Monday, October 18, 2010

Los Alamos Food Co-Op: Distinctly bicycle-unfriendly location

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"...

6 comments:

Amy said...

Thanks for the writeup Khal. We have yet to bike out there but have been wondering about the same things. I heard that there's talk of moving the farmer's market out there too, which would create a ton of traffic. Kinda disappointing about the locations of both, to me, but will have to give the road a try on the bike to get the full experience.

Khal said...

A Sunday afternoon at 4.p.m. is probably not a good representative sample...

limom said...

I dig that sign!
Too bad that it's sometimes true.

Mike said...

Just wanted to stay how much I appreciate this blog. It's nice to read about local bicycle concerns and info, especially coming from another state. It has been helpful. I commute on this road most days and hate it! In front of the firestation and swimming pool is little shoulder to ride. Combined with those center medians, cars do not want to pass me but hang on my tail inches away. I'd hate to fall then. Keep up the good work and update often! It takes the weight of a slow day of work off my shoulders!

Jon said...

Just went out there today. I tried to parse out a route from Canyon Rd. to the Mesa Trail at East Park. By the time you get there (whether dealing with the road or creeping on the sidewalk, as I did), it's such a short distance to the trailhead that it's not worth the backtracking by the airport. If the Sombrillo folks were generous enough to allow a trail connection to their parking lot, that might change things.

Can't say I'm terribly impressed by the trail itself, either; pretty short sight distances in places. Great way to see some scenery for those who don't have the mobility to tackle the unpaved trails, not so great for cycling.

Took the shoulder of 502 back and was buzzed repeatedly by motorists driving with a tire on the shoulder line. Most of our trips to the co-op are going to be by car; no way I'm asking my girlfriend to deal with that.

Khal said...

East Drive gets around some of the bad spots on the return, but we really need a decent biking option. A narrow and shoulderless commuter road is not one of them.