Officials, bicyclists laud speed change, safety improvements
Originally published by Kyle B. Hansen, Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | 2:51 p.m.
Motorists who like taking high-speed tours of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area better watch how fast they are driving.
The speed limit on State Route 159 through the area is now 50 mph. The Nevada Department of Transportation announced the change this morning at a news conference at the Red Rock overlook.
The stretch of road, which loops from Charleston Boulevard in Summerlin down to Blue Diamond Road, is popular with bicyclists as well as tourists going to Red Rock, but the road has also gotten more traffic as the valley has grown.
Cyclists have taken note, and some of them decided to take action.
“Cycling is a big part of my life and every time I get on the bike I think about safety,” said Henderson resident Zane Marshall.
Marshall, who is a member of local cycling clubs and on an amateur team, sent an e-mail to his elected representatives with a list of bicycle-safety concerns.
His state senator, Shirley Breeden (D-Henderson), responded and introduced a bill to try and solve some of the cyclists’ concerns on State Route 159 and declare the road a safety speed zone.
“It’s a major destination,” Marshall said. “It’s one of the top cycling roadways in Southern Nevada.”
Marshall testified before two legislative committees to help get the bill passed.
“Speaking in front of the legislative body was a new experience. I have very simple concerns and issues so it’s an easy thing to talk about,” he said.
Breeden said she worked with the transportation department and other groups to create a bill that would satisfy as many people as possible.
“Every legislator voted for and passed this bill. It was unanimous from the committees to the voting on the floor,” she said. “This was such an important bill and everyone recognized the importance of public safety that it was a huge success.”
And Marshall said he is pleased so far with the results.
“It’s a great thing. NDOT has done a significant amount of work out here to make this area safer and reducing the speed limit is another significant change that I personally believe will make a difference in the safety of this roadway,” he said. “If it saves one life then it was more than worth it.”
Breeden said she thinks the lower speed limit will have an impact.
“Red Rock is a national treasure and it attracts over 1 million visitors per year,” she said. “Reducing the speed limit from 60 miles per hour to 50 miles per hour, as it is now, will help save lives.”
The bill did not specify a new speed limit, but directed the transportation department to conduct a speed study and install other safety measures.
The department has already widened shoulders along parts of the road to make more room for bicyclists. It also installed new signs and road markers, added new cattle guards and built wildlife fencing along the highway.
In the coming months, the department will also install three permanent radar speed signs to tell motorists how fast they are going.
“A lot of people found this to be a cut through. It saves time, you get right into the core of the Las Vegas Valley, and so you had a lot of vehicles and a lot of speed and that’s great, that’s like one of the normal roads, but it also is more than that — it’s a scenic byway,” said NDOT director Susan Martinovich. “You have more conflicts with recreational use and vehicles and that’s where it needs to be treated differently than other sorts of highways.”
Regional Transportation Commission General Manager Jacob Snow rode his bike to Wednesday’s event.
“This is a multi-mobile corridor. I remember biking on this corridor for years when the shoulder was not as wide as it is now, and when the speed limit was faster than it is now,” he said.
“We think that cycling is an important part of our community,” Snow said. “We need to work with every partner we can to make cycling safer in this community and more welcome in this community and we have a strong commitment to doing that.”