I recently came across the following article: Cyclists draw ire: Town resident says issue remains despite police enforcement. Being both a cyclist that rides in the group targeted by the Paradise Valley Police Department and a recently retired police officer, having spent just over 20 years with another Valley police agency, I have a unique perspective on this “problem”.
First let’s talk about the issue. Paradise Valley, and specifically the area around Mummy Mountain, has been a hot spot for cyclists for over 20 years. I was turned onto “The Mummy Loop” in 1996 when I first started cycling. It has been part of my standard route since then. A look at a Strava Heat Map of the area will show you just how popular it is. Why is it popular? Because the area is safe for cyclists. The streets are very quite, very narrow, infrequently travel and the nature of the roadway means slow vehicle speeds. Only local residence use them. Once on the roads around Mummy there is very little chance of being involved in a high speed accident.
Local cycling groups have been using these roadways for decades. The ASU Cycling team used these roads in the 1990s when I was a student there, followed by The Hour of Power ride that was super popular in the early-2000s. Around 2003 the local triathlon team that I race for, Tri-Scottsdale, started a group ride around the area every Tuesday. First is was just about 5-10 local triathletes that lived in the area. It became more popular over the years and is today just referred to as “Gainey” or “The Gainey Ride”.
The Gainey ride today hosts between 20-50 cyclists, depending on the time of year, and rides on both the west and east sides of Mummy Mountain between 5:30am and 6:15. It has hosted a fair number of professional cyclist and triathletes over the year and has garnered some national recognition within these communities. To my knowledge, there has not been a single cyclist vs car or cyclist vs pedestrian accident within our group, and I have been riding it weekly since 2005. That is to say I’ve not been on one ride where an accident occurred outside of the group. We’ve had cyclists crash, either by themselves or into a fellow cyclist, but I’ve never witnessed anything else.
Starting in late-2014, the we started getting stopped on a regular basis by the PVPD. We were basically told we were not wanted on their roads. In the subsequent months, members of the local cycling community and members of Tri-Scottsdale met with the PV Police. It was learned that one very vocal women, named in the article as Heidi McCauley, was the impetuous of the police attention. She had filed several complaints about cyclists almost hitting her or her dog on Tuesday mornings. Then a couple of additional local residents joined her complaints.
These complaints have mobilized the PVPD to use a considerable amount of police resources to address the issue with “targeted enforcement”. As stated in the article, PVPD has employed police motor units (on scooters), unmarked vehicles and “task forces” tactics against the group. This continues today, five years later. As a former police officer, let me define what “targeted enforcement” is. It is basically legally justified harassment of the group they want to leave. Trust me, I know from the inside what the conversations are like between the police with these types of things. The problem with harassing the cyclists is this; we would rather be “targeted” than ride on dangerous roads and have a life altering car vs bike accident.
And I know about these types of accidents. I had one in April of 2018 while riding on a very large, fast and heavily traveled road in North Scottsdale. A distracted driver made an improper left turn in front of me, causing me to t-bone his car while I was traveling about 30 mile per hour. I received a head injury and several broken bones. Just now, a year later, do I feel fully normal again.
Here’s my problem with the enforcement. It’s not that they are trying to address the problem, it’s how many of their officer have addressed it. There have been several incident of borderline unethical behavior by the PVPD where they have gone to “that gray area of the law” and beyond. I’ve been witness to cyclists being told they were receiving a tickets for failure to stop at a stop sign because “you didn’t put your foot down”. This, by the way, is not an element of ARS 28-855. If it was all of our cars would look like Fred Flintstone’s car. Think about it.
I’ve watched as recreational cyclists (ie., older couples on beach cruisers) blew a stop sign, only to be follow by an avid cyclist that do the same 30 seconds later. The only guy that got stopped, the dude on the $8000 bike and sporting the lycra. I’ve watched about 10 interactions with PVPD and guys in our Gainey ride that bordered on PV officers abusing their position or stretching the definition of Title 28. I only involved myself once, which was the “you have to put your foot on the ground” line of crap. Those cyclists did not get tickets . . . that time. I’m sure they would have if I had not spoken up and called bullshit on the officers.
Here’s the rub, Mrs. McCauley has a legitimate gripe. It is dangerous on the residential roads around PV where cyclist meet pedestrians. She might get hit one day. But the cyclist are not only to blame. There is blame to go around. The roads around PV are popular with cyclist for the same reasons they are dangerous. They are narrow, somewhat rural, have no street lights and no sidewalks. This keep vehicle traffic slow. The rural nature means only local residents drive them, keeping overall traffic down. There are times you will ride 5-10 minutes and not see a vehicle.
