Friday, April 17, 2015

Get Your Kicks On Old (Bicycle) Route 66

Stealing from Patrick O'Grady's site, The New Mexico Touring Society, New Mexico Bicyclist Educators and the Adventure Cycling Association are throwing a hoedown on Sunday at Balloon Fiesta Park, right down in the Duke City, to celebrate the new Bicycle Route 66 with presentations and speechifying, New Mexican grub and (of course) a bit of cycling. Go to Patrick's site for more details.

The route map and sponsor list is here. Meanwhile, enjoy the music.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

League of American Bicyclists Puts Cleats to the Pedals to Review Santa Fe's Silver Bicycle Friendly Community Status

BCNM board member and urban planner Tim Rogers (l), 
a city/county staffer (c) and LAB's Stephen Clark (r) 
tour the City Different
Here, at the Rail Trail crossing at St. Michaels
"...I’ve had fewer negative interaction with motorists here in six months than I did when we lived in Santa Fe. It’s not scientific, but I’m inclined to credit the extensive bike infrastructure..."  Patrick O'Grady, in his comments on Albuquerque's proposed 50 mile bike loop. (Patrick lived in Santa Fe in the 1980's, racing bikes and writing for the New Mexican)

Stephen Clark, the Bicycle Friendly Community Specialist for the League of American Bicyclists, was in the City Different yesterday to pitch the bennies of bicycle-friendly community status to the Mayor, Council, and some of the local city, county and state staff and bicycle advocacy community** and to do a cleats on the pedal tour of the city from a cyclist's perspective. Figuring it was easier for me to spend a few hours relaxing sick in Santa Fe rather than put in a 9 hour day being sick at work or being restless at home (thank Campagnolo for Cipro), I drove down and did about five miles of easy riding on the Long Haul Trucker with Steve and some city and bikie folks looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Some of the good. New gates and lights on Zia 
rail-trail crossing. From the New Mexican article
 The good included the many quiet if narrow streets in the older parts of town and the relatively recently and greatly expanded trail networks in progress. Its been a non-starter to convince the State DOT to make "the bad and the ugly" stroads like Cerrillos, St. Francis, and St. Michaels bicycle-friendly (assuming that is even possible), so pathways such as the Rail Trail, River Trail, Acequia Trail, etc. are put into service as alternative connectivity. I'm never fond of having to cobble together bike paths as substitutes for complete streets, but one does what one has to do while negotiating change and those trails are a lot more amenable to riding than getting into dogfights with driving-while-texting motorists in hulking SUVs on a high speed stroad.

Nice view of the Rail Trail, pic courtesy of Steve Clark
Given these paths are by definition basic transportation routes, they deserve high quality safety systems; these increasingly are provided by important touches such as the gates and lights at pathway RR crossings such as at Zia, Cerrillos, and St. Michaels. Sadly, the fast, six lane stroad ped crossing where the Rail Trail crosses St. Mikes, while having a protected center island refuge, is otherwise unregulated. The adjacent roadway RR crossing makes that a difficult but not impossible problem; one would probably need a couple of doglegs on the trail crossing to enable stopping cars safely. As Steve and most of us agreed, the present situation could be a real show stopper to many peds and bicyclists, at least when traffic is heavy (which is much of the time).
Lunch at the original 2nd Street Brewery was quite tasty!
So while I supported (and still do) Santa Fe's Silver application, I don't know how it will advance further up the noble metal route without some changes in the relationship with the NMDOT. Given that the DOTs stroads cut up Santa Fe like a freshly butchered chicken, it seems hard to make the City Different a platinum quality bike gem without some serious change in how the state handles its highways when then enter a city, or by either yanking the jurisdiction entirely and calming these highways or finding a way to bridge, parallel, or bypass them efficiently. Heck, even the state Bike-Ped coordinator seemed a little too accommodating to the rude treatment the state hands non-motorists when a state route cuts into a city's lifeblood. Then again, I don't ride a mile in her cleats.

