Monday, November 21, 2011

Hidden HIlls Easement to Close

I regret to report that the Scottsdale Transportation voted to temporarily close the Hidden Hills cyclist easement until the connection is completed to Eagle Ridge Drive in Fountain Hills. Staff is to report back to the Commission at the January meeting with more details about when and how the connection can be completed, but it became obvious during the meeting that the connection is not going to be completed quickly. I should have more details and comments in the next Wednesday's of Arizona Road Cyclist News.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hidden Hills Meetings

Susan Conklu from the City of Scottsdale sent me and several others this memo about two upcoming meetings to decide the fate of our access to Hidden Hills. -- Jack Quinn

Hi Jack,

A public open house has been scheduled to discuss temporarily suspending the use of the public bicycle and non-motorized easement to bicyclists on 145th Way, a private street in Hidden Hills, until a connection in Fountain Hills is built. 

The open house is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 at Via Linda Senior Center, 10440 E. Via Linda. 

This request is being considered to address concerns related to the use of a public easement located in a private, gated community.  This action would have no impact on the Sunrise Trailhead or the trail in the wash to the east of 145th Way.  It would not impact pedestrian access on the sidewalk along 145th Way.

Feedback gathered from this open house will be compiled and presented at the next Trails Subcommittee meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday, October 6 at the Public Safety Building (Arizona Room) at 8401 E Indian School Road.

The contacts for this project are Reed Kempton, Principal Transportation Planner, via email to or 480-312-7630 and Susan Conklu, Transportation Planner, at or at 480-312-2308.

Thank you,
Susan Conklu, Transportation Planner
City of Scottsdale
Transportation Planning

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Preston Miller's Memo on Hidden Hills

Preston Miller of Tri Scottsdale wrote the following memo to the City of Scottsdale. Following the memo are some facts he put together on the Hidden Hills situation. -- Jack Quinn

June 7, 2011

Memorandum on the 145th Way Cycling/Pedestrian Easement

To: City of Scottsdale, Transportation Dept. and Planning Commission

From: Preston Miller

In the past month, representatives of the City of Scottsdale Transportation Dept. met with a number of cycling clubs and groups about a request from the Hidden Hills HOA to close the cycling/pedestrian easement on 145th Way. The easement has been an issue since Hidden Hills was completed.  The origin and need for the easement has been well documented over the years as part of a Master Plan for community connectivity.  The request for closure by the Hidden Hills HOA is based on a need for safety, and, of course, respect for this private community.  They believe some of the cyclists who use 145th Way  are speeding or riding in a reckless manner, and have hired a security company to measure the speed of cyclists on selected days.  It has also been noted that a few cyclists, in order to miss the speed bumps installed by Hidden Hills, go onto the sidewalk, or simply jump the speed bumps.  During the same period, the speed limit was reduced from 25 mph to 20 mph.  All involved parties agree that only a small percentage of cyclists are committing these infractions.

We, the leaders of various cycling groups in the area, believe we can make a much stronger case to preserve the easement than the HOA can make to either temporarily or permanently close it.  First of all, the community layout, including road width and frontage, was approved years a go when the developer agreed to the easement as a trade-off for the city to abandon the plan for Via Linda.  The city has also assisted Hidden Hills in developing a plan to improve safety on 145th Way, including $70,000 to study and install speed tables.

Safety is always the primary concern for cyclists and we, as groups or individuals, would not ride someplace we considered unsafe.  In fact, since the Hidden Hills community opened and even before, when Via Linda was extended, there have been very few accidents on this extremely popular route. 
The representatives of the Hidden Hills HOA have asked why this hill and this 7/10 of a mile is so important to the cycling community.  Surprisingly, there are not many hills available to cyclists within easy riding distance from downtown Scottsdale or even Scottsdale and Shea.  But most importantly, this 7/10 of a mile represents the future of Scottsdale cycling.  It has been designated as the only future connecting link to Fountain Hills and beyond.  Giving it up permanently would necessitate an alternate plan.  Giving it up temporarily would essentially be the same, since there is no guarantee, no matter what is promised now, that the city could get it back.

Obviously, there is no single entity representing the entire cycling community, but we are working diligently to include as many groups and individuals as possible into a coalition to promote safety and good behavior by cyclists in Hidden Hills, and the entire area.  We have already begun acting as a “courtesy patrol” during selected weekend hours and high volume weekdays.  We sincerely Hidden Hills can be the model for a cycling community.

