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City uses "Zebras" on roads to protect bikers, drivers from hitting each other

Not animals, a new type of bike lane protection
On Tucson streets, bikes and cars can come into dangerous conflict. Tucson’s Department of Transportation and Mobility is trying a new idea to make bike lanes safer.
Posted at 7:34 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 22:34:55-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — This story originally incorrectly named Main Avenue.

On Tucson streets, bikes and cars can come into dangerous conflict. Tucson’s Department of Transportation and Mobility is trying a new idea to make bike lanes safer.

Some news stories really do begin with, “WHAT is THAT?!” And that’s probably what some people are saying as they drive along Main Avenue.

“THAT” is a hard rubber, reflectorized, football shaped, traffic safety device called a Zicla Zebra.

Andy Bemis of Tucson Transportation and Mobility says, “Some people refer to them as armadillos. They're known by a bunch of different names. What they are is essentially a vertical element that we placed in the buffer space between a bike lane and a travel lane to help people driving avoid from veering into the bike lane and people biking avoid some veering into the travel lane.”

Bemis leads bike safety projects for Tucson. He says a company called Zicla introduced Zebras in European cities several years ago.

Now Tucson’s trying them on Main to see if they do a good job of keeping bikes and cars in safe, separate lanes. Bemis says the city’s tried a variety of ways to separate cyclists and drivers. At about 75 dollars per bump the Zebras could be a bit cheaper than other bike lane dividers and may be easier to maintain.

JJ Bicycles is the closest bike shop to the Zebras on Main Avenue. Owner Jose Villegas hasn’t cycled by the Zebras but he has been through that area as a driver, and analyzed how it would be as a cyclist.

He says the Zebras seem like a safety boost for cyclists, especially when so many drivers don’t give driving their full attention.

“So it'd be super safe for the guy that is riding the bike. Okay, especially now that everybody's on the phones and nobody's paying attention and then just going off the lane.”

But he does worry about drivers losing control if they hit the humps.

Andy Bemis says the city will spend about a year seeing how the zebras perform before it decides whether to put them in somewhere else.

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Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing craig.smith@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.