyclists on Thursday they will consult with a select group of riders on ideas for changes to an Ahwatukee intersecton where a cyclist was fatally struck by a speeding car.

Wilcoxon pecos road meeting

Phoenix city councilman Sal DiCiccio said he plans to meet with a group of four to five cyclists within the next 45 days. He said he doesn’t want to “make this go on for months and have the same situation out there.”

DiCiccio and city transit officials held the meeting after Dwayne “Highly” Falkner was killed on Nov. 12 on Pecos Road.

Kerry Wilcoxon, a city traffic engineer, revealed Thursday that the driver of the car was speeding, and that there is “suspicion of intoxication and impairment,” he said, adding that the investigation will be completed in two to three months.

Falkner, an avid cyclist, mountain bike racer and philanthropist, was attempting to cross a right-turn lane approaching 17th Avenue to continue westbound at around 9:10 a.m. when a car struck him from behind.

The intersection requires riders to merge from a bike lane that breaks off and changes positions in the road just as a right-turn lane for cars appears near 17th Avenue. This can require cars and bikes to criss-cross in front or behind each other.

Nearly 60 cyclists attended the Pecos Road meeting, and many recounted their own brushes with danger and pointed out that data won’t relfect near misses, but that they should be taken into account.

Cyclists offered ideas such as putting up a stoplight or stop sign, shifting the lane striping so the bike lane doesn’t break off, laying down rumble strips, reducing the speed limit, installing photo radar and educating drivers with public service announcements.

A show of hands for the stoplight indicated a majority supported it, but Wilcoxon repeatedly said in many cases installing a traffic signal can “make a bad situation worse.” He also debunked that cost was a factor.

Ray Dovalina, the city’s street transportation director, said the pending South Mountain Freeway project, which could ultimately tear down any changes made to the intersection, such as a stoplight, also would not be a deterrent.

Many suggested a simple solution by returning the bike lane to the previous striping of a continuous lane that does not break off in front of a right-turn lane.

“I think all of them are really good suggestions,” Dovalina said. “I think the signal is something we still need to consider…potentially taking out the lanes, leaving the bike lane on one side.”

Cyclists pressed that better communciation needs to occur between the cycling community and city officials.

Steve Elwell, creator of SteveBay, a Facebook group for buying and selling cycling gear, said the lane restriping wasn’t communicated to the cycling community before the decision was made.

“It seems like it was done without the input from the cyclists and runners and the skaters that use those lanes,” Elwell said.

Wilcoxon said city planning included cyclists, but riders at the meeting said they weren’t aware of meetings.

“I think it’s definitely something that they need to tap into better,” said Brandee Lepak, an Ahwatukee cyclist who helped organize the meeting. “I think that when they are trying to communicate with the cycling community, I think that they need to reach out to all forms of cyclists. I think that they are tapping the wrong groups and they need the avid cyclists – the people who are riding 50 to 100 miles a day, people who are

traveling at faster speeds.”

Elwell said he hopes to see a change at the intersection within 45 to 60 days.

“I think a guy like Sal who is in office because of people like us voting for him or not voting for him, it’s in his best interest to get something done, especially since he’s stood here in front of this group of people, and he’s acknowledged a problem here and he wants it resolved and he wants it resolved quickly,” Elwell said. “I think he’s very interested in getting something done.”