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Tempe adopts transportation master plan to make city more bike-friendly

The Tempe City Council approved a new transportation master plan, targeted at making Tempe safer and more accessible for residents using all types of transportation, particularly walking and bicycling.

Tempe City Councilman Kolby Granville said the largest change for students will be the improvements for bicyclists.

“Right now, McClintock (Drive) has no bike lanes,” he said. “This means you can ride from Broadway (Road) to Tempe Marketplace and never be in a bike lane. We want to make cycling easier and safer for both drivers and cyclists.”

Granville said in cities with more bicycle traffic, there are generally fewer collisions between bikes and cars, simply because drivers will be on the lookout for cyclists.

“Right now, Tempe is ranked the No. 1 most bike friendly city in Arizona, but that doesn’t mean that we are where we should be,” Granville said. “Bike lane technology is in a period of rapid change, so what was acceptable 10 years ago is completely inadequate now.”

The plan focuses on different methods of transportation throughout the city, and city leaders hope to integrate the use of different types to make Tempe less congested with automobile traffic and safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, said Tempe Transportation Department spokeswoman Amanda Nelson.

Tempe residents were asked to take an online survey over the summer. Most residents requested more effort be put into multi-use paths and separate walking or biking bridges, particularly in areas with heavy automobile and pedestrian traffic.

Some specific areas they asked Tempe to focus on were bordering ASU, such as an underpass under Rio Salado Parkway near McClintock Drive, extending the walking path along the area near Tempe Town Lake.

Residents also cited crossing treatments and bicycle access over Interstate 10 and Loop 101 near Alameda Drive as an important addition for the city, and reported in the survey that they would like to see these projects in the next five years.

Granville said plans are already in the works for an underpass under Priest Drive near the lake, which would connect a walking path near Tempe Marketplace all the way to the Phoenix border, making it easier for people who choose to walk or bike to access both areas without having to cross Priest Drive.

He said he hopes the plan will make cyclists feel safer and more comfortable in the bike lanes while keeping costs to the city low.

Criminal justice alumnus Brian Hirst said his bicycle was his main form of transportation while in college, and said he always worried about negligent drivers who may not notice cyclists.

"I think making the lanes separate or dividing the street somehow could really increase safety," Hirst said. "I have seen a lot of close calls between bikes and cars near campus, so I'm glad the city is trying to fix it."

The plan will help incorporate cycling with other methods of travel in ways including buffered bike lanes, paint to differentiate the lanes and possibly separating bike lanes from the roadway with a second curb, Nelson said.

“Our city’s transportation plan is less about moving cars, and more about moving people,” Nelson said. “Right now we have projects being completed for all transit users.”

City officials are also working to raise funds to begin work on the Tempe streetcar to add another level to public transportation, Nelson said. Other ideas include expanding the Orbit shuttle to add another route south of the U.S. 60 and adding more pedestrian-friendly paths in historically crowded intersections, Nelson said.

“The community is asking for these types of projects,” she said. “The transportation plan will be integrated with Tempe’s 2040 master plan to continue planning for multiple modes of transportation for the ways we grow.”

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @CorinaVanek.

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