Saturday, January 20, 2018

Annual Ride Your Age Day

Since I have a January birthday and since today was supposed to be warmer than the next couple weeks, I took advantage of the opportunity to do the old "ride my age in km". Even got in a couple extra km to bank for next year.

By doing the Loop de Loops through Pajarito Acres and adding that to the Bandelier Loop distance, starting and finishing on N. Mesa, I could pile up a little more than the 64 clicks I needed.

Stay healthy and stay active!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Saturday, 27 January: Bike Day at the Capitol

Bike Day is on! Please be there. Holler at me if you need any additional information. The idea is to promote safe and fun bicycling and motorcycling and to advocate for laws and policies designed for complete and safe streets for all of us. We may be discussing Irena Ossola's progress after being hit and seriously injured by an inattentive driver. Click on the jpeg for a full size copy of the flyer to view or download.

There will be some Santa Fe rides in advance and of course the gathering of the faithful at BikeNSport for pre-rally eats provided by BikeABQ and other advocacy organizations. Also, show up to memorialize the late Willard Chilcott, founder of the Santa Fe Century Ride, who just went on ride the Great Century Ride in the Sky.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year and Save This Date

Hopefully, 2018 will be a good year. I celebrated the new year with a long walk with my better half, a quick blast around Kwage Mesa with the Stumpjumper that is as obsolete as I am, and finally got rid of that ten year old picture of two guys in their better days that has been sitting on the masthead of this blog. But just to annoy you...

Been a long time since 2007.

Keep the rubber side down in 2018.

On another note, the annual Roundhouse Bike Rally will be on Saturday, 27 January. Come if you can and give me a holler if you have any questions. The moto crowd is rallying from Santa Fe Harley-Davidson. The human powered crowd is still getting our shit together. More to come.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Driver Found Guilty of Careless Driving in Irena Ossola Crash

Another cyclist down. 
Round up the usual cartoons
 From yesterday's New Mexican: Driver gets unsupervised probation for striking bicyclist.

Fair enough. Having looked at the definitions before, this fits the bill, at least in the USA. The article claims some cyclists wanted a pound of flesh but there was no evidence of impairment or malice, which would be requirements to raise this to a criminal offense. Besides, this could have been a really good driver who had a really shitty day. Certainly Irena did. Plus, no amount of flogging the motorist would bring Irena back to full health as though this never happened. I guess this could go to the usual lawsuits.

No, this crash was the symptom. The disease is that we don't take driving seriously. With cars sold for their speed, horsepower, and number of distractive devices, not to mention the number of good Santa Fe residents who drive while yacking or texting on their phones, these crashes are inevitable and if you are not safely inside a two and a half ton vehicle (or even if you are) you are the equivalent of road kill. Even when caught, moving violations are trivial. So while it was bad enough that we had to wait months for the motorist to be charged with failure to yield or careless driving, it is far worse that this happened in the first place, and we expect it to happen. If driving was taken more seriously, we would have fewer of these ghastly incidents.

I have to say that I was particularly riveted to this one. "I didn't see him/her" was the same refrain offered by the motorist who turned left in front of my stepdad's motorcycle back in 1970, leaving him with two broken legs, a shattered kneecap, and a broken hand. He now gets around with two bionic, titanium knees. That was also what the motorist said when he turned left in front of me in 1979, leaving me with a TBI and having to take most of a year off  before starting a different dissertation topic because for months after that crash, I could not read a technical paper.

Vision Zero isn't just a good idea. Its the difference between life and death on the road for a lot of people.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Is Santa Fe a Bicycle-Friendly Calamity or Community?

I wrote a letter to the Santa Fe New Mexican, copying Santa Fe's Mayor Gonzales and 1st District councilor Sig Lindell the other day after blowing a fuse while reading the followup story about Irena Ossola, who was left close to death and with massive upper body injuries after a motorist made a left turn in front of her on West Alameda near the Siler roundabout as she was on a training ride. Apparently, the SFPD did not cite the motorist and I wondered why. Letter below, after this rant.

