Tucson cyclists often at odds with police

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Every Tuesday in Tucson, hundreds of bicyclists gather at the University of Arizona and ride "en masse" through downtown.

Some call the spectacle fun, but Tucson police call some riders' behavior unsafe.

The Old Pueblo is considered by many to be a bicycle friendly town, especially near the University of Arizona.

Just ask avid cyclist Mike McKisson, "It's a blast and it's a lot of fun. When you're a cyclist and when you're around other cyclists it's just a joy."

Periodically, McKisson joins other cycling enthusiasts for the Tuesday night bike ride, "The Tuesday night bike ride was started a couple years ago by a group of friends who decided that they wanted to go for a bike ride on one of their friends' birthdays."

Since then it's grown considerably to the tune of several hundred participants.

"Probably between 200-300 riders out last night," says McKisson.

McKisson covers cycling news in Tucson for tucsonvelo.com. He shot video Tuesday night to see if anything would happen on the ride.

What he documented were instances where cyclists disobeyed traffic laws.

Tucson police saw the violations as well.  "Some cyclists were actually issued citation for moving violations. I believe those stemmed from either violations of failure to stop for stop signs or red lights, as well as equipment violations for not having proper lighting equipment," says Sgt. Matt Ronstadt of the Tucson Police Dept.

McKisson's take on why that happens is that none of the cyclists want to be left behind, "So they just keep going through the intersection."

TPD Sergeant Jerry Skeenes hopes to get people from the bicycling community in touch with officers from the downtown division, "The idea is to come together and have some voluntary compliance with the laws and provide them with information that may allow them to do their ride safely."

If one of the options is a police escort, McKisson says the cyclists won't go for that, "The riders didn't enjoy themselves having the police officers around and feeling like they were being watched."

TPD's goal is for the cyclists to police themselves.

Police say they haven't set a date yet as to when they'll meet with the people involved with the Tuesday night bike ride.

In the meantime, TPD has received a $44,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety that will go toward improving bicycle and pedestrian safety in Tucson.