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Citizen petition asks Flagstaff to allocate resources toward bike safety
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BIKE SAFETY

Citizen petition asks Flagstaff to allocate resources toward bike safety

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Collecting Signatures Demanding Change

Shawna Heinsius holds a blank signature sheet for a Flagstaff City Council petition calling for a redistribution of funding for an existing streets project to focus more directly on cyclist and pedestrian safety.

Weeks after a collision that left one killed and several injured, hundreds of Flagstaff residents are demanding the city devote more resources to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Local bicycle advocacy organizations including Flagstaff Biking Organization and FLG Bike Party plan to submit a citizen petition on Thursday asking the city to lower the speed limit on high profile streets and commit money to build dedicated bikeways in the coming years by reallocating funds from taxes that voters passed in 2018.

The petition, which already has more than 500 signatures, comes just over a week after a tow truck collided with a bike-safety parade organized by FLG Bike Party, killing 29-year-old Joanna Wheaton.

Shawna Heinsius, FLG Bike Party cyclist, was busy gathering signatures at Wheeler Park Wednesday afternoon. In the wake of the accident, she said finding support for the cause had been easy.

Advocates like Heinsius looked to local businesses to promote the cause. Potential signees were informed via social media that more than 20 businesses located downtown were hosting the petition.

“Not a single business said no,” Heinsius said. “Support was strong.”

The deadline to sign that petition is at noon on Thursday. Now that the petition has gathered more than the required 25 signatures, it will force the issue to be addressed at next week’s Flagstaff City Council meeting on Tuesday -- assuming it is submitted by the deadline. 

The petition calls for the city to install protected bike lanes on Beaver Street, San Francisco Avenue, Butler Avenue and Fourth Street by December 2022. On larger thoroughfares, such as West Route 66 and Milton Avenue, the petition asks for those changes to be made by December 2023.

Advocates are also calling for the speed limit to be reduced to 25 miles per hour on Butler Avenue and Lone Tree Road. Activists want to see those changes made by August 2022.

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Even before the petition, locals took to social media to call for a speed limit reduction on Butler Avenue. Flagstaff local James Holeman, who moved to the corner of Butler and San Francisco Street in 2007, created a public Facebook page the day after Friday’s accident calling for the same changes.

As the location of the recent accident, Butler has seen more attention than most for proposed changes. 

Heinsius said bicyclist safety has been an issue in Flagstaff for some time, but the city has not been quick enough to act.

“It's getting more and more dangerous to ride,” Heinsius said. "We’ve seen that be an issue for a long time, and while there may be money budgeted, what changes have been made?”

Activists hope more funding may make a difference, and they are pushing the city to relocate money from the transportation tax that voters approved in 2018. That tax, which received about 64% voter support, is designed to provide funding for transportation infrastructure such as new and widened roads, and support for alternative transportation like biking and walking. 

But the petition asks for more of that funding to be steered to bike-specific improvements like protected bike lanes. 

Even at the time of its passage, the proposition saw some pushback from bike and pedestrian advocates who said too much of the money was devoted to widening roads.

At the time, members of the city’s sustainability commission and the bicycle advisory committee said the proposition was not in line with the city’s climate action plan, which was also being developed at the time.

Supporters of the proposition pointed to the miles of new bike lanes and urban trails that the proposition would fund. 

The fact that the measure was approved by the Flagstaff electorate may create an uphill battle for activists hoping to change the allocation of the funding. 

With restrictions on how far the council or city may stray from voter-approved measures, the process to change funding allocations may be both long and arduous.

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