PHOENIX – The nation’s largest municipal park and a popular cycling destination for Valley residents – South Mountain Park – is expanding vehicle-prohibited days on its roads through a pilot program, providing more safety and freedom for cyclists and other recreational users.
“Silent Sunday” has been temporarily extended to every Sunday of the month; the new pilot program began in December and will continue through March 2019. Previously, the park only closed its roads to vehicles one Sunday a month.
Silent Sunday Pilot Program
Through the new pilot program, the park’s main roadway will be closed to vehicles at the one-mile marker into the park from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first, second, third and fifth Sunday; while the fourth Sunday will operate as it has in the past, with all roadways closed from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Phoenix Parks and Recreation.
The pilot program’s purpose is to explore more options for recreational users and to increase road safety.
Visitors park near the main entrance and walk, hike or ride the roadways for the entire day. The Silent Sundays concept also benefits the preserve by allowing the wildlife that inhabit the area a reprieve from the impacts of motorized vehicle use, according to a City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board memo.
Accidents at South Mountain
According to the board, from June 2017 to July 2018, there were 42 accidents/incidents documented by park rangers on the roadways inside the park.
There were 32 accidents/incidents where only vehicles were involved, eight accidents/incidents involving bicycles and two accidents/incidents that involved both vehicles and bicycles, according to the board’s memo, presented to the Phoenix City Council on Oct. 25.
The memo mentions cyclist Rob Dollar, who was killed when an motorist reportedly crossed over the yellow line and hit Dollar, who was descending. The driver had been drinking alcohol and police found her to be in possession of marijuana, according to police reports.
A focus group was formed consisting of members from the Phoenix Police Department, Street Transportation Department, Parks and Recreation Department, City Council Districts 6 and 8 and user groups. Members from the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve and Mountain Parks/Preserve Committee also attended and participated in the conversations.
The pilot program came out of the focus group’s meetings, according to the memo.
Take a Survey on Silent Sunday
A survey is currently underway to collect additional information and comments from the South Mountain Park and Preserve users to help refine and or redirect the pilot program.
More details on the pilot program can be found on the South Mountain Park website.
Future of South Mountain
South Mountain Park will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2024, and city officials are investing $23 million to improve different aspects of the park.
The improvements are funded by a voter-approved tax.
The guard station at the entrance and ramadas have undergone renovations. Other improvements of trailheads are also underway.