While investigating that crash, I learned from a Santa Fe cyclist that League Cycling Instructor Gary Schiffmiller, shortly after writing this bicycle safety editorial to the New Mexican, was hit by a motorist. Gary was injured but fortunately not in need of the emergency helicopter ride to an ICU (not sure of his exact condition; I've only heard a couple indirect reports). In that case it seems the motorist was cited. Good. Unfortunately for the cycling community, the cyclist who just updated me on Gary's condition indicated that a colleague of hers was hit and seriously injured two weeks ago while cycling by yet another careless motorist.

And of course, Outside Magazine trashed Santa Fe's motorists and Santa Fe's Finest after one of its writers, Aaron Gulley, was whacked by a motorist while, ahem, riding safely on “the biggest bike lane in Santa Fe.”. Adding insult to injury, he was cited rather than the motorist because by the time the cops got there to write it up it was dark and of course his fun bike had no lights.

Go figure. The hits, as they say, just keep on coming.

The good news is the St. Francis underpass for the Acequia Trail is open and cyclists have yet one more car-free option. That allowed a little less adrenaline to flow in my and my better half's veins when crossing St. Francis Drive/Cerillos Road on our tandem, rather than my previous experience trying to carve a zigzag line while not dropping a tire into the train tracks or getting hit by a car not understanding why a cyclist can't cross tracks at an oblique angle. We took the underpass and then crossed to the Rail Trail and only had to cross Cerrillos as pedestrians once. Whew.

The bottom line is that it is easier to build stuff like trails than change roadway attitudes. But cyclists will always need and are entitled to the roads, not just the trails. As long as Santa Fe's motorists and cyclists have trouble coexisting due to things like Driving While Cellular or "I didn't see her", or much of the public treating traffic laws as user-optional, life for cyclists will have these terrible stories.

As someone with decades of experience as an advocate, LCI, and county transportation board member (not to mention, a lifelong cyclist and motorcyclist), I've twice recommended Santa Fe as a Bicycle Friendly Community in my review to the League of American Bicyclists. Its a good place, but not sure I would recommend higher than silver (or even silver) after this spate of crashes unless we see some changes in how policy is translating to roadway safety.  The good news is that the City Different is about to get a new police chief as the existing gentleman retired so this is a good time to speak up. And, we shall see how the new administration treats cycling. Mayor Gonzales was pretty pro-cycling. I think it is time for cyclists to descend on City Hall after the elections and pound a few cleats on the table demanding that the future chief, as well as the city administration, take the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable users absolutely seriously. That means taking out the ticket book. I would be the last person to claim that cyclists should be treated like prima donnas entitled to special treatment. Rather, cyclists and pedestrians are the canaries in the coal mines. If we are getting splattered all over the roads, something is seriously wrong with the picture.

Carnage and Culture, as Victor Davis Hanson titled his book.

We cannot count on building our way out of traffic violence with total grade separation of users as our systems are far too integrated. We have to change attitudes. That is a lot harder as it means we have to work on changing accepted thinking that has taken decades to develop, i.e., that cars are used as casually as the kitchen toaster and with little thought to their unintended lethality when misused. Meanwhile, we keep finding ingenious ways to misuse them with driver distractions. We tend to stovepipe safety, i.e., MADD, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, etc. Its time we took an integrated approach to public safety.. Everything matters.

Related reading: Patrick O'Grady, "How to sell cycling when ‘street smarts’ keep buyers indoors?"

Now that letter....

Dear Will (Webber) (copy Mayor Gonzales, Councilor Lindell, 1st District, and Bill Nesper, Exec. Director, LAB)

regarding the followup Irena Ossola story

I read the Irena Ossola story and its bizarre that not even a traffic ticket was issued to the motorist for failure to yield right of way to an oncoming vehicle and causing tremendous injury, practically death, to a bicyclist. Your story does not indicate if it was SFPD or the SF County Sheriff that responded and investigating the crash. I don't know where the city/county jurisdictional boundary is on W. Alameda so don't know who was responsible. I would like to write a letter to the responsible law enforcement party but did not recall seeing that ever identified in the New Mexican. Do you have a copy of the police report and therefore an idea of who did the investigation and why the left turning motorist was not cited?