Its an admittedly tough problem balancing all the interests when a heavily used highway enters a town, but unless getting people (not just people in cars) across and along the street is as important as moving trucks and cars cross the state, we have sacrificed urban connectivity to long range transport. Strong Town's Chuck Marohn (PE, AICP) doesn't think stroads should exist, period, for a variety of reasons he can explain better than I. Alternatively, I mentioned a concept I've been mulling over in BombTown with Trinity Drive, i.e., Complete Corridors. Basically, one has to find an ingenious way to provide equivalent bicycling and walking connectivity along a major corridor, either by calming the arterials or by hopping, paralleling, or bypassing them. Such an idea takes some ingenuity and (a lot of) money but suggests that rather than trying to pound a square bikeway into a round stroad, there may be a smarter solution. To go gold or beyond, its worth finding it. I suppose one could look at the right of way along something like St. Francis and engineer a buffered bikeway--left to me, I would snatch a couple lanes back. Or, suggest something else. I'll toss that to the folks who live there and know way more than I do.
Here, a narrow cut-through on the Acequia Trail connects to streets and a neighborhood north of Cerrillos near the Cerrillos-St. Francis intersection. Stephen Newhall (yellow jacket), a BCNM Board member and manager at Rob and Charlie's Bike Shop, leads the way through as the LAB's Stephen Clark, Tim, yours truly and others prepare to follow. We saw several cyclists use this priceless connectivity to make the trails network work when riding from their communities. But as someone noted, a bike trailer would probably not fit.
Thanks to all who attended, helped, or were invited due to their involvement and persistence in making Santa Fe a better place to live, work, and oh yes, ride a bike. Thanks to Bob Siqueiros, the City's Railyards Project Administrator and BTAC Liason, for herding the cats and Tim Rogers for planning the route. The list of invitees is below (I crashed the party late), along with a group shot taken at the Plaza.
Photo courtesy of Tim Rogers

**Javier Gonzales, Mayor (Tentative)
Patti Bushee, City Councilor
Bicycle Trails Advisory Committee BTAC (3)
Gretchen Grogan
Shelley Robinson
Paul Cooley
Ron Pacheco
Leroy Pacheco, City Engineering Staff
Melissa McDonald, Engineering Staff
Robert Siqueiros, BTAC Liaison
Maria Lohmann, County Trail Staff
Rosa Kosab, NM State Staff
Tim Rogers, SFCT, Trails Program Manager
Bob Ward, REI Store Manager
Chainbreakers Staff, Tomas Rivera (BTAC)
Keith Wilson, MPO Staff
Stephen Newhall – Educator/Public Advocate
Santa Fe Fat Tires Society Representative(s)
Bicycle Technologies Inc. Representative(S)

"What do you expect us to die of? Old age? "
--Hub McCann, in Secondhand Lions

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What LA Monitor Opinion Writer Harold Morgon Does Not Understand About Bicycling Infrastructure

Bicycle "Cultist" and former Laboratory Director Harold Agnew
Although Harold Morgon's "Fixing Roads Is Better Than Building Bicycling Underpass" in last week's Los Alamos Monitor seems more political agit-prop than analysis (referring to cyclists as a cult, and to the funding of bike facilities as the spending orgies of liberal Democrats), it's worth, in its wake, reviewing a few things about bicycle infrastructure.

Morgon overlooks that transportation is about moving people to where they need to go.  To create an efficient system, the tool should fit the need.  For short distances, bicycles work well as people movers. By contrast, short distance driving is not particular good for the car, the human, or the built environment. Such driving is often referred to as "severe use" as it doesn't give the vehicle's lubricating fluids time to heat up and drive out volatiles. For the human, sedentary lifestyles lead to a host of health problems. Finally, someone (customers, storekeepers, the local government) has to pay to store cars; as land values go up, storing cars drives up the cost of government and of doing business. So building a "complete" transportation system that gives people maximum options, including bicycling, can have an attractive cost benefit ratio and lead to a culture where bike mode share can approach the level seen in some European cities. The League of American Bicyclists notes that many Bicycle Friendly Communities, including Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Denver and Lexington, Ky., have more than doubled their bike commuter share since 2000.
BombTown from the air: note all the space devoted to parking cars

As far as whether special facilities are needed to provide safety, New Mexico ranks second only to Florida in statewide fatality rates of bicyclists. This is due to a variety of factors including drug and alcohol use by motorists and poor facility design. Albuquerque, for example, has designed its surface transportation system around high speed, very wide arterials that attempt to maximize motor vehicle level of service but which make a cyclist vulnerable to being overlooked in fast traffic, where a crash can be devastating since impact speed directly correlates with bicyclist and pedestrian fatality rates. This sort of urban design, which overlooks non-motorist safety, has in retrospect, necessitated targeting key problem situations with separate facilities to provide a safety margin for cyclists. In this context, the occasional  million dollar bicycle facility that solves a problem created by the construction of multimillion to multibillion dollar fast arterials and interstate highways is a necessary part of the transportation system. 

