Thirty bicyclists collided with autos in and around Cottonwood during 2011, including one fatality the Cottonwood Bicycle Advisory Committee continues to investigate, according to Randy Victory, founder of the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition and a member of the committee.
Bicycle enthusiasts and city officials are taking positive steps to prevent as many accidents as possible.
For that reason, and to further the city’s reputation as a bicycle-friendly community, city workers on Dec. 16 put the finishing touches on “sharrows,” large, white, stenciled outlines of a bicycle and directional arrows painted onto 12th street.
Sharrows alert drivers that cyclists commonly use the route and remind cyclists they should be traveling with traffic on each side of the road.
“Shared-use lane markings are used on roadways which are too narrow for bike lanes,” Victory said. “They help remind motorists to share the road with bicycles, and indicate to cyclists the lawful direction of travel.”
Sharrows were adopted into the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices in 2009. The new shared-use lane markings in Cottonwood are the first to be installed in the Verde Valley, Victory said.
Victory gave credit to City Manager Doug Bartosh, who embraced the concept of making city streets safer for bicyclists and pushed the installation of the sharrows.
“Bartosh jumped in and we achieved honorable mention from the League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle-friendly community,” Victory said. “He wanted to know what the city can do to achieve a bronze award from the league.”
Sharrows are just one step the city can take, he said. Others include parking for bikes, education, stricter law enforcement, bike lanes, bike routes, shared use pathways and safe routes to school, he said.
“We definitely need more parking,” Victory said.
Since 12th Street is soon to be restructured, the sharrows are really a test for the time being to see how motorists and bicyclists adapt, Victory said.
Besides 12th Street, other possible locations for sharrows include on Main Street in Old Town and near its intersection with State Route 89A. These are areas where cyclists experience frequent harassment from drivers.
The intersection at State Route 89A and Main Street was the location of nine — nearly one-third — of the cycle-auto collisions in 2011. Victory said most of those accidents were caused by cyclists who didn’t observe traffic rules.
“There’s a lot of wrong-way cyclists at that intersection,” Victory said. “They’re afraid to use the left-hand turn lane, so they cross over the street, literally moving themselves into the most likely place for an accident.”
Most collisions between autos and bicycles don’t occur from being hit from behind. They result when autos or cycles travel in an unexpected direction.
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