Wednesday, July 23, 2014

NM State Rt 4 Realignment Study, White Rock. Recap

Ok, here is what I remember.

The consultant presented the overview for a possible realignment/widening of NM-4 between White Rock and La Cueva. Scott Eddings, a P.E. from Huitt-Zollars, did much of the presentation, sharing the stage with Eric Johnson of Marron and Associates. On the table were some right of way realignments, some very nice looking shoulder or bike lane treatments (I think 4 foot shoulders in addition to travel lanes) and a separate but related off road path to be built, in theory, by the Park Service as part of Bandelier National Park-see earlier posts regarding that here. Rep. Stephanie Garcia-Richards was there and we spoke.

Here were my comments, as well as I could remember them.

I commented that the most hazardous and busy part of NM4 is between White Rock and Truck Route/NM502, and it was implausible that a plan based on improving NM4 to make it safer would exclude this segment explicitly. The next busiest is between White Rock and Bandelier due to tourism and bus traffic. If priorities have to be made,  these realities should drive priorities. The consultants stated that this segment of NM4 currently has roughly 800 vehicles per day on it, but did not specify where these traffic counts were made. With such a low volume one does not have serious safety issues except in the 3 miles between Truck Route and White Rock where traffic counts are much, much higher given its a major conduit for LANL traffic as well as traffic between White Rock and points east.

Given the engineering drawings/designs showed standard shoulder treatments/shared shoulder/bike lanes in addition to travel lanes, I noted that the New Mexico Dept. of Transportation has repeatedly and flagrantly installed partial paving on road shoulders on many New Mexico highways that are heavily used by bicyclists including this road (I showed Scott Eddings the pictures I took of NM4 up in the Jemez, showing bad shoulder lips) and I repeatedly stated that NM-4 is a critical bicycle resource. If we get standardized width shoulders on NM4 but they are lip or partially paved or poorly designed, they will not serve cyclists and may actually make the road more hazardous. If defining them as bike lanes (travellled portion of the street and thus requiring a continuous profile) rather than shoulders changes the way they are paved, that could be a consideration.

Steep uphill segments would be better served if the road profile was biased with wide uphill shoulders at the expense of downhill shoulders, as downhill cyclists are travelling fast and using the lane to set up their line through curves. Uphill cyclists could use wide shoulders, making it easier for motorists to overtake them. Several in the audience howled not about bicyclists, but about overtaking R/Vs on steep grades.

I once again had to forcefully remind the Bandelier National Park staff that their proposed bike path would not serve fast recreational cyclists, but could readily serve more casual cyclists who do not ride there presently or who ride there intermittently and who want a separate facility. I stated that BCNM would likely object to the building of a grade separated bike path if the expressed purpose was to separate bicycle traffic from vehicle traffic, but that if built as an additional resource to encourage a more diverse ridership, this could work well.  A LANL representative stated that a grade separated bike path could require the approval to work around some 600 archeological sites, so that could be problematic for many reasons.

I asked, as did others, if there were projections of vehicles per day on this section of NM4 if NM126 is paved to Cuba, or if the Valles Caldera becomes a national park. These considerations have not been explicitly calculated, so its hard to justify improvements based on an economic model or traffic count change basis. This is a weakness of the current study. In order to spend a lot of money on NM4, it would really help to know what the return on investment would be in both safety and bringing dollars to the region. Neither economic projections nor traffic crash/near miss counts were included in this public informational talk.

The consultants indicated that if this is to happen, it will happen because a diverse clientele supports it and builds an economic rationale, not just a safety rationale. So this could work in favor of those who see this road as an economic and recreational resource, not just a way to move cars. Also, no funds have been appropriated for construction at this time. Rep.Garcia-Richards's support would be important if money is to be snagged. Stay tuned.

One other bicyclist (self identified) was there. Pretty piss poor showing given how many people ride this road.

Email Eric Johnson with comments.   eric at marroninc dot com


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Its Been 45 Years....Since Whitey Was First On The Moon...



Caught this on NPR this weekend. 45th Anniversary of the first moon landing.

