I rode my bike out to the Co-Op yesterday for the "Meet the Manager" celebration. It is a 7.5 mile ride from our house on North Mesa. Most of the ride is quite acceptable but I really wonder how many people are going to be willing to ride down NM 502 all the way to the co-op. Especially if they need to shop during periods when commuter traffic is both heavy and fast on this main drag into town and LANL.
The worst cycling location is only about an eighth of a mile or so long, but in that location near the airport and East Gate Pool, one runs out of what is otherwise pretty decent shoulder and is "hourglassed" into traffic that is speeding up to 50 mph as it leaves town, or slowing from 50 while entering town. I was riding my commuter bike unladen and for me, no big deal.. Doing this on the way home with a cart or panniers full of groceries will intimidate some and certainly not make me happy since traffic is having to slow from 40-50 mph behind some guy trundling a load of groceries on a two-wheeler.
I asked those at the get-together to consider expressing their opinion on providing safe crossing of NM 502 for those who would use the new paved, multiuse Canyon Rim Trail as an alternative to riding down NM 502. A tunnel would be ideal and was, I understand, once considered but cut out of the budget. Since Councillor Gibson recently expressed an opinion on using alternative rights of way instead of roads for cycling transportation, this is a perfect example of why historically, its a tough sell to many cyclists: we build recreational paths and do not connect them from our homes to our destinations. Lets face it, those who would choose to ride on the Rim Trail to work in the new County offices at the Airport Basin site, or to a food cooperative or the Holiday Inn, are probably not going to be too keen to ride or walk their bikes across a 50 mph heavily trafficked state highway without any crossing protection. These incomplete facilities become automobile trip generators. This is a bright, shining example.
NM 502 itself is under the jurisdiction of the NM Dept. of Transportation, not our progressive county government, so be prepared for more than the usual amount of frustration in addressing this problem. Whoever wins the election for our state senate and representative districts should get a raft of phone calls and letters about this road. It is a far cry from ideal, and will create some animosity if we increasingly ride bikes to County destinations in and around the Airport Basin. As Patrick O'Grady reminds us, in addition to sharing the road, we need to "share the love"...