Tucson working on making streets safer with Complete Streets ordinance

Updated: Jan. 30, 2019 at 6:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson City Council will decide next week whether to adopt its Complete Streets ordinance.

Under the ordinance, Tucson will make way for some changes to the way it treats its various modes of transportation, from pedestrians to bicycles to cars and even to people in wheelchairs.

Becky Stacker has been confined to a wheelchair for 15 years. Because Tucson lacks sufficient sidewalks, she has to ride her chair on city streets.

"I've had some close calls," she said. "It's kind of scary some times."

She believes the lack of sidewalks on busy streets like Pima contribute to the safety issues.

"It jars you, you know," she said. "The roads are so bumpy."

Tina Stender and her husband lost their car because it needed expensive repairs which they could ill afford. They ended up selling the car. Now, her husband gets around by using an electric wheelchair and the bus, but these options limit their mobility.

“You can’t get to the store, do what you gotta do, go shopping,” she said, having a car “would be nice, really nice.”

Tucson's car culture, while not coming to an end, will likely see some of its power erode.

“It’s not about the old traditional way of just looking at how to move cars,” said Shelly Ginn, a Tucson Transportation Department planner. “Now we’re looking at how we move our pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, people in wheelchairs.”

The Complete Streets program has been adopted in many cities across the country, generally aimed at making transportation modes more compatible and safer.

"Definitely the pedestrian safety," Ginn said. All those accidents which happened nationally and locally play a big part of why we're moving in this direction."

It's hoped Complete Streets will address that issue as well as others.

It's also about health and welfare and eliminating air pollution which is part of a healthy lifestyle.

There are sidewalks in Tucson that just end and that creates a safety hazard.

Bus stops that don’t have a canopy means people must stand in the sun, wind or rain to catch a bus which takes away from quality of life.

Bike lanes that end abruptly and can cause confusion and accidents.

These are all issues Complete Streets is designed to address without adding additional transportation dollars.

"It's about reallocating money we already have," Ginn says.

And there’s the issue of the car culture sharing space with all the other modes of transportation. There may be some pushback and a reluctance to accept it at first.

"That means that sometimes cars may not be going as fast as they've been used to in the past several years," Ginn said. "Safety first though."

The council will address the issue at its next regular meeting next week.

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