But the design of the roads also means confrontations. Cyclists are often confronted with someone walking their dog off leash, in the darkness at 5am, going against traffic, five feet into the roadway. This has been the case with Mrs. McCauley. She often walks against traffic, around a blind corner with no lights of her own. When a cyclist comes around that same blind corner the two groups end up going head to head with little or no warning. It’s not just with her, there are lots of groups of walkers that this conflict occurs with daily.
It’s not the cyclists fault. It’s not the pedestrians’ fault. It’s just how it is. If PV was really interested in making their roads safe for everyone, they would use the grant money they get for improving road safety for cyclists to add street lights and/or sidewalks in these areas, not for OT pay to write cyclists tickets. That was actually the recommendation from a study that cost the tax payers of PV $143,695.02, but was “tabled” because of some nonsense reason. But well all knew the recommendation for street lights, sidewalks and pedestrian paths would never be acted upon. It’s too expensive and the residents in that area would flip if they tried putting in street lights or tried taking part of their property to install proper sidewalks.
The article linked above often refers to the behavior of the cyclists as the problem. They quote Mrs. McCauley, “there is upwards of 40 individuals riding at high speeds — up to 40 MPH, she says — down a skinny, windy road with a posted speed limit of 15 MPH.” Mentioned is the fact that Mrs. McCauley submitted an video of our group to the police. The video, per the article, shows cyclists riding mostly single file (the law says cyclist can ride two abreast) in the middle of the road. She needs to understand that the main reason we are in the middle of the road is because she, along with other residents, often stand on the inside of blind corners or walk in the roadway because there are no sidewalks.
The speed limit on the road in question, Quartz Mountain, is actually 25 (not 15 as mentioned stated in the article). With modern technology (Strava) we can look at a created segment to monitor the section of roadway in question, titled QM Monitor. The list shows the Top 20 average speeds on the .6 mile section Quartz Mountain where most of the complaints have been generated. The highest average speed by anyone, EVER, is 29.2 mph. That’s above the posted speed limit, but a far cry from the 40mph she continually reports to the police.
I ride with the front group of riders on Tuesdays. I’m around the fastest guys in the group. You can see what my average speeds over that section look like (top right). They are all between 18 and 26 miles per hour. That would be obeying the speed limit on that road.
Better yet, here is an on-board video I made (at the peak of the police craziness) of our group covering the section of road all the complaints have come from. On the bottom right you can see the speed of the group in real time as it was recorded from my Garmin GPS device.
You can see the road is super narrow, with two cyclists side by side covering almost 2/3 of the roadway. Again, we ride down the middle of the roadway because it is the safest alternative with the number of pedestrians in the street due to the lack of sidewalks.
The highest speed we hit is somewhere right around 26. We blow through no stop signs. There is no vehicle traffic, nor is there any pedestrians. They are quite, narrow, residential roads that we can ride without jamming up the traffic on larger roads and ride without worrying about being involved in a high speed crash with a 3000 lbs. vehicle.
So here we are, almost five years later. Our Gainey group has attempted to work with PVPD. We have a leader that ensures riders stop at all stop signs and follow the speed limit. We have altered our route on the sections of road where the complaints have been generated not once, but four times in the past two years, trying to avoid Mrs. McCauley. You know what, each time we have altered our route, guess who shows up on the new section of roadway about two weeks after the change . . . yep, Mrs. McCauley.
PVPD has done a good job of using grant money for “targeted enforcement” of our group in an attempt to address the issue. In cop talk that means they have done their best to target and harass the cyclists in order to persuade them to ride somewhere else. That hasn’t happened in four years. I’ll say why again, it is because we would rather be harassed than ride on more heavily traveled, dangerous roads that might cost one of us our lives. Due to distracted driving, auto accidents involving pedestrians and/or cyclist are up nationally about 20% over the past five years. The latest stats I saw for the Valley of the Sun are right in line with that. I was one of the stats in 2018.
PVPD is still dedicating a relatively significant number of officers to address one woman’s complaints (ok, maybe four people’s). I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease. PV residents just need to understand that cops used for this enforcement are pulled away from other activities and the complaints will continue as long as a single cyclist rides past her house. She actually says it in the article, “We don’t want a bike route through there.” Cyclists will continue to use the area heavily because it is safe for us. She will continue to complain. The police will try to address the issue by dedicating resources to it. Protect and Serve I guess.
On a side note, here is a video of a car that has repeatedly buzzed cyclists in the manner shown on the video. It often happens around afternoon rush hour, obviously involving someone that lives in the Mummy Mountain area while on their way home from work. The person will eventually hit a cyclist, probably killing them. This re-occurring issue has also been reported to the PVPD. One time reported by me with information about the location of the vehicle and the person driving it. Nothing, to my knowledge, was ever done. Too bad the issues brought to them by the cyclists aren’t addressed with as much gusto as those of Mrs. McCauley.