Preston Miller's Hidden Hills Easement Observations Supporting Above Memo


Safety:  Cyclists riding in Hidden Hills find it extremely safe compared to other streets in the area.  Traffic is minimal and visibility is very good.  Cyclists can easily see vehicles backing out of driveways.  Visibility for drivers backing out of driveways could be significantly improved if cars were prohibited from parking in the street overnight.

Traffic volume:  Currently, bike traffic has been reduced because some cyclists have chosen not to ride over the speed bumps in Hidden Hills.  Those who do ride to the top turn around and go back down, the round trip taking about 8 minutes.  On weekdays, the organized rides are in and out in about 20 minutes total.  On the weekends, there are more individual cyclists, resulting with less dense traffic over a several hour period.  Recently, on a Sunday morning, approximately 50 cyclists rode up to the gate, with about 30 cyclists entering, during a one hour period.

7/10ths of a mile:  Why is this short hill so important to cyclists?  The hill cyclists use begins at 136th St. and includes Via Linda and 145th Way.  The total is 2.1 miles, so the gated portion is 1/3 of the hill.  But, most importantly, this .7 miles represents 100% of the City of Scottsdale plan for connectivity between Scottsdale and Fountain Hills.  The plan has been in place for years, and there is no other option being considered. 

Why this hill?:  Yes, there are other hills in Scottsdale, but unless you are willing to drive north to start, or ride an hour to get there, there are not many 2 mile hills with such a desirable grade.  Cyclists have been using Via Linda, east of 136th St. since it was built.  Same goes for the extension, 145th Way.

Speed bumps:  The speed bumps were installed two years ago and cyclists immediately began going around them in the concrete gutter area.  The leading edges of the rubber speed bumps were nearly vertical and could harm bike wheels or cause pinch flats.  Not long after that, the reflectors were added in  a “Z” pattern, making it difficult for bikes to go there.

Speeding:  Cyclists and cars are governed by the same traffic laws and must obey speed limits.  The speed limit inside Hidden Hills is 20 mph.  Observing traffic in  Hidden Hills, cars and bicycles seem to exceed 20 mph between the speed bumps, but slow to well below 20 mph to cross them.  In the lower section of the gated area, cars and bikes seem to speed up before last speed bump, and again before the gate.  There are no driveways in this section, so perhaps it is just human nature.  The speeds detected by the contract security company included no data for cars.

Rude Conduct:  In the past two years, especially since the last public hearing regarding the easement, there have been isolated incidents of rude behavior.  Some cyclists made vulgar gestures to vehicles that passed too close.  Some vehicles would speed past cyclists on the downhill, then jam on the brakes just before the speed bumps, causing the cyclist to either stop suddenly or swerve around the car.   Any confrontational conduct just worsens and escalates the situation and must not happen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hidden Hills Feedback

I received the following E-mail today (May 31, 2011) about efforts to keep the non-motorized vehicle access open to Hidden Hills. I have not published his contact information to keep him from getting spammed by Web crawlers, but anyone who wants to contact him can get his info through me. -- JQ

Jack, you have done a wonderful job of describing the problems and the history of the easement. It is extremely important for Scottsdale to maintain the easement. For that reason, even a temporary closure would set a terrible precedent, and make it unlikely to ever reopen.

At the meeting last Thursday of the Trails Subcommittee of the Scottsdale Transportation Commission, no immediate decision was made. They agreed to have an open forum at the next meeting (in three months) to hear public comment on the issue.

We must convince the city that we, the "cycling community", can reasonably police ourselves to be good citizens. At the Saturday meeting, five cycling groups were represented and all agreed to participate in the following manner. We still need to include more groups.

1. Begin educating our individual groups, as well as all others we can contact, to obey the traffic laws and be respectful of the private community we are being allowed to enter.

2. Establish a "Courtesy Patrol" for peak hours during the week. Ideally, each cycling group will volunteer to take a week at a time.

3. Make contact with all levels of city government to insure the voice of the cycling community is being heard.

The city's plan and subsequent decisions have made this .7 mile the only way to connect to Fountain Hills and beyond. While we don't know when the remaining .4 will open, we must not lose what the city has planned and paid for over the last 15 years.

