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.