Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Trail Riding Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The City Different has put itself into another minor skirmish over how to spend a little over a quarter million dollars left over from a 2008 trail bond. The decision involves two issues. One, that the bond was voted on to support projects in the 1st District and two, that there are compelling social justice and transportation planning issues for moving the funds to the South side. Here, according to the New Mexican, are the two options:

Option A: Connect the 25-mile La Tierra Trails system in the city’s northwest quadrant with the Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park, a popular north-side play space for residents and their pups. Restrooms, shade structures, picnic tables and drinking fountains would be installed at the trailhead. (Note added: connecting to the Dog Park would probably increase parking at the dog park. Not sure it would reduce the number of cars being driven to trailheads very much. Is there a study?)

Option B: The Tierra Contenta Trail on the far southwest side needs a 0.4-mile connector segment to link the growing mixed-income neighborhood with South Meadows Road, where a pair of public schools sit, and eventually to Camino Entrada, the Santa Fe Place mall and points beyond. (Added note: observe on the map all the arterial and cul-de-sac development there, a transportation design which is usually not conducive to cycling, especially by less experienced cyclists. Such a design funnels large amounts of traffic onto heavily trafficked arterials, rather than providing multiple-option grid transportation patterns found in older parts of cities. In addition, to be truly useful as transportation and recreation, this trail should be connected to more destinations and cul-de-sac developments along its length using spur trails).

As far as the reallocation, here is my read. Beware of moving money around if the voters specifically earmark it for one job.  The City Different already has voters wary over the 30 million parks bond issue dustup. Although city spokesperson Matt Ross says that this reallocation can be done, I'd like to hear that from the city attorney's office rather than an administration spokesperson. Meanwhile, city voters may be a little leery of voting future bond issues if subsequent decisions are made to use earmarked money for something else.

My dog in this fight...
although Cash was more a 
lover than a fighter.
 As far as the relative value of the projects? I live in the 1st District and ride La Tierra trails a lot. So I have a dog in this fight, seen on the left here.  So do a lot of other cyclists, given the constant stream of bicycles I see being pedaled passed my house on Camino de las Crucitas. If these numbers are a vote of confidence, the system works pretty well as it is. To me, it is a wonderful resource as it is today. I would recommend fixing the broken pavement edges on Buckman road (and a few locations on Camino de las Montoyas) and some day, if the state doesn't fix it first, continue a paved path from the NM 599 bicycle underpass to Camino de las Montoyas so road bikers don't have to pray the rosary when crossing 599  at grade. As far as increased use or a magnet for tourism? Maybe, but we have to balance the desire for tourists with the needs of the folks who live here.

And on that note, the South side has been undergoing more development, including affordable housing. Those folks need connections and resources too and perhaps there is an undercurrent of thinking, elucidated by Tom├ís Rivera of the Chainbreaker Collective, that the nice upscale folks on the North side get first pick at the goodies. So on the social justice scale, Option B wins hands down. On yet another scale of spending money on facilities that have dual transportation and recreation components, Option B wins too. As Councilor Chris Rivera was quoted as saying, “Right now, they (people in his district) don’t have that (access to different parts of the city),”  “Right now, it’s a challenge to take your bike from Tierra Contenta and ride it downtown, and this would make it much easier.” With schools, kids, and a need for active living on Mr. Rivera's side of town, we need to make sure everyone in the City Different has a similar size bite of the bike path.

I think a very good case can be made for reallocating the money to the South side and its pretty easy to argue that this is money spent on the greater good, given that La Tierra is already a damn nice resource. I also suggest that Council put more money into grade-separated connectivity where needed so folks can get around Santa Fe as seamlessly on a bike as we can in our cars. Especially as we develop in new areas where we have the tendency to be auto-centric in our development.

Meanwhile, I will go ride my bikes.
Salsa La Cruz 'cross bike shod with 700-40 Donnelly MSOs
Works great on those La Tierra trails

Exploring the far side of La Tierra trails on the Stumpjumper

Sunday, June 24, 2018

None Shall Pass...

None Shall Pass, Even For a Quick Look.
Honest, Ranger Smith. 
I'm just looking for my lungs.
 With much of the forest closed off due to Stage III fire restrictions, scoring a ride is becoming harder if one likes off-road amusement. My old trails in Bayo Canyon are apparently closed off, as is much of the mountain in Santa Fe. La Tierra trails and parts of Pajarito Mountain remain open.

