After 35 years, the Loop has come full circle

After 35 years, the Loop has come full circle
After 35 years, the Loop in Tucson is complete. (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima County is pushing back against a report released by Wall Street 24/7 which lists Tucson as the second-\most dangerous city in America for bicyclists, following only Albuquerque.

Phoenix was ranked fourth.

Pima County is especially sensitive to the issue since its finished the Loop, a 131-mile pedestrian and bicycle path which is, in part, designed to get bicyclists off the streets and into a safer environment.

The final leg of the Loop, which was started following the devastating floods in 1983, has been finished but will not be dedicated formally for a few more weeks.

The popularity is testimony to how well its working. Thousands of bike riders use the Loop on a daily basis, staying off the surface streets.

"More cars, more room for error, more accidents," said Terena Hunt, who was riding the new section for the first time. "I don't want to get hit, it's not worth it."

Hunt was riding with her husband Justin and father-in-law Gary.

She said there have been many close calls.

"When we were riding on the streets, we almost got hit," she said. "We probably would had died from that one if we got hit."

Justin said he was not so lucky when a car swerved into the bike lane near the University and a passenger opened the door.

"I crashed right into him, went down pretty hard," he said. "I was limping for a good week or two after that."

The Loop has given them a safe place to ride.

"Surface streets, we ride them when we want to take out bike somewhere, but we take the back neighborhoods," he said. "That way we avoid the busy roads."

That's the conclusion of many riders.

Ken Montaney, who works at Sabino Cycles on Tanque Verde Road, said the Loop has been a good thing for business.

"People that haven't ridden in 15, 20, 30 years want bikes to ride on the Loop," he said. "This morning I had a couple of customers come in, they wanted a bike."

The couple told Montaney they just want on the Loop.

Montaney bikes to work every day on the Loop, which he said keeps him off the surface streets. He believes most motorists are aware of bicycles in Tucson because there are so many cyclists but he still feels riders need to be wary.

"I think it sets us apart from many other communities," he said.

He also said this time of year, people from all over the country will ship bicycles to the shop to get ready for vacation.

"They may come for a week, a month, month and a half," he said. "They come pick up their bike, ask for some brochures and maps of the Loop and off they go."

Still, people die on Tucson streets and this year was one of the most dangerous ever.

Nearly 60 people died in the city limits from pedestrian, car and bicycle accidents, which makes people concerned when they're on the streets.

Gary Hunt did not ride on the streets, prior to riding on the Loop.

"Too many people get hit and killed," he said. "You see news stories of people getting hit, injured, killed."

The Loop has opened up a whole new experience.

"It's just about all we ride these days," he said. "The streets are not very safe."

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