Rush-hour traffic lags behind cyclists

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rush hour traffic was backed up for almost two miles in downtown Tucson yesterday evening — but it was no accident.

More than 100 bicyclists clogged Tucson streets in a “critical mass bike ride,” a two-wheeled trek aimed at making people aware of the need to rely on bicycles rather than cars.

Daniel Patterson, spokesman for the event, said air pollution is not getting any better, and being visible will show people bicycling is a good option — especially in Tucson, where it can be done year-round.

Kim Young, director of Bikeweek ’95 for Pima County and the city of Tucson, also participated in the ride.

“This is to exhibit a show of bikes as not a marginal mode of transportation,” Young said. “‘Critical mass’ is the number necessary to make a statement.”

The group’s “statement” was a convoy of slow-moving bicycles stretching across two to four traffic lanes.

Beginning on the University of Arizona Mall at 4:30 p.m., the group followed East Sixth Street to North Stone Avenue, entering downtown Tucson, turning eastbound on East Broadway Boulevard and finally turning north onto North Campbell Avenue. The riders’ route consisted entirely of streets without bike lanes.

“It’s important to note that Tucson is fairly progressive in bike policy by including bike lanes in any major street reconstruction,” Patterson said. He added that more bike lanes are important to get more people to ride bicycles.

“More people will ride if they feel safer,” he said.

A Tucson Police motorcycle pulled up to the group, asking riders to move to the right, but then sped off, allowing them to proceed.

After turning onto Broadway, the bicyclists continued to keep a slow pace while the group blocked traffic in all eastbound lanes, including the reverse lane.

Motorists appeared upset at the pack in front of them as one woman shook her head while talking into a cellular phone. Another man pulled up to a business and ran in, saying he was calling the police.

David Allen, who works at Best Mesquite Smoked Meats, 1350 E. Broadway Blvd., called the whole thing “ridiculous.”

“Look, they’re causing havoc — they’re causing accidents,” he said as two cars nearly hit each other at the intersection of Broadway Boulevard and North Highland Avenue.

“There’s a better way (than this) to protest air pollution,” Allen said.

Andy Gonzalez, a patron who also came outside to see what was happening, said, “It’s a good moral, but not the right solution.”

Allen said he saw a police car go right past the cyclists, “But what can they do?” he asked. “I’d get a motorcade, pull them all over and arrest them. They’re not doing the speed limit,” he said.

Young responded to drivers’ complaints, saying, “Sometimes those things are necessary. There’s all this space for cars — sometimes it’s nice to show how much more efficient (bikes are).”

“Some people think of this as radical. I don’t think it is — there are no negative intentions at all,” Patterson said. “We’re promoting bike safety and being respectful riders.”

Young said the critical mass ride was “very successful.”

“We are being recognized as a cycling community,” she said. “People are tired of all the things automobiles have done.”

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