I was glued to my parent's TV set in 1969, watching Whitey on the Moon.
We fled Buffalo, NY just before the riots hit, so I could watch Whitey on the Moon
Did some of my graduate work, courtesy of NASA,
With rocks Whitey found on the Moon
Its been 45 years and I'm bummed out that no one is back on the moon
and not much else has been solved back home
since Whitey was on the moon
I wish we had half the ambition we had putting Whitey on the Moon
We've almost doubled CO2 since whitey was on the moon
Income gap is worse than ever since whitey was on the moon
Chicago is as bad as Fallujah since whitey was on the moon
 So it seems these days we can't do Jack Shit
Except watch whitey politicians howl at the moon.
I think I'll just thank Gil Scott-Heron
For writing his song about Whitey on the Moon.
And hope someone can figure out
How to put people back on the Moon.
even metaphorically, of course. And not leaving anyone out.
Or stranded on the Moon.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Smith's Marketplace Looks Snazzy: Now, How About A Bike Rack Out Front?


Festivities, ho...
 Today was my day to get goodies for the folks in our coffee club, so I stopped at the new Smith's Marketplace just as they opened the doors. Huge store, looked like some good food and wine. Lots of household items. Fair number of bicycles and some accessories. From the looks of the opening, this was the biggest thing to hit Los Alamos since Oppenheimer came up here and kicked out the Boy's School. That said....

First thing I noted was the lack of a bike rack anywhere in sight, even though there are plenty of bicycles for sale. I asked a couple of the management-looking folks wearing nice suits and Kroeger's nametags. They looked at each other with this "Who dropped that ball??" look on their faces, so I suspect we might eventually see a rack or three.  I sure hope so, because the new place ain't exactly short on car parking and we keep being promised that new development in BombTown will not be entirely auto-centric.What also remains to be seen is how easy and safe it will be to cross Trinity as a pedestrian with a bag or two of groceries. We designed Central to make it easy to cross safely by narrowing the road and providing bulbouts. Now, Smiths is on the other side of a wide, 35 mph arterial from the rest of town. I'm also wondering how cyclists will arrive there. Many local cyclists are not terribly fond of riding Trinity, so I suspect we will see a lot of sidewalk riders or perhaps, folks riding on Central and crossing at a crosswalk. That all remains to be seen. What I'd like to see is that paved trail located on the south edge of the development continue west so that cyclists could ride down Central or Deacon St, and cross Trinity without having to ride on it, using Knecht or 15th to hook up with a "back door" bike path that would also avoid cyclists dodging cars in the parking lot. Such a trail could continue and provide connection between Townsite and Airport Basin. Not everyone is as willing to ride the length of Trinity and 502 as I am.

Plenty of parking...if you came in a car
Even though I still can't find #6 Melitta coffee filters on the Hill, the place was quite festive and welcoming--a whole lot more inviting than the old, small store and strongly reminiscent of the big, upscale Wegmans in North Buffalo, near my late uncle's home. Lots of free food and friendly, helpful faces. The wine selection looked quite nice, as did the home made type breads and the layout for organic produce (although I didn't check out the produce). I didn't have lots of time to spend, so got on with my search for pastries. There is a lot of space to explore.

After checking out, I took a quick look at the bike stuff. Not suprisingly, most or all of it seems to be Target-quality, and I wonder if Smith's did a market research study to see if that is appropriate for the local clientele. One adult bike I examined briefly, a Schwinn, had a badly adjusted front linear pull brake, with one arm pushed hard against the rim while the other was quite distant. Another had the brake pads badly misaligned with respect to the wheel rim. Seems someone did not balance the brake arm return spring tension or pad alignment on assembly of these bikes, so I suspect the local bike shops might get some work. I saw quite a few examples of bike accessories, but again, I didn't see any floor pumps that had Presta heads, only Schraeder. There were some frame pumps which I did not examine. Hmmm....hopefully these limited offerings will get sorted out. I wonder how hard it would be to carry a better floor pump that has both Schrader and Presta capability. The available stuff is clearly mass market, and will not compete with Local Bike Shop clientele or merchandise. It does clearly provide more consumer choice, but I wonder who will support these bicycles once they are on the roads and trails.

On leaving, I noted what looked like an extension of the Canyon Rim Trail on the South side of the new development. It disappaeared from view to the East and dead-ended to the West at a fenceline and there was a small blacktop sidepath hooking it up to dedicated "trail only" parking at the south side of the lot (most of which was filled with cars) so I assume one could ride the trail to the mall. I'm hoping this is a useful trail for getting cyclists around the poorly designed (for casual cyclists) NM502 and down towards Airport Basin. I have to explore that or wait to hear from one of you who has.

