January 7, 2016
This week, we discuss a reroute conducted on the Southern Tier, primarily in Arizona.
The Routes and Mapping Department had been hearing for some time how terrible it was to bicycle through the Queen Creek Tunnel on U.S. Route 60, just east of Superior, AZ. Though the tunnel is well-lit, and a motorist’s view is virtually unobstructed end to end, there is no shoulder. In addition, eastbound cyclists are traveling slower due to the incline from one end to the other, increasing their fear and potentially decreasing their safety.
In addition, U.S. 60 carries mining truck and recreational traffic. It also lacks shoulders in many places and features several narrow bridges, some with rumble strips.
In 2013 when the Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT) was seeking input for updating their Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. This was a specific area we commented on as needing attention.
“We would like to see significant improvement of U.S. 60 between Apache Junction and Globe to create a safer riding environment for bicycle travelers. Since this highway is the only option for traveling across the area, it carries medium to high volumes of traffic — both recreational and commercial — and cyclists would benefit greatly from improved safety measures such as wider shoulders, especially where rumble strips exist on the roadway and across bridges. This stretch includes the Queen Creek Tunnel.”
Due to increasing comments, we decided to change our route. Unfortunately, the mountainous area east of Phoenix/Tempe, AZ, where the tunnel and U.S. 60 is located, does not have a lot of paved, connected options for getting through on a bicycle. Our route researcher and Tour Leader Dave Patterson had his work cut out for him. We sent him out with a couple of options to look at, not knowing the state of the roads.
He came back with potential routes for us to evaluate in the office. We settled on one fully paved route out of Tempe heading northeast and then southeast to get around the tunnel and back to Globe. There is a shorter option, but it includes 20 miles of hard packed dirt, a narrow canyon, primitive camping, and few services, not a situation all bicycle travelers find themselves prepared to handle.
And because we know many cyclists like to pedal the shortest distance between Point A and Point B such as on U.S. 60 between Superior and Globe, we have included a note in the "Riding Conditions" section of our map about what to expect, should a cyclist decide to ride it.
While we were wrestling with our reroute dilemma, the AZ DOT was researching US Bicycle Route (USBR) 90 on their way to designation. Initially, we had hoped to use their USBR 90 routing. However, when we saw their work in progress, we realized it would not be the best fit for where we wanted to connect with our route in New Mexico.
The routing AZDOT has chosen makes perfect sense for them. It showcases many of their well-established tourist sites and brings cyclists through some very beautiful areas of the state. Unfortunately, where it connects to New Mexico is less appealing to us and would likely mean cyclists would leave New Mexico without seeing Silver City, a quintessential New Mexico town, or visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. In the end, we decided to stay north of USBR 90 and enter New Mexico with more direct access to Silver City.
Another reason we chose this option was to include the community of Duncan, AZ. In mid-2014, we heard from a bed & breakfast owner asking us to consider rerouting through their community. She had seen an increase in cyclists coming through and wanted to support them. By moving the route off of U.S. 191 and State Route 78 to U.S. 70, cyclists will avoid a couple of mountain passes and enjoy the services Duncan has to offer.
Upon finding out about this reroute, one Duncan community member wrote to us with great enthusiasm for it, "It means an awful lot to us that this is happening. Many cyclists who have come this way have told us they would like to see this route incorporated by Adventure Cycling and I believe some of them have made contact with your organization to that end. It's very gratifying to know that Adventure Cycling has been listening. Thank you!"
We hope cyclists traveling the Southern Tier all have that same excitement for the changes we’ve made on this route to improve safety and retain charm on this long distance route.
There has never been a better time than right now to join Adventure Cycling. When you join, you're helping support programs such as route updates, as well as receiving a multitude of benefits. Throughout the month of January, first-time members will receive a free 2016 Adventure Cycling calendar in their new member packet, entry into weekly drawings for products and services donated by our corporate members, and a chance to win a limited edition Salsa Marrakesh touring bike! For complete details, check out our online join form.
To read the first post in this series, see Major Route Change: Great Rivers South Route in Missouri.
Photos by Christi Aguiar taken on the 2015 Adventure Cycling Southern Tier self-contained tour.
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer ‘Jenn’ Hamelman, Routes & Mapping Assistant Director, and appears once a month, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.