After aggressively pursuing the idea, the city might be ready to start creeping back on its street transformation program – now almost infamously known around Scottsdale as “road diets.”
While some embrace the idea of trading motorized vehicle traffic for bike lanes, others are experiencing what can only be called “road diet rage.”
Last week, Bob Littlefield – a former council member and husband of a current one – sent out a mass mailing with the subject line, “Road diets have become the symbol of citizen distrust of city hall.”
In another email chain, Bob Pejman shared Littlefield’s sentiments, wondering:
“How many council members can resist getting sucked into the Bike Lane Kool Aid push? … Just count how many bikes you see here even in good weather days. Then count the cars and the ever growing traffic.”
Beverly Moore insisted, “If the city of Scottsdale was a dam, one would have to question why the powers that be keep poking new holes into it.”
But proponents insist this is a way to make roads safer for drivers, bikers and pedestrians.
Nearly all the Scottsdale City Council representatives have complained about being deluged with emails from those loving or hating road diets.
“For weeks, council members have been spending way too much time bickering over ‘road diets’ that an overwhelming majority of residents didn’t request,” Councilman Barry Graham said.
“I’ve lost count of how many residents have told council they oppose shrinking traffic lanes and replacing them with bike lanes,” he added.
Graham complained that his colleagues are ignoring “the projects that residents voted for in the 2019 bond election” while spending too much time on road diets.
Graham’s wish that the idea would just go away is not going to happen.
Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield advocated for putting road diets on the ballot – and let the majority decide if they love street trims or hate them.
At the April 23 City Council meeting, her idea was narrowly rejected. As Littlefield was speaking about more traffic coming to Scottsdale, Mayor David Ortega cut her off.
“There will be a work study on all the details,” Ortega said.
Indeed, a centerpiece of the May 16 City Council meeting is a work study session titled, “Road Diet Portion of the City’s Transportation Action Plan.”
According to the agenda, Jim Thompson, the acting city manager, will lead a “presentation, discussion and possible direction to staff regarding the ‘road diet’ portion of the city’s Transportation Action Plan.”
In the last three months, residents have lined up to beg for and protest against flipping car/truck lanes into bike lanes on portions of 68th Avenue and Thomas Road.
While the former was approved, the Thomas Road “improvements” funding has yet to come up for a vote.
Voices for and against road diets are sure to be raised Tuesday, when Thompson goes over the transportation plan – which repeatedly makes the case for more bike lanes and less for motorized traffic.
This is not just a theoretical argument, as millions of dollars are at stake in a $2.5 billion budget Thompson is urging council to pass.
City documents show $555 million in “street improvements” listed in the proposed 2023-24 Scottsdale Capital Improvement Projects budget.
Of that $555 million, $360 million will be spent from July 1 through June 30, 2024, if city council approves the request.
Some, but not all, of the “street improvements” involve road diets – or, to use an alternate term city staff is now using, “complete streets.”
According to the Transportation Action Plan, “The city’s planned travel lane capacity for the arterial and collector street system is largely complete.”
But, the plan argues, while capacity may be “complete,” individual roads are not.
“A greater number of arterial and collector street system miles are missing ‘complete streets’ components. Complete streets provide better accommodations for non-motorized uses and add safety features such as dedicated turn lanes and raised medians,” according to the plan.
Streets built 20-plus years ago are outdated and in need of serious reworking, according to the plan:
“In all, an estimated 78 miles (12%) of sidewalks and 132 miles (21%) of bike lanes are missing from arterial and collector streets where all travel lanes have already been constructed.”
The plan flatly states that previous planners were overzealous with motorized vehicle lanes:
“Over the years, some streets were built with too many lanes based on anticipated development patterns that ultimately did not occur …
“In all, 32 lane miles can be converted to non-auto uses by restriping or narrowing the street.”
Road diets, in other words.