Hopefully, this new facility will be a success not only for Smith's but for other local merchants in making Bombtown a little less of a shopping desert. I sure hope so, anyway, given we are all indirectly on the hook with this new development.  As anyone following my blogs knows, I've long been a skeptic on whether Los Alamos has enough market to support a big store/mall and whether it will, in the long run, stop the leakage of money off the Hill. Well, I'll say one thing. If its there and I need it, I'll probably buy it up here rather than down there but if I need bike stuff, I probably won't find it in the current presentation.  Lisa Shin, meanwhile, asks which local businesses might be casualties of the "Wal-Mart Effect":

Letter to the Editor: Smith’s Marketplace Will Be The 'Wal-Mart Effect' On Main Street

Let's also hope they remember to put in that bike rack and down the road, provide more pedestrian and bicyclist-friendly way to connect the Marketplace to the rest of town. To some degree, this development was dictated by the location of the old LA Schools properties. In another way, its a failure of vision to have not provided better transportation amenities from the get-go to those who don't want to drive there. Hopefully, this will all be filled in soon. I know at least one ornery old cyclist who will remind them if it doesn't happen.

Late Notes: As far as bike racks, I heard from Philo Shelton, the County DPW director, "There are bike racks shown on the site plans and it is a punch list item.  Smiths just finished the store front the day before opening and the racks would have been in the way."   So I guess they will be there shortly. As far as pedestrian safety, even on calmed Central Ave, people can't always assume they will get across the street intact. Hence my worries about crossing Trinity unless everyone is being a good citizen: From Carol Clark's Daily Post: Driver Runs Into Woman Walking Near Central Avenue


Just released on the Daily Post:  Steven Fode Charged With Reckless Driving After Hitting Pedestrian in Downtown Los Alamos Today
Bikes Galore. Target/Costco quality
Helmets, tubes, pumps, seats, etc. 
Mostly 26" tires and I didn't see any Presta-equipped floor pumps

The small blacktop trail goes to a main paved trail on the south side of the parking lot.
I didn't see where it went to the East.
Surprised there is no ADA ramp that would double to let you ride up and down the spur trail from the main trail to the front of the store.




Monday, July 14, 2014

Why Does the Washington Post Incite Violence Against Cyclists?



Dear Editor in Chief Ken Walz
The Albuquerque Journal

Good Evening.

The Albuquerque Journal, to which we happily subscribe, recently offered us a complimentary electronic subscription to the Washington Post. Due to a lot of intervening activity, including an accident my wife recently suffered which reminded me of the impact of serious injury on our lives, I have not checked into it. Until today, when a note from the League of American Bicyclists told me that one of the Post's editorialists, Courtland Milloy, wrote what has to be one of the most ill-tempered, illogical, and potentially violence-encouraging screeds against cyclists that I have recently read.

Its bad enough to read ill-tempered rants from anonymous commenters on Disqus or other message boards. Its quite another for an editorialist to write senselessly incendiary material under color of authority of the newspaper. Mr. Milloy as much as advocated vigilante justice against cyclists: "...It's a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District (of Columbia), but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it's worth paying the fine. ..."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/bicyclist-bullies-try-to-rule-the-road-in-dc/2014/07/08/f7843560-06e3-11e4-bbf1-cc51275e7f8f_story.html

I'm not sure what actions justify such violence and certainly, we don't accept such behavior against anyone as being within the law. Given that Mr.Milloy is obviously a person of color, I'm really surprised he would advocate what amounts to vigilante justice against people against whom he holds a prejudice. How soon we forget. Given he is a journalist, I'm surprised he doesn't know better than to think beyond his anger before he submits an article. In any event, as a law abiding cyclist with more than 35 years in the saddle, as a cycling instructor, a longtime member of my county's transportation advisory board, and a cycling advocate who has contributed heavily to bicycle related ordinances and planning over more than two decades and in two states and, as someone who routinely cycles for a variety of reasons, I cannot in good faith endure reading such objectionable content without protest.

Further, unlike the Journal's site, which clearly links to folks like yourself who have management and leadership authority over the newspaper, it was impossible for me to find a link to the editor or editorial board of the Post. Perhaps they don't want to hear from me. I hope, given the recent collaboration between the Journal and Post, you can easily forward this note to their editorial offices. Also, feel free to forward this to your own editorial board. A good newspaper, and I count the Journal as an excellent one, should be able to air controversial content without inciting violence. Maybe someone at the Post needs to remember that and tone it down.

