Bike rules change, actions have not

By Seth Mauzy
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rules for bicyclists traveling through the Olive Pedestrian Underpass tunnel have changed, allowing bicyclists to legally ride through the tunnel between certain hours, but some pedestrians said cyclists are still zipping through tunnels and creating a safety hazard.

The tunnels at North Highland Avenue and Warren Avenue have clearly marked bike lanes separating bicyclists from pedestrians. The Olive Pedestrian Underpass, however, has signs instructing bicyclists to walk their bikes between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The previous signs instructed bicyclists to walk their bikes at all times under penalty of a fine.

Charles Franz, program coordinator for alternative transportation, said bicycles are restricted in the Olive Street tunnel because it is the busiest of the three tunnels.

"It is a very congested area during those hours," Franz said. "There is also a lot of east-west traffic across that area as well. It creates a situation unique from the other tunnels."

Franz said a number of factors contributed to the decision to change the signs.

"There is very little activity outside of the posted hours," Franz said. "And with the tunnel's size it makes sense to relax regulations outside of that time period."

The new signs do not mention a fine, but Franz said students who are caught disobeying the signs can still expect to pay for it.

"There is still a $25 fine for failing to walk your bike during those hours," Franz said. Citations, however, are issued only by the University of Arizona Police Department and not by the two Parking and Transportation Services officers who patrol the tunnels.

"Our officers are there to educate, not to issue citations," Franz said. "They have a pamphlet they give to students if they see them disobeying the signs."

UAPD spokesman Sgt. Eugene Mejia said no citations have been issued to bicyclists in that tunnel this semester and added that there have not been significant complaints regarding the tunnel to increase patrols in that area.

"Compared to complaints concerning speeding in the neighborhoods north of Speedway and other problem areas, we have not had enough complaints to warrant having officers extensively patrol that area," Mejia said.

But students and faculty who use the tunnels say that they rarely see bicyclists walk their bikes during those hours.

"I see people ride through this tunnel every day," said Tannis Gibson, an assistant professor in the music department. "Sometimes they come up fast right behind me and pass very close. Someone could be hurt."

Vanessa Earle, a computer science junior who uses the tunnel daily to get to class, said even during periods of high congestion, bicyclists still ride through the tunnel.

"It gets a little crowded in the mornings, but I still see bikes zooming through every day," said Earle. "I'd be nice if they could at least sometimes walk them."