Suicide Lanes Kill Communities

This is the text of a letter to the editor I wrote in June 2008.  It was in response to a  Arizona Republic article on a Phoenix City Council vote about eliminating the ‘reversible’ (aka suicide) lanes on 7th Ave and 7th St. I couldn’t keep quiet after reading the typical ignorant responses on the azcentral.com website.  So I wrote the letter below.  To my surprise, it was actually published in the print edition of the Republic (although not online).

Alas, this letter—and several others like it—did not have any effect.  Phoenix City Council deferred to the traffic engineers and north Phoenix residents and kept the suicide lanes in place for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, the problem remains.  With next week’s M7/Seventh Ave Street Fair focusing city-wide attention on this vibrant neighborhood, I thought it was a good time to dust of the letter and rekindle the debate again:

Photo of Kurt Stickler, by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

The push to remove the ‘suicide lane’ is a no brainer. Traffic engineers can debate whether reverse lanes have increases accident counts, but there is no doubt that it has hurt local neighborhoods and small businesses along it’s path.

Historically, streets served as places where we stopped for conversation and children played. Today, they are now more the domain of cars than people. Even where sidewalks and streetscapes are present along high-speed streets, they feel inhospitable and out-of-place. This is especially true on 7th Ave that, with the reverse lane, can have up to four lanes traveling in one direction—hardly an environment conducive to local neighborhoods or businesses. While the City of Phoenix should be lauded for ongoing investments in the Melrose on 7th Ave streetscape, the reverse lane has undermined many of these efforts. This lane marks 7th Ave a thruway to and from other destinations rather than reinforcing surrounding areas on both sides of 7th avenue as places for residents to socialize and enjoy art, restaurants and small businesses that this neighborhood offers.

With the pending opening of the light rail, central Phoenix has already made large strides in rethinking the city’s relationship with cars and traffic. Removing the reverse lanes would be another sensible step in the City’s progression from a conventional transportation focus on the automobile to a recognition of the role of transportation in shaping places for everybody to enjoy, whether they are in cars or not.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.  If you agree with me and would like to see the reversible lanes removed, contact your City Councilor and ask that they revisit their short-sighted decision.  Be sure to cc district 4 Councilor Tom Simplot.  His district covers the ares most affected by the reversible lanes, including the Melrose Curve between Indian School and Camelback Rd.  If you happen to live in District 6 (Sal DiCiccio or District 3 (Bill Gates), where the reversible lanes are also present, your support would also be appreciated.

This is day 19 in my 28 Day Blogging Challenge. 9 days to go.


Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.