Finally, it is misleading and inaccurate to say that we can fix our roads by cancelling a few high profile bike facilities. A recent FHWA report states that the U.S. needs to increase spending on our roadway network by some 25 to 50 billion dollars a year just to fix what is broken. Morgon admits that fixing one New Mexico highway alone will cost close to 200 million dollars. Cancelling a million dollar bike project would not even be noticed. Plus, such illogical thinking would result in putting more cars on the road in urban areas, increasing the pressure on a crumbling system. To fix those potholes and creaky bridges, we need to both prioritize what to fix and raise the funds to do so, either by raising the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993, or tapping into the general fund, which bicyclists pay into via Federal, State, and local taxes.Or both.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How To Kill With A Car, The Story Continues....

Matt Trujillo
 Following up on last night's post about the dangerous driver, someone at work sent me this:

"About 3 weeks or so ago, one of our engineers observed a driver on Pajarito road that appeared to be drunk.  As he was leaving work at TA-55 heading east, he observed a Nissan Maxima in front of him wandering back and forth across the road.  He followed the car down to White Rock.  The car headed north on NM 4 and went down off the hill.  Between TA-55 and the light in WR, this car ran two west bound cars off into the dirt (off past the wide paved shoulder) on Pajarito and hit both curbs several times heading north on NM4 in WR along the new section with center divider.  Our engineer got a license number and called 911 and also LANL security and gave them the license.  Hard to imagine a drunk LANL worker with a badge driving on Pajarito."
Drunk? Texting? Putting on mascara? Nothing surprises me. 

Its not too hard to imagine people getting the willies about bicycling, even on six foot bike lanes or wide shoulders, when one sees and hears this stuff. Heck, even David Anderson was not safe when  a careless driver autocrossed off the road and through a barrier to kill Anderson on a nearby bike path in Albuquerque. 

Sadly, when I wrote to Chief Sgambellone last night reporting the incident with last night's wobbly driver, the Chief said such stories were not surprising to him or the force and that they see plenty of it. One wonders when an inept, careless, inattentive, reckless, or drunk driver will next intersect with a pedestrian or bicyclist. 

If you see them, don't be shy. Call 9-1-1 and get these clowns off the road. It could be your own life you ultimately save.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Does Careless Driving Become Dangerous Driving?

You tell me. Meanwhile, I sent this note to our Chief of Police.

Shit like this doesn't just happen in Albuquerque
Dear Chief Sgambellone

I was riding my motorcycle home today and was behind a motorist on Diamond Drive near the High School who was driving extremely carelessly. Driving towards the Diamond Roundabout, she was about half the time entirely in the bike lane, randomly weaving in and out of it erratically and slower than the speed limit. Thankfully there were no bicyclists there until I got to "Conoco Hill", i.e., Diamond and Arkansas. There I saw a bicyclist who I know riding home from LANL.

Looking back, I could still see the wayward motorist weaving all over the place. I positioned my motorcycle parallel to the rider and gave him a heads up, staying there until the motorist changed lanes to pass me.

 I hope you let the patrol officers know that such driving is not only potentially dangerous to cyclists, but has a chilling effect on anyone contemplating using those bike lanes. Thanks for any help you can provide in having officers look out for such bad driving.

p.s. In case anyone called in asking why someone was riding a red BMW slowly in the right lane, this is the reason.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Platinum-Level Portland In Faceplant Mode With Mountainbiking

Illustration from link in text
I sent this out yesterday and subsequently edited it slightly out of embarrassment at some of its original flaws. For some background with additional links, go here.  Lucky we are that we have more trails than people, and that we live in a small enough place that life with the County is usually a little less jarring. It seems that even with the Portland mountainbike folks working with the City, brown stuff happened.

Andy Clarke
President, League of American Bicyclists


Dear Andy

 I live in a mountain biking mecca and know how devastating it would be for local government to restrict seriously, without due process, our trail facilities. I have to agree that putting Portland on notice, up to and including reconsidering its Platinum level status, is reasonable if the situation is as grim as you explain in your letter to the Mayor (readers should go to the LAB links above to read it).

Bicycling comprises transportation, recreation, and competition. Mountain biking provides a safe and wonderful off road opportunity for people of all abilities and especially for those who are not comfortable in traffic. In Los Alamos, mountainbiking is likely the major form of bicycling given our spectacular off road resources. So mountain biking is definitely part of our League of American Bicyclists mission, and we need to represent and advocate for the off road community. If LAB thinks that mountain biking is being mistreated, especially in a Bicycle Friendly Community, it is no different than if other parts of the cycling community are being mistreated, and we should act.

I have long advocated that LAB consider downgrading a Bicycle Friendly designation if an entity (state, city, business) deliberately fails to live up to the expectations of the ranking, whether it be bronze or platinum. I applaud the League for putting that potential response on the table. We don't want to lose influence with these cities, but neither do we want to be taken for granted and be trampled on. Thank you.

Khal Spencer