Preston Miller

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 - Hidden Hills Heats up Again

The residents of Hidden Hills are once again trying to get cyclists banned from their gated community, and this time, it looks as if they might succeed, at least until the planned connection for non-motorized vehicles from Scottsdale via Hidden Hills to Fountain Hills becomes a reality.

For those of you who are not familiar with Hidden Hills, it is a gated community at the end of a street called Via Linda in North Scottsdale, just a short distance as the crow flies from Fountain Hills. It is a popular destination for individual riders and informal riding groups, especially on Saturday mornings. At one time, large number of cyclists used to cycle to the top of the hill inside Hidden Hills, regroup at the summit cul-de-sac, and then ride back. Some cyclists, a minority, also used the route to do hill repeats, a conditioning technique that involves repeatedly riding up and descending the same hill. In the past year, the number of cyclists entering Hidden Hills has greatly diminished, and the practice of doing hill repeats in the community has all but disappeared.

As a result of the decreased cycle traffic, many cyclists thought that the problem was solved, but in my opinion, as long as a single cyclist has access to their community, some of the residents of Hidden Hills are going to react as if they were being invaded by Mongol hordes.

Some history: Before the community of Hidden Hills was built, the City of Scottsdale and Town of Fountain Hills had planned that Via Linda would be extended to provide an alternative to Shea Boulevard for motorized travel between those two communities. That plan was abandoned, but both Fountain Hills and Scottsdale still want to use the route to provide cyclists a safe travel corridor between the two communities. The City of Scottsdale, in exchange for granting permission for the gated community to be constructed, obtained an easement for non-motorized vehicles (meaning bicycles) to travel between Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. When someone buys a house in Hidden Hills, that person agrees to the easement and should know that bicycles will be using the community’s main street.

The developer that built Hidden Hills and also controls the land in Fountain Hills just up the hill from it was supposed to build the bike route. However, the real estate crisis hit, and the developer put plans on hold. In the meantime, cyclists were given access to Hidden Hills, even though there is a dead end at the top of the hill, which means that cyclists who pedal up the hill have no choice but to turn around and ride back down.

Hidden Hills homeowners soon got sick of bicycles traveling on their private street and have spent years lobbying the City of Scottsdale to break the agreement and abandon the easement, which the City has so far refused to do. To address the homeowners’ stated concerns, the City paid for the installation of four speed bumps, which have dissuaded most, but not all, of the cyclists from riding the hill. However, those who still do ride the hill often descend at a higher speed than formerly in order to have enough momentum to “bunny hop” the speed bumps, and an occasional cyclist circumvents the speed bumps by riding on the sidewalk. Many cyclists now descend the hill at speeds approaching those of the residents in their cars and SUVs.

A squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the Hidden Hills Homeowners Association has done a lot of squeaking about even the smaller number of pesky cyclists who dare to ride past their houses, backing their complaints with a mixture of truth and fiction about the problems that cyclists supposedly cause. Cyclists do not play loud music, they seldom litter, and although many (perhaps most) of them do exceed the 20 mile-per-hour speed limit, they travel no faster than the residents themselves in their motor vehicles. On the face of it, we would seem to be nice people to have around, but in these days, hating groups of people (immigrants, liberals, politicians of the other party, just about anyone who is different) has become the socially acceptable substitute for racism. Among some people, the mere sight of a group of “spandex clad” cyclists raises the same ire as an Obama supporter at a Tea Party convention.

Point persons on the debate for the City of Scottsdale are Transportation Planner Susan Conklu and Senior Transportation Planner Reed Kempton. I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with each of them on May 19 and came away convinced that the Hidden Hills bicycle access will be shut down, at least until the connection to Fountain Hills is built.

At the beginning of our conversation, Reed Kempton described himself as a “cycling advocate”, but as we talked, it became apparent that he is just as fed up with the cyclists who ride to Hidden Hills as I am with the whining, selfish, and boorish behavior of some of the community’s residents. Apparently, a number of cyclists treated Mr. Kempton with contempt when he was out at Hidden Hills during the height of the controversy, and that ill treatment has soured him on the whole lot of us. It may seem unjust to stereotype a whole group of people because of the boorish actions of a few of its members, but that is how human nature works.

