The city of Phoenix will be launching a study in the coming months to determine whether reverse lanes still serve a purpose in the areas where they currently run along between 7th Street and 7th Avenue.
The study will look at their effectiveness and ways that the city can improve safety along those roads.
“Specifically looking at new technologies to see if we can improve it, are the lanes working? Is there even a reason that we should potentially take them out,” said Carl Langford, Traffic Engineer Supervisor for Operations with the Street Department of Transportation for the City of Phoenix.
The reverse lanes, more commonly known as “suicide lanes” run along 7th Street between McDowell and Dunlap, and along 7th Avenue between McDowell and Northern. They have been around since the 70’s and were put in to help traffic flow in and out of the downtown area.
Reverse lanes aren’t a new concept. Phoenix was one of the first city’s to introduce them but they are found throughout many cities across the country.
“They’re in different configurations throughout the United States,” Langford said.
“I don’t drive in those lanes,” said Emily Menard.
Menard drives up and down 7th Street daily to and from work and says she will avoid those lanes at all costs because she has seen too many close calls.
“I do think they should take them away,” Menard said.
Luis Garcia also uses that street daily and also says he sees near collisions every day.
“Last week I was actually going in the suicide lane and there was a car waiting to turn from the other side and I had to kinda swerve around it and avoid a head-on collision,” Garcia said.
However, he says that they should stay because they are an essential benefit to the city.
“I like them as long as you know the rules,” Garcia added.
From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. traffic moving southbound can use that lane. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. the direction changes and only vehicles moving northbound can hop on into that center middle lane. All other times It can be used to make left turns.
Left turns are not allowed at all arterial streets and intersections; however, left-turns are allowed into driveways and non-signalized streets.
In 2011, the city installed newer signs and improved graphics overhead to help indicate the reverse lane hours of operation, their direction, and when left-turns are and aren’t allowed.
As the city grows, Langford said adding more lanes onto roads will become difficult to do and Phoenix will have to get creative with the way it uses current roads to handle a growing population with limited space to move. Phoenix may actually see more reverse lanes, not less in the future.
“Reverse lanes are just one example of how they did that in the 70’s and how we’re still doing that today and we’re just evaluating how we can better do that in the future,” said Langford.
That study that will be done in a few months will play a big role in how the city addresses reverse lanes now and in the future.
For more information on reverse lanes, click here.