Just reading that story is infuriating to me as a bicyclist. The lady was almost killed and no one held accountable by law enforcement for a careless act behind the wheel. To vulnerable users, this is unacceptable.

I have twice been an outside reviewer of Santa Fe's Bicycle Friendly Community application (in my capacity as a League Cycling Instructor, nearby cyclist, and a longtime member of the Los Alamos County Transportation Advisory Board) and both times recommended the city as a bicycle friendly community. These incidents, however, scare bicyclists off the road because there is apparently no holding people accountable for deadly acts. We should expect fair and effective law enforcement protection from the cognizant authorities.

Given that my wife and I now own a home in Santa Fe (1st District) and I support our city with our tax dollars, not to mention our enthusiasm for Santa Fe and we now bicycle on our city and county roads, I have a serious investment in how this plays out.

thanks for any help on this,

Khal Spencer

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Whither a Flow Trail?

I've sort of stayed out of the flow trail idea, not wanting to either rain on or cheer for anyone's parade. Given that my idea of mountain biking is huffing and puffing and getting my heart rate up, I don't have a dog in this fight as a cyclist as much as I do as a taxpayer and resident.  I have marginally followed the discussion, most recently offered by Mike Warren here and here. But here are some thoughts.

One, this would be a highly manufactured trail aimed at attracting a visitor industry. That is not a bad idea for a town with a circa 75 year old one horse economy; horses don't live forever. That said, I have seen a dearth of analysis of the realistic costs vs. benefits of such an adventure.  Being a highly developed trail, it would require an enduring maintenance and advertising budget to ensure we are both attracting visitors and not attracting litigation should someone auger themselves into an un-maintained curve. As far as costs vs benefits, I go back to my column regarding the Krogers Marketplace fiasco that has left a Mari-Mac size eyesore at the eastern edge of town (and I was skeptical from the start). We are not always good at predicting the future or managing outcomes. Like rain following the plow, tourism following money is a belief, not a fact. On that note, if this is such a good idea why isn't a private company ponying up cost matching with LAC?

Mike Warren made some good comments about the effects of such a trail on our canyons. Those are worthy of consideration. Some locations are more ecologically and historically sensitive than others and this could easily turn into a political fight rather than a community collaboration. From my conversations with the county, considerable thought is going into planning this potential development in a thoughtful fashion designed to do minimal impact to the sensitivity of the landscape. But that's just my opinion and we know all about opinions.

The notion that we could partially transform Los Alamos from a company town populated by coneheads to a significant tourist destination must be backed up with some facts.  Especially as we would be competing with established tourist destinations. I don't blame those who are putting their sweat equity into establishing recreational resources up here for trying and wish them well. Nor do I blame Council for trying to add a second horse to the economic team.  Certainly a more diverse economy, not to mention a more diverse community, could be good for the place as we are utterly dependent on Uncle Sam's largess, which is in part a result of our being a single business community and in part predicated on involuntarily taking other taxpayer's money by virtue of the vaunted GRT windfall resulting from privatization.  But there are a lot of ifs, ands, and buts involved in how to accomplish economic diversification and what such efforts would bring in the way of changing traffic patterns, a need for housing diversity, and ensuring a living wage for those service workers who would be making a living in a tourist business within a community predicated on high government salaries for people with advanced degrees. We need a fuller discussion with numbers on the table.

Again, going back to history, I recall the T Board finally recommending that we get a second professional opinion to vet the county's consultants on a roundabout project because the consultant offered rosy models not accepted by critics who did their own calculations. As T board chair, I eventually became exasperated with the difference between official projections and a private citizens group's more dire models. When the county hired a second, highly technical firm to do a numerical model as a form of peer review, the roses quickly wilted into dust.

Since this is public money and public space, we need a serious and quantitative as well as qualitative analysis of what we would put into this and what we would get in return. Its that simple.