Thursday, December 29, 2011

Durango's Silver, Door-Zone Bike Lanes, Haven't Changed

But world events may make them quite heavily used.

We got out of Dodge for a couple days, sneaking off to our usual hideaway in Durango, CO.  Durango is a Bicycle Friendly Community (silver), and for a lot of good reasons, although our penchant for heading up there with our tandem is probably not officially on the list. Durango, in addition to being thick with cyclists and cycling friendly destinations, will be hosting the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge this coming year in addition to the annual Iron Horse Classic. Its newspaper was quite excited about its newly acquired pro-level exposure today.
Carver Brewpub on Main Ave, where I'm
likely to be having lunch and a pint,
reserves the best parking spots for bikes
pic from Acorn to Oak, acknowledged
But Durango, like any real world place, has its warts. Its door zone bike lanes, found on quite a few of its urban arterials, are not its strong suit and that's the stuff on which your local, non-racing beginner or journeyman cyclist trudging off to work or school depends. Nothing seems to have changed since last summer except those lanes are really dirty this time of year from road grunge being swept into them by passing cars and trucks. I found a few hardy cyclists using them, too, riding in cramped space not fit for man or beast. I wish them well. 

If it were up to me, I'd downgrade Durango to Bronze. The level of official cynicism and disregard to the everyday cyclist's safety and legal equity these lanes indicate is depressing. After all, it is these everyday cyclists who do the real work that helps Durango support those high profile races that bring in the big bucks to the hotels and restaurants. If any place on earth should do better, its Durango, given how important cycling is to its economy. I hope they rise to the occasion. I'll keep bugging them till they do so. 

In an age when international sabre-rattling (see link to NY Times story) could drive people out of their motor vehicles via oil interruptions or price instability, not to mention ongoing climate worries, sedentary lifestyle health issues, and the American customer's choices to be increasingly oil-frugal, let's not marginalize utilitarian cycling through bad design. Provide safe, not marginalized, accommodations for Joe and Jane Sixpack. That's what Silver-level BFC status should be about.

Well, that's not all I thought about. This was, after all, a vacation. This eagle in the picture below, sitting on the Animus River by Durango's dog park last night, was really cool. Interestingly, and of course leading back into the interaction of politics and human activity, the dog park occupies a breathtakingly beautiful riverside location on the West bank of the Animus R right across from the heart of town. An older local who has lived in the region much of his life said the reason it is a dog park and not the locus of million dollar riverside McMansions or yet another luxury hotel is because it was the site of an old Manhattan Project era uranium milling operation, and before that a lead smelter. You can see the numerous monitoring/venting pipes sitting in the park. Some interesting pictures and history of the town's mining and industrial past are here and here

The dogs and dog owners of the community, not to mention visitors like us with dogs, are beneficiaries of that bit of industrial history. Sometimes a little pollution can be a good thing for the 99%, eh?
An apparently healthy eagle trying to eat, if not for me pestering it. 
Note: No patriotic overtones are expressed or implied by the photo of this bird.
Taken with a Canon T1i, 18-200mm lens, fully zoomed out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Colorado Supreme Court to hear Black Hawk Bike Ban Case

To keep it from happening here, 
don't let it happen there

Of particular interest to those of us in the West, where roads can be few and far between and the public occasionally cranky. I'll direct you all to Bicycle Colorado for the complete story, which slowly unfolds.

From the BC site:
From the Court's documents, they will hear arguments of the following: 
  • Whether municipalities may ban bicycling on local streets absent a suitable nearby alternative bicycling route.
  • Whether legislation is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest, and thus a reasonable exercise of police power, when the evidence on which the legislation is based does not address that governmental interest.
  • Whether banning bicycling on the only route connecting Central City to the Peak-to-Peak Highway is a reasonable exercise of Black Hawk's police power.

Once this Supreme Court decision is made, we can see how much damage control needs to be done. If this court overturns the ordinance, that is probably good news for cyclists in other states, who can cite it as precedent if needed, at least at an appellate level. Note that in the successful Selz vs. Trotwood appeal, the appellate court referenced a case not even having to do with bicycling:  Lott v. Smith (1980), 156 Ga. App. 826 275 S.E. 720. (from the Selz appellate decision "...That court held that an operator of a corn combine could not be found to have violated the statute...")

And, of course, this once again reminds us to support our local, regional, and national cycling advocacy organizations, who often end up leading the fight in these kinds of cases. We can bicker all we want, but at times, we need to circle the wagons and make sure the guns are pointing out rather than in.  I like how Warren Devon would put it:

Black Ice!

You think he looks rattled...
Well, I rode to work today on the La Cruz, which is presently shod with 700-40c Schwalbe Land Cruisers. These tires have nice big lugs but no studs. Bad move. As a result of the last storm, a lot of melting, and County efforts to clear sidewalks, there is not only a lot of black ice on the shoulders and bike lanes, but a lot of black ice hidden under snow that has been moved off the sidewalks. I took it very careful this morning, including a rather humorous crab-walk past the North Community Fire Station while riding on snow that turned out to be covering glare ice.