To give Mr. Kempton his due, some of the things he says make sense. For example, he makes a persuasive argument for closing cyclists’ access to Hidden Hills until the Fountain Hills connection is built. Contrary to what I believed before I spoke to him, he has also convinced me that we may be doing ourselves more harm than good by continuing to ride Hidden Hills.

Stating his argument as well as I can in my own words, his reasoning is as follows: The only purpose of the easement through Hidden Hills is to permit cyclists to travel to and from Fountain Hills. Since there is not yet a connection to Fountain Hills, cyclists are not using the easement for its stated purpose, and therefore cyclists presently have no legal right to enter Hidden Hills over the residents’ objections. The logical action is for cyclists to stop riding inside the Hidden Hills gate until the Fountain Hills connection is constructed.

I am not skilled at searching for legal documents online, but I did manage to find the following sentence in a contract between the City of Scottsdale and the developer. To me, this sentence is unclear as to whether or not cyclists have access to Hidden Hills until the connection to Fountain Hills is built, but there may be other documents with more explicit language.

“The City [of Scottsdale] has acquired a public non-motorized easement through the Hidden Hills Subdivision which provides the only non-motorized alternative to She Boulevard between the City of Scottsdale and the Town of Fountain Hills.”

Mr. Kempton states that if cyclists continue to ride within Hidden Hills, the Homeowners Association is likely to approach the Scottsdale City Council to ask that the easement be revoked altogether. Given that the homeowners are well organized, articulate, and vociferous, he thinks they stand a good chance of persuading the City Council to do their bidding. His opinion is that the “cycling community” should accept the temporary closure of the access to Hidden Hills for cyclists in order to avoid a permanent revocation of the easement.

Of course, there is no “cycling community” that could make such a collective decision. Most of the cyclists who ride Hidden Hills do so as individuals or as part of informal, pick-up rides. There is no cycling organization that has a line of communication to more than a small percentage of the cyclists who ride Hidden Hills. Even Arizona Road Cyclist News, with a circulation of over 400 reaches on a small fraction of the cyclists in the Phoenix area.

It seems logical that if and when the connection is built, cycling traffic through Hidden Hills would increase by a large factor, and that would anger the Hidden Hills residents even more. However, the Hidden Hills Homeowner’s Association might find it harder to shut down a “transportation corridor” than it would be to shut down casual access to a gated community.

Reed Kempton and Susan Conklu are anxious to communicate with cycling groups about the situation. They say they don’t want to spring the closure on the cyclists by surprise, and they both requested that I publish their contact information so that cyclists and especially cycling groups can get in touch with them. Their contact information follows.

A final word: I hope that cyclists who read this do not stereotype the residents of Hidden Hills the way that some of them stereotype us. Not all of the residents hate cyclists, and not all of them approve of the attitude of the Homeowners’ Association. Some of them are nice people, just as we are. :)

Susan Conklu, Transportation Planner
City of Scottsdale
(480) 312-2308

Reed Kempton, Senior Transportation Planner
City of Scottsdale
(480) 312-7630

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Arizona's Stop Signs Could Become Yield Signs

Many of you will remember that last year a bill was introduced in the Arizona State Legislature that would have effectively permitted cyclists to treat stop signs as if they were yield signs. If the bill had become law, cyclists approaching a stop sign would have been required to slow down, and if the intersection had been clear, would have been permitted to proceed through the intersection without coming to a complete stop. The bill made sense, because a cyclist who comes to a complete stop and puts a foot down requires much more time to clear an intersection than does a cyclist who is able to keep both feet on the pedals. However, most non-cyclists do not understand this, so the bill never reached the floor. It was killed in committee on a straight party-line vote after all of the minority Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the bill but every Republican committee member voted to kill it.

Now a new version of bill has been introduced in the house by representative Daniel Patterson, who is a bicycle rider. This bill may overcome the objections of those who consider cyclists to be "Spandex-clad leftist liberals" who demand superior privileges by treating motor vehicles and cyclists equally, giving both classes of road users the right to proceed through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop as long as they are able to safely make it through the intersection without interfering with traffic that has the right-of-way. If the bill is passed, I wonder what purpose stop signs will serve. Why not just change them all to yield signs? Of course, regardless of the law, most motorists and almost all cyclists already treat stop signs as if they were yield signs, so the proposed change to the law could be viewed as an attempt to make the law reflect reality.

If you would like to read the bill and follow its progress through the Arizona State Legislature, you can do so by clicking here.