Seventh Avenue in downtown Phoenix can create safety hazards when rude or inattentive drivers use them. That's true of any city street.
But the reversible lanes do something a standard street design cannot: They move traffic efficiently during weekday peak hours, easing congestion and reducing pollution. This outweighs hazards, real or perceived.
For that reason, Phoenix should keep the reversible lanes but make improvements to lower the risks. It's a decision the City Council should have made last week instead of passing it off to a committee. The key points now are:
• Better signage: Most commuters grasp the concept of reversible lanes: Use the center turn lane as a southbound lane during m orning peak hours and as a northbound lane during evening peak hours. But current signs are easy to overlook. The city should add overhead electronic signals that flash a green arrow or a red "X," depending on the time of day.
• Other remedies: More left-turn opportunities are necessary. This would please residents and merchants who say reversible lanes cause accidents and limit access to their homes or businesses.
• Traffic: A struggling economy and light rail give the appearance that traffic is improving on these streets, reducing the need for reversible lanes. But once the economy picks up, traffic will pick up, too.
• Cost: The citizens committee created by the City Council will study the problem, identifying a funding source and presenting recommendations by the end of the year.
Those who oppose the lanes, which have been in use for three decades, could be tempted to use the budget crunch to scrap them. Yes, any changes to improve reversible lanes will require money. But scrapping the lanes would be a disservice to Phoenix.
Reversible lanes serve the greater good. They must be retained and tweaked to accommodate a vibrant downtown.