Thanks,

Khalil J. Spencer

Khalil J Spencer, Ph.D.
League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor 1173
www.labikes.blogspot.com www.northmesamutts.blogspot.com1799 Camino Uva, Los Alamos, NM 87544

Friday, July 11, 2014

Staying Alive Out There. Epilogue.

Its truly sad to watch that last video. That's why we teach cycling education, whatever damn name we call it. Here is why.

All bicycle politics aside, the laws of physics tell us that the bicycle handles as a two wheeled vehicle, not as a pedestrian, is capable of a variety of speeds and requires specific skills and adequate space to be operated as a bicycle whether riding in a straight line or changing direction. A bicycle, like a motorcycle, is a small vehicle easy to miss in mixed traffic. Like a motorcycle, it provides little protection in a crash. One needs bicycle-specific physical and mental skills to operate a bicycle-regardless of the facility present, because one's safety is far more dependent on staying out of trouble than when operating a car.

One therefore needs to develop skills to operate the vehicle beyond pedaling in an idyllic environment, i.e.,  to respond to changes, unplanned events, and emergencies. This is where I diverge with some of the Streetsblog crowd, who I think are overprotective and set cyclists up to fail.   One needs basic bike handling skills and the ability to evaluate whether the bike is safe to ride. One needs the mental skills to know how traffic operates and to recognize the hazards that may be present given any road, path, or traffic configuration. One needs to use one's knowledge of how people see their surroundings in order to determine one's optimal position on the road or even when on a cycle facility to maximize visibility and protect one's critical operating space (when on my bike or motorcycle, I am always asking "how best can I maximize my visibility?"). One needs the mental awareness to process knowledge of potential hazards in advance (in motorcycle-speak, we use the acronym "SEE", Search, Evaluate, Execute) so one can respond adequately if one actually emerges. For example, what do you think and do if an oncoming vehicle slows down when approaching you at an intersection where you both have the green and where left turns are allowed? Finally, one needs to know how traffic works so one avoids putting one's self in a very hazardous situation, such as passing a truck on the right going into an intersection or along a tight curb.

None of this is defined by whether bike lanes or cycletracks are present.

Where the different organizations seem to diverge is in some of the political stuff.  In those cases, amicable divorces are often better than tortured marriages. Sometimes, organizations, like people, can be better friends then spouses. I'm glad some of the LCI crew have taken the CS training. Good cross pollination.

Be safe out there, and be smart out there.

Rail Runner Video Shows Second Cyclist Killed Never Looked for the Train

This was the fatal on St. Michael's Drive. Video says it all. Article in the New Mexican, video on Youtube.
My earlier post is here. It has a good photo showing a cyclist's approach to the tracks, courtesy of Jerry Merkey.

Ok, for some reason the video is not consistently playing after I tested it here or at the Youtube URL either. You might have to go to the New Mexican. Maybe its blocked or swamped??

Assuming this was accidental (the New Mexican said the rider was depressed after his mom's death), this screams out for cyclist situational awareness. We have to look out for #1.




In a related article in the New Mexican, we read that "Protected Bike Lanes Double in Cities' Bid to Attract Youth."  But protected bike lanes or separate cycling facilities don't relieve a cyclist of the need to ride intelligently and be aware of his or her surroundings in traffic. Both recent fatal bike-train crashes occurred where a separated bicycle facility crossed the tracks and the cyclist failed to observe the train.

One needs space to install these lanes. In many cities including old Santa Fe, such space is at a premium, thus the need to install these strategically. The Cerrillos and St. Francis corridors would be prime candidates.

Cycletracks (another term for protected bike lanes) must be designed properly or their failure modes occur when cyclists and motorists collide at unprotected intersections and driveways. Good European models (visit John Allen's site and specifically, his "cycletrack" posts) have separate green light cycles for cyclists and motorists, and especially control for turning and crossing conflicts using separate turn phases for motorists where cyclists get a red light, and vice versa. This can decrease intersection level of service. Other designs protect cyclists with the use of protective islands that put cyclist stop lines forward of cars and require cyclists to make left turns with two "pedestrian style" crosswalk-like maneuvers. All of these designs trade convenience and efficiency for the alleged benefit of "more safety". But as we see in the video, safety is primarily in one's aware mind.

By the way, People for Bikes is an advocacy organization paid for by the bicycle industry, aka an "astroturf" organization. Its uncritical support for separated facilities owes in part to its bankrollers, who obviously want to increase bike sales. That can be good or bad--or both.