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After Huckelberry’s bike accident, talk about safer streets

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 10:14 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The family of County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry released a short statement two days after he was critically injured in a bicycle crash at Broadway and Church in downtown Tucson.

“Chuck was riding his bike with friends Saturday morning. He’s an experienced and avid rider and he was doing everything right: Helmet, gloves, colorful “Loop” jersey, no earphones (ever), riding prudently and totally focused on having a fun and safe ride. But as too often happens to cyclists, bad luck prevailed. He was knocked off his bike downtown and needed prompt emergency care. The medics of Tucson Fire responded quickly and professionally, as did the Tucson Police Department. We are immensely grateful to them for the care and kindness that they provided. We also thank everyone who has respected our wish for privacy in these initial days of his treatment and recovery.”

Tucson police have not released any details publicly about the accident saying it would not do so “until the investigation is complete.”

Besides saying he is in critical but stable condition, no reports have been released on the type of injuries, whether he has had surgery or potential head injuries. He was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash according to the family.

Living Streets Alliance says the crash is an opportunity to talk about the things that could have prevented it.

The first thing is to distinguish between an accident and a crash.

What happened to Huckelberry is a crash because there is ample evidence that it could have been prevented by reconfiguring the streets.

“When we’re talking about these as crashes, that means we’re committed to looking for solutions,” said Emily Yetman, the Executive Director of Living Streets. “Thinking about these as something we can eventually eliminate in our community.”

Living Streets and the City of Tucson have teamed up to make Tucson a “Safe Streets” community.

One of the first things is to slow down, cut the speed limits.

“When people drive slower, they have more time to react,” she said. “And streets can be designed to do that.”

That’s especially true in downtown Tucson whose narrow streets carry cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians, the modern streetcar, scooters and bicycles.

“If there had been maybe curbing between the bike lane and the street that may have created a buffer that would have protected the person on the bike ,” Yetman said.

It will likely take a street redesign to make them safer for all users, especially vulnerable bicyclists.

“You can be doing everything right, you can have tons of personal responsibility, you can wear a helmet, you can cross in the right places, you can drive the speed limit but there are still things that can happen that are going to be much worse because of the design of our streets she said.

And Huckelberry’s crash is proof of that which could generate more interest in getting the process moving forward.

“We just still need to accelerate it,” Yetman said. “We need to see these physical changes on our streets happen more rapidly.”

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