Originally published by Alan Snel, LV Sports Biz
The Las Vegas area has its fair share of paved bicycle trails. Las Vegas’ sprawling suburban neighbor, Henderson, is the City of Trails, with strips of pavement for bicyclists just about everywhere across the giant Second City from St. Rose Parkway to East Lake Mead Parkway to the popular River Mountains Loop Trail.
There’s also an expanding paved trail along the 215 beltway in Summerlin that has been growing north along the beltway to North Las Vegas. There’s even the urban Bonanza Trail in the city of Las Vegas, which runs kind of parallel to Summerlin Parkway.
But if there was ever a road that needs a parallel paved trail for safety purposes it’s State Route 159, the corridor that runs through scenic and very popular Red Rock Canyon that was the tragic scene of a fatal two-car crash Sunday morning that claimed the lives of two people in one car, left a third person in critical condition in a second car and also involved a bicyclist on the SR 159 westbound shoulder who avoided a potential serious injury by jumping off the bicycle. (Or as Nevada High Patrol Trooper and public information officer Travis Smaka put it, he “evacuated” the bicycle. The bicyclist was OK with minor injuries after the car landed on the bicycle.)
It happened about 8:20 a.m. yesterday on SR 159 near the BLM entrance for the Red Rock scenic drive toll near Mile Marker 11. An eastbound motorist driving a Lexus appeared to be making a U-turn on SR 159 and crossed into the path of a westbound driver in a Subaru heading in the opposite direction. The Subaru struck the passenger side of the Lexus, with the crash claiming the lives of the driver and a passenger in the Lexus attempting the U-turn and causing the Lexus to roll, Trooper Smaka told LVSportsBiz.com. The two people in the second car, the Subaru, (who happen to be bicyclists) were injured, with a woman in critical condition airlifted to University Medical Center and a man who was driving the Subaru taken by ambulance with non-life threatening injuries.
Even before this tragedy happened, I was talking last week with Red Rock community leader Heather Fisher, a Blue Diamond resident who has been working on a trail loop project through Red Rock Canyon for years. We were talking about the need for a paved trail because so many tourists are visiting the gorgeous Red Rock scenery just west of Summerlin and so many motorists are zooming along SR 159 through Red Rock Canyon, moving at 60 mph next to bicyclists of all experiences, backgrounds and types pedaling along the 159 shoulder. In July, I reported a story about a westbound motorist on 159 who drifted onto the shoulder and sideswiped two bicyclists. The bicyclists were not injured seriously.
Fisher told me, “Red Rock Canyon is getting crowded. Parking lots are overflowing. On Sunday, in a multi-car accident, a couple of people died and a biker jumped off his bike right before a flying car smashed it. A separated multi-user bike path will be a great asset to Southern Nevada. It will serve to reduce automobile traffic, increase fitness and safety, disperse recreation, alleviate congestion and impact, improve visitors’ experience, and connect communities. We are designing a solution to Red Rock’s biggest issue by building a world-class experience.”
Red Rock Canyon draws both Las Vegas area locals and visitors from California, Utah, Arizona and the rest of the U.S. and from overseas. Just look at the license plates of cars travelling through the canyon corridor and entering the scenic drive entrance. Visitors are coming from all over the western United States to enjoy the marvelous and unique open-space, public landscapes that are remarkably close to the development and sprawl of a major metropolitan area such as Las Vegas.
If a trail was built, experienced road bicyclists would continue using the SR 159 shoulder, which ranges in width from five to 10 feet.
But the paved trail that would run along 159 would provide space for many runners who are hoofing along the corridor and also for many neophyte and inexperienced bicyclists who are spooked by motorists operating vehicles moving a minimum speed of 50-60 mph just a few feet from the left shoulders of bicyclists pedaling on the SR 159 shoulders. There are also many tourists and local walkers alike who would stroll along a paved trail next to SR 159.
There should be a paved trail of four miles from Summerlin to the BLM scenic drive toll entrance and then have that trail go another eight miles from the BLM toll road entrance to Blue Diamond, which is a popular destination for bicyclists and tourists. A trail can be built along the public right-of-way.
This trail project should be a cooperative effort, just like how the cities of Henderson and Boulder City worked with the feds at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to create the spectacular River Mountains Loop Trail.
This Red Rock Canyon trail is needed to serve both tourists and Summerlin locals — so both the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and Summerlin developer Howard Hughes Corporation should share the trail construction costs with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Clark County.
The LVCVA is paying $80 million to Howard Hughes Corporation for a $150 million ballpark in Summerlin to serve locals when, in fact, the LVCVA is a tourism agency charged with attracting visitors to Southern Nevada. If the LVCVA is going to spend public dollars on tourism, then commit your public dollars to a project that serves visitors — a paved bicycle trail through Red Rock Canyon.
Howard Hughes Corporation, the Texas-based master developer of Summerlin, needs to contribute money to build the trail, too, because its Summerlin residents would also use the trail.
This trail is not just for recreation; that is, it’s a necessary safety feature, so Clark County needs to chip in, too.
And obviously, the Red Rock federal land users will be in the canyon, so the BLM has to pay its fair share.
The Red Rock Canyon Trail is is not a new idea because Fisher has worked more than a decade on a trail loop project, which would include the Red Rock Canyon corridor.
There’s no time to waste when lives are literally at stake along State Route 159 in Red Rock Canyon.
Fisher said that she and others were scheduled to meet Howard Hughes Corporation to discuss trail issues this week even before Sunday’s tragic car crash on SR 159. She noted there is movement afoot to build a trail from Summerlin to the BLM scenic road entrance, but it’s unclear when construction begins or whether the project is actually on a construction schedule.
Let’s not wait for more safety problems and tragic news to happen. It’s time to be proactive and take the steps to make Red Rock Canyon a safer place.
Build the trail now.