Meanwhile, back in Fanta Se, all of the national forest pulloffs on Hyde Park Road were blocked off today, as was the overlook at the top, as I discovered after chugging up and looking for a place to rest, get rid of some oxygen deficit, and recuperate for the somewhat technical descent.

I suppose the alternative to the trails is, after all, a road ride. If one has a road bike and proper gears, that is easy enough. Indeed, with all the trails closed, bicycles seemed to outnumber motor vehicles on the ride up and back down Hyde Park Road today so it was a welcome change from the madhouse of busy weekends on the mountain, watching for some clueless tourist to swing in or out of one of the numerous pullouts  that happen to be on the far side of a hairpin curve during a fast descent.
West side of La Tierra Trails, which are open and fun

More stuff on the West side of La Tierra Trails

For those without a road bike, its not that hard to snag a pair of smooth tires or even a second wheelset and put them on the off road machine. I  did that, as shown below, a year point five ago when I had shoulder surgery and decided to fit my double boinger with road hoops so I could take advantage of suspension while the shoulder healed. My Mavic Speed City wheelset worked best, but I am not sure those are available any more. At least some suspension bikes allow one to lock out the suspension or put it on a firm setting, so one doesn't have to go boinging up the mountain. I think some of the recent high tech stuff even avoids the operator-induced boinging on its own.

But I suppose the bottom line is pray for rain.

The Stumpjumper in yet another incarnation,
fitted out with road hoops and smooth tread.

Friday, June 22, 2018

KSFR "Wake Up Call" Interviews Two Bicycling Advocates Regarding the Santa Fe Police Study of Bike Crashes

"This morning on KSKR’s Wake-Up Call, reporters Ellen Lockyer shares New Mexico reaction to Wednesday’s Executive Order from President Trump, ending his policy of separating families at the southern border. Also on the program, Tom Trowbridge discusses the recently-released City of Santa Fe study on bicycle crashes, which is getting the thumbs-down from local bicycle advocates. Also, the Marketplace morning report and a local news update."

Note that Tim and I didn't offer any thumbs; this was the lead-in to the interview. For the actual interview, I'll just redirect you to the station link for the recording. KSFR News Director Tom Trowbridge extracted the bike part into its own podcast.

And now, a word from our resident cartoonist, his Maddoggiest, Patrick O'Grady.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"How Many Idiots Can There Be? Some Say Its One Out of Three..."

With all the recent sturm und drang regarding bicycling crashes in Santa Fe and the need for safer cycling, we can't simply throw time and money at problems. Especially if people are doing their level headed best to defeat the existing safety system, as rickety as it might be.

Tonight while walking the dog, we were passing through the Alamo and Camino de las Crucitas intersection, which has a four way stop. Crucitas is a very popular cycling route as it connects the city to the quiet country roads north and west of the urban center as well as to the La Tierra Trails. As we walked past the intersection, a bicyclist in tight lycra was barreling downhill on Crucitas from the west as fast as he could pedal, hunkered down on the drops. He simply blew through the four way stop without so much as looking for traffic. I think he was going between 30-40 mph.  I had barely contained my amazement at Mr. Testosterone when a lady in a midsize SUV likewise cruised through the four way at about 15-20 mph without slowing or braking or looking. Go figure.

Carlos Mencia had it right. We have a lot of Dee Dee Dees who think safety is someone else's problem. No amount of throwing scarce tax dollars at safety will stop the bloodshed as long as idiots think responsible behavior is for other people. Yeah, I know...getting that personal best time onto the laptop in the Tour de Strava is pretty damn important; its definitely more important than slowing down at a stop sign or thinking about consequences. Not sure what Blondie The SUV Girl was thinking. Maybe she was thinking about dinner. Or chasing Mr. Lycra.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Santa Fe Police Study of Bicycle Crashes: Are They Primarily "Somebody's Fault"?

Santa Fe bicycle crash map. 
Credits to SFPD and the New Mexican
The Monday New Mexican ran a front page story on a recent SFPD investigation of bicycle crashes in the City Different. I have a few concerns.