Some suggestions. First, unless you are mentally and logistically equipped for ice riding, consider using another form of transportation until the roads dry out a little. If you are mentally prepared but not fully logistically prepared and insist on riding, consider forswearing bike lanes full of ice and take the lane instead if it is clear and dry. Its legal and logical.  Its better to be predictable than suddenly floundering horizontally into other traffic;  avoiding glare ice on a shoulder or bike lane falls under the caveats of our As Far Right As Practicable laws.  I found it wasn't worth trying to move into and out of the lane on Diamond today, as it confused motorists and had me making steering corrections on ice.

Secondly, beware of Canyon's and Diamond's south sides, as well as other risky bike lanes that collect water by day and ice by night. Some lanes are better than others. Some are a horror show.

Thirdly, and most importantly, if you insist on riding right now, take command of the situation and invest in a good set of studded snows, such as the Schwalbe Marathon Winter or one of the numerous Nokkian ice tires; both brands are described and photographed on Peter White's bicycle shop site. Peter has done an excellent, exhaustive job describing a wide variety of these tires, with recommendations for road, off road, plowed vs. unplowed, etc. I doff my tinfoil hat to Peter's patience and generosity with his knowledge.

You can order studded bike tires through Jim Rickman's Little Jimmy's Wheelhouse , REI, or elsewhere, including, obviously, Peter White. They weigh a psychological ton (close to a kg per tire) but hey, its winter. You need the exercise, right? More importantly, you need to stay upright so spring doesn't find you on the mend from a senseless crash. Actually, some of the studded tires are not that much heavier than my 720 gram per hoop Land Cruisers.

Of course, studded snows don't replace common sense. Be extra conservative out there when riding in icy conditions. While studs can stabilize you on ice, they do so in cooperation with your conservative riding style for such conditions. Besides, as Peter White says, riding aggressively on studded bike tires while on dry pavement will damage or ruin them. That's an expensive hobby.

I made it to work this morning upright but a little rattled from the stress of constant dancing on black ice on a bike not properly equipped for the Los Alamos Ice Follies. I stopped at Hot Rocks for a ceremonial breakfast burrito.  Here, I was cautioned by a fellow bike commuter, who stopped to analyze my bike (yeah, we all do that...) who then told me he had once crashed suddenly on black ice in an intersection in Albuquerque and was temporarily paralyzed from slamming down on his tailbone. He now swears by studded bike tires.

Sheesh. That last one is a scary thought. Lets be careful out there.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Storm drain reconstruction to close portion of West Jemez Road

Construction of a new storm drain will close a portion of NM 501 (West Jemez Road) for about 10 days beginning December 22. The majority of the work is scheduled to be done while Los Alamos National Laboratory is closed for the holidays, which should minimize traffic disruptions. But motorists traveling west on NM 501 will have to take an alternate route of travel to get to the Jemez Mountains, including NM 4 through White Rock and past Bandelier National Monument.

The work area is west of Camp May Road (i.e., in the immediate vicinity of Water Canyon --Khal Spencer addition per a conversation with Mr. Gonzales) so traffic to Pajarito Ski Area shouldn't be affected, said Mark D. Gonzales of the Manager of Functions (MOF) Division, adding, that this stretch of NM 501 also will be closed to bicyclists, runners and other pedestrians. The new storm drain off NM 501 in the Water Canyon area replaces a smaller culvert that was destroyed during a heavy rainstorm in August after the Las Conchas Fire. Workers will remove the existing culvert before installing the new structure that is designed to accommodate larger amounts of storm water flow, said Gonzales.
During the construction period, signs and other traffic control devices will be in place to alert motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to the work. Weather permitting, work is scheduled to be completed by January 2, 2012. The Laboratory's annual winter closure begins at the end of the work day December 23 through January 2, reopening on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

 Note by KJS in addition: Since this will involve serious construction, you will surely meet up with construction vehicles en route to and fro, mud, and grunge. If you ride out there, please be careful and use good judgement. Thanks.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bike to work day? Not...

Quite the snowfall today. I'm not sure I'll brave the commute tomorrow on the MonsterCommuter. Maybe.

Taken at about ten this morning using the Blackberry.
It just kept on coming all day. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Golf Course vs Trails, Thursday Public hearing

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just direct readers to Greg Kendall's post over at LA County Views.  My views are pretty close to Greg's, so I won't elaborate much here.

Please get involved. I'll reiterate what I said at the meeting--in my opinion, the County has not done a good job of including trail users in the stakeholders group.

