Cyclists react as Tucson rated 2nd-deadliest city in U.S.

Updated: Dec. 13, 2017 at 10:14 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's not a list you or your home city wants to be on.

A new report from Forbes, albeit using the last available national data from 2015, lists Tucson as the second-deadliest city in the country for bicyclists.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that of all major U.S. cities, Albuquerque, New Mexico has the highest cyclist fatality rate, while Tucson finished second at 7.5 deaths per million inhabitants.

The Tucson Police Department has been keeping a tally of the deadly crashes in the city, and the numbers show that fewer cyclists are dying.

Four were killed in 2016, and there was just one death in 2017, according to Tucson Police Department numbers.

Advocates hope it's a trend in the safer direction.

People like Bill Tegethoff, who has called Tucson home for 35 years, chooses to stay on the secluded trails and bike paths.

It's a safe distance from danger.

"I do question some of the mingling of the bicycles and the cars out on the road. I mean, here it's not a big deal, but on the road it looks like it could be pretty hazardous," Tegethoff told Tucson News Now, while taking a break from riding The Loop near Brandi Fenton Memorial Park.

The need for leisure and exercise keeps him riding The Loop about four to five times per week in the winter. But the need to commute drives Kylie Walzak's push for safety.

"I biked over here, and it felt pretty safe and comfortable to me," she said. "For me, I bicycle. I'm a mom. I carry my two-year-old son on my bike with me most of the time, too."

She's the current chair of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee.

She spoke to Tucson News Now prior to Wednesday night's public meeting at the Himmel Park Library, and said that of all the safety recommendations the committee can make, personal planning may be the priority.

"It's of the utmost importance that I choose a route where I know there's going to be a lower numbers of cars and the cars that are going to be on that route
are going to be going slower," Walzak said. "I think a lot of people take those routes because there are people interested in riding a bicycle and think that the way that you drive some place is the way that you should ride a bicycle some place."

Smarter route decisions was one of the reason's she cited for fewer cyclist deaths in Tucson since 2015.

But it's not the only reason.

"I hate to say it, but I think it might be a decrease in the number of people actually riding bicycles. I think we've seen that. I think we've heard that as a committee - that people who want to ride bikes are fearful to do so because they see distracted drivers as a big issue," Walzak said.

It's a big enough issue to keep riders like Tegethoff away.

"Even 215 pounds of fat, old man and his bicycle can't compete with a two-ton car."

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