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.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bicycle Route 66 Celebration, April 19th

Contact people listed at end of this.

Join the New Mexico Touring Society (NMTS), New Mexico Bicyclists Educators (NMBE) and Adventure Cycling Association for a special celebration of the new Bicycle Route 66 at the Albuquerque Golf and Event Center at Balloon Fiesta Park on Sunday, April 19, for a 30 mile ride followed by lunch and presentations by Adventure Cycling's Executive Director, Jim Sayer and Adventure Cycling's Routes and Mapping Assistant Director/Cartographer, Jennifer Milyko. Enjoy food and drinks, meet kindred cycling spirits, and learn the latest about bike travel and cycling in North America including the brand new Bicycle Route 66 and very popular Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route, upcoming routes (like Chicago to New York and Texas Hill Country) as well as beautiful imagery of bike travel from around the planet. Mr. Sayer will discuss the official U.S. Bicycle Route System, bike overnights, and national advocacy, including partnerships for better biking with Amtrak and the National Park Service. Ms. Milyko will speak about the history and highlights of Adventure Cycling's Bicycle Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

When: Sunday, April 19, the ride starts at 8:30 am followed by a lunch and the presentation at noon.

Where: Albuquerque Golf and Event Center at Balloon Fiesta Park, 9401 Balloon Museum Dr. NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113. The Albuquerque Golf and Event Center is in Balloon Fiesta Park past the Balloon Museum.

This event is made possible by generous contributions from the New Mexico cycling community including the following organizations and businesses: New Mexico Touring Society, New Mexico Bicycle Educators, Adventure Cycling, Two Wheel Drive, Santa Fe Century, Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, Royals, BikeABQ, Sandoval County Cycling Club, Willman CPA, Dianne Cress, The Bike Coop and Taos Cyclery. The ride and presentation are free. The lunch featuring New Mexican Cuisine is $10. Lunch tickets must be purchased by Sunday, April 12. For more information and to register for the free event and purchase lunch tickets, go to

There will be free water bottles after the ride for the first 300 people. Contacts:

Chris Marsh, chris at candjmarsh dot com
Tammy Schurr, Tammy at nmbikeed dot org

And while you are at it, read this, which is a close match to Chuck Marohn's commentary on the subject: 

They paved paradise, put up a parking lot …

Drawing by Scott Santis, posted at the URL above