Here is a very good post on Reid's Blog

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Commuter, winter style

Long Haul Trucker with 26x 2.1
Richey Speedmax Pros

There were some complaints about the snow and ice in the bike lanes over the last few days. Seems to me that one cannot ask for perfection after a storm. On the other hand, one can equip one's bike to deal with some imperfections. I had a set of Richey Speedmax Pro tires in 26 x 2.1 inch size sitting in boxes, since the bike I bought them for has been out on indefinite loan for some time now. They look nice with their blue sidewalls on the blue Long Haul Trucker, and boy, do they look like they will eat up snow. I've always liked Richey cross tires and these, too. They ride smooth and fast. One can get truly gonzo with 1 kg each studded snows but somehow that seems to defeat the purpose of a light, fast bike. Of course, a heavier bike might stay upright...

Lets leave the fast summer tires for better weather, OK? If cycling is about saving energy, including the energy it would take to scoop up every bit of snow, it also means riding on a bike that can handle a certain amount of bad winter road. That doesn't let the County off the hook entirely, but is a reasonable accommodation to reality. Plus, there is no way to scoop up black ice. Lets be careful out there and ride for conditions.

In response to Steve Avery, here is the Adventure Cycling review of the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

Friday, December 2, 2011

And if you haven't had your fill of the golf course...

NOTE: Greg Kendall has an excellent post here, including a very good aerial photo of option B, the potentially troubling one. I cockroached Greg's photo. Go to Greg's web site (link above) for a detailed description of the various options.

Clanging the bell of safety (see below) does not necessarily mean something will pass, as anyone watching T Board issues will attest. The golf course architect needs to be challenged on his own safety assertions, and have those real numbers (assuming there are numbers) balanced against the loss of open space.

As numerous citizens have pointed out on Trinity Drive, we are not carrying people off the road on gurneys every day. I don't think we are carrying people off the golf course and its surroundings on gurneys, either. Yes, I was once hit squarely in the windshield by a golf ball. That doesn't mean we should bulldoze the trails.

Safety is a relative term and is often, these days, used to justify the most outrageous of offenses to liberty and decency. Challenging the process is a good thing. I'm not saying safety is not important. What I am saying is that like any other decision, safety is part of the decision making process and like any other process, safety has to be in balance with other interests.

The concerns for the driving range being short and golf balls bouncing down Diamond Drive (and occasionally into windshields or face shields) are real. But these have to be balanced with the negative quality of life issues that would be imposed by eliminating the trails. I suspect there is plenty of room to dance together on this and end up with a better golf course and still have decent trails, even if some are moved. Some of us actually went towards the edge of the canyon during the Tuesday meeting and were impressed with the possibilities for trails closer to the edge.

As Rod McCrady said on the Tuff Riders listserv, we need to have a win-win on this one if for no other reason than some day we will need a win-win on something we want. I think that is quite possible. To be honest, I think it is better to have a golf course there than urban development; the golf course provides a green space buffer around the trails and having a great course definitely adds to the quality of life of living in Bomb Town. Lets just make sure we keep some room for the trails.

Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 12:12 PM
To: gerry merkey
Subject: RE: [Tuffriders] Woodland Trail & Golf Course Project

I just learned (from a reliable source) that the architect and project people are going to play the ‘safety card’ bigtime at next Thursdays’ meeting at 5:30....(which got moved to Fuller Lodge). So…basically I was told that we need to try and come up with options for a win win on this golf course thing. We do need numbers bigtime at the meeting, but we need to do more than just show up and whine that they cannot take the trail away from us, that we’ve already lost too much, yadi yadi. We need to come up with safety issues of our own. A huge one for me is that if they push us into the canyon trail, now I cannot see if golfers hit a stray ball, nor can golfers warn people because they cannot see them. Another issue could be with animals….getting rid of that greenspace will force all people and animals alike into that narrow canyon, increasing the potential for unpleasant encounters..both for people and animals. A third is that pushing the golf course to the edge or to the edge along woodland disrupts all the dogs on Walnut and woodland, not to mention even more disruption from all the traffic in the bottom of the canyon on walnut, affecting all of walnut street. Think of other things, and put the word out. I have a call into Craig Martin, but we need to be prepared to do more than just complain. I was also told it was of utmost importance to really pack that meeting. Please feel free to distribute......

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Walnut Canyon Trails vs. Golf Course, continued saga

I went to the small community "stakeholders" meeting regarding the proposed Golf Course Expansion at the golf course on Tuesday.  There was a good turnout of trail folks. I'd like to thank Craig Martin for inviting me.

Several options were discussed, including making improvements to the golf course within its existing bounds, a moderate expansion, and one option mapped in by the consulting architect that appeared to push the golf course right to the canyon edge in several locations, possibly wiping out key trails. That is the troubling one.  I'm not sure how that last one passed the county's laugh test, but then again, I once saw eight roundabouts mapped in on Trinity. Someone has put up pink flags back behind the golf course along the trail. Not sure what that means. I'll try to ride