First, I was concerned that not a single member of the BTAC or any other cycling organization or cyclist was quoted for the article. I don't know if the reporter contacted cyclists or BTAC members. The result is a focus on who was at fault in crashes rather than on root causes such as how design affects behavior (flagrant use of cell phones and other forms of lawbreaking notwithstanding). I attended the May BTAC meeting where the police presented their study and indeed, it focused more on the actual crashes than on the role of design although the BTAC and audience members did bring design into the conversation. Also, before I forget, I don't think adding signage fixes bad underlying design. The sign on the hideous St. Francis/Cerrillos/Railrunner crossing warning cyclists not to crash on the tracks comes to mind, i.e., "we goofed, so don't get killed here".

My friend and fellow cycling advocate, 
the late Dr. Gail Ryba, 
worked tirelessly to improve cycling conditions 
for Santa Fe's cyclists and fought the NMDOT 
over its redesign of St. Francis Drive
Although we know that cycling crashes are under-reported unless there is death or serious injury involved, number of crashes reported to the police is the database that was presented.  That said, the article indicates that the police found cyclists and motorists about equally responsible for the causes of the crashes, which is consistent with what the League of American Bicyclists teaches in our classes.  What we don't know is how many cyclists are on the roads, i.e., how many crashes per total number of cyclists, which is a usual metric for safety. We also don't know how many minor crashes went unreported.

In a glaring omission perhaps understandable, no one questioned the role of infrastructure as bearing on "fault". That's not surprising because police are charged with deciding who made a mistake or committed a citeable offense that causes a crash, not whether the infrastructure is properly designed to be shared or whether design contributes to human failure or misuse. So looking at this study, its not surprising that Councilor Mike Harris thinks that operator error is the major problem.

But if you look at the crash map in the article, which I have included above, the major state managed arterials are heavily represented. Many studies have been written about the role of infrastructure in increasing or decreasing crash frequency and risk, i.e., the Vision Zero concepts. For example, as far as turning and crossing crashes, which the study said are a major cause of crashes, its hard enough for motorists and cyclists to see each other at a busy intersection but when you make the roads extremely wide such as the Cerrillos, St. Francis, and St. Michaels arterials, aka "stroads",  picking out small vehicles or pedestrians in busy traffic is even tougher on a wide multilane design. But to be fair, these three arterials are state roads under the jurisdiction of the State of New Mexico Dept. of Transportation, so its not clear to me if the city has the authority to change or influence the design.

The article says most cycling crashes involve male cyclists, but doesn't tell us whether the cycling population is overwhelmingly male. One might wonder if male cyclists are risk-takers. But at least some sources indicate that male road cyclists far outnumber female road cyclists in the U.S. so the proportion might just statistically represent each population within the city. We don't know.

I just moved here so I don't want to go around condemning people or institutions. That said, I spent a dozen years on the Los Alamos Transportation Board (often enough as chair or vice-chair), wrote or contributed to three urban bike plans and a complete streets ordinance, and am a longtime League Cycling Instructor who twice reviewed Santa Fe's Bicycle Friendly Community application.  I am a little perplexed that this article or the police study it covers did not take on a broader, deeper scope and talk to a few more people. The city has been making great strides in providing trails and other resources for cyclists but in a city where it is still more practicable to get from Here to There and Back Again on the roads, we need to pay attention to roadway design, not just decide who gets the traffic ticket.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 7, 2018

May 18th is Los Alamos Bike to Work Day

To celebrate bicycling as a green, fun, and healthy way to get to work, the Laboratory is providing coffee, tea, water, 100 Virgin Pulse points, and snacks to (LANL-badged) cyclists who roll up to the J. R. Oppenheimer Center, (TA-03, Bldg. 207), May 18, 7–9 a.m.

“The Lab sees more bicycles on the road during the summer weather, so this is a good opportunity to increase awareness for both motorists and cyclists. It is important that respect exist amongst all employees who utilize LANL roads—each of us wants to arrive home safely after each work day,” said Debra Garcia, Vehicle and Pedestrian Program Lead.

The County is providing coffee, water, snacks and prizes at the Lemon Lot from 7 to 9 a.m. on May 18. They’re also sponsoring a Community Bike Party at Ashley Pond on Wed., May 16, 4–6 p.m., with a kids’ bike rodeo, free hot dogs, and prizes.