Tucson’s 131 mile loop complete after 35 years.

Cyclists riding on The Loop during its completion celebration on March 17. Photo by Christian Torres/Arizona Sonora News Service.

Tucson’s completion of 131 miles of connected bike routes called The Loop marks a victory for all bike and trail enthusiasts by keeping them off the streets populated with motor vehicles.

The Loop is a series of bike routes that connect parks like Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano River. There is a big loop circling the center of Tucson as well as having separate strands that parallel the I-10 starting from Marana and another that leads to Oro Valley.

Based on the map of The Loop, each section is bisected into river parks and greenways.

The project spanned for almost 35 years starting off as a flood control project after disastrous floods on October 1983.

After the floods, Pima County Flood Control District invested in building soil-cement banks through waterways to keep the community from flooding. This construction led to the creation of The Loop as a project.

The value of the damage the flood cost included $226.5 million, with $64 million going to public facilities, bridge repairs, bank protection, sewer mains, major water lines, etc. As of January 31st, 2018, the City of Tucson has an estimate of $354 million in insurance relating to floods.

According to Andy Dinauer, division manager for the Pima County Flood Control District, each segment of the loop cost around $110,000 to $150,000 per mile.

“Not only was this a flood control project, but you get a loop project as well,” said Dinauer. “We’ve withstood several floods since 83 with no property damage, so the investment we made in the flood control infrastructure over time has worked.”

The main loop that does a ragged oval around Tucson through the Santa Cruz River Park, Rillito River Park, Pantano River Park, Harrison Greenway, and the Julian Wash Greenway is a total of 53.9 miles.

The Rillito River Park from Santa Cruz to Craycroft Road totals to 11.9 miles.

Santa Cruz River Park from Valencia Road to Avra Valley Road totals 24.5 miles. This road parallels the I-10.

Pantano River Park from Harrison Greenway to Rillito River Park comes down to 8.5 miles.

The roads in Harrison Greenway between the Julian Wash Greenway to Sellarole Street is a total of 6.4 miles.

The Julian Wash Greenway between Santa Cruz River Park to the Harrison Greenway is 14.7 miles.

Canada del Oro River Park between Santa Cruz River Park to Tangerine Road comes to 10.9 miles.

Cyclist Advocates of Southern Arizona (CASAz) is a volunteer organization that focuses on the safety of cyclists that use Southern Arizona roads. Their goal is to influence any decision making in hopes to make it equal and safe for bike riders on roads.

“It’s a wonderful multi use pathway where cyclists can escape the dangers of riding on roads and feel totally comfortable and at ease with a beautiful surrounding,” said Doug Bauman, president of CASAz. “From a cyclist’s point of view, besides safety, it’s a good place for new cyclists to develop their skills, for families to cycle, and it is ideal for all age groups.”

The Greater Arizona Bike Association (GABA) has taken advantage of the loop by hosting rides almost every day. Douglas Horn, a bike swap coordinator for GABA and board member, takes advantage of these rides since they offer more than riding on the same lanes with motor vehicles.

“It’s designed with cycling as a priority,” said Horn. “It’s designed with cycling as a priority rather than pedestrians. Pedestrians respect the fact that there are cyclists sharing the road. I find them considerate of people on bikes.”

The Loop celebrated its completion on March 17th since its start in 1983. The Loop the Loop is an oncoming celebration that will be introducing the “El Tour” season on September 15th and ending on November 15th.

“This is a victory for the biking community because we get people off the streets,” says Doug Bauman.

“The Loop connects every segment of the community. If you ride the entire thing, you travel through every socioeconomic category in the region, and people from every walk of life, every neighborhood in the county use that. That’s kinda cool.” said Dinauer.

Cristian Torres is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at ctorres@email.arizona.edu

Click here for a word version of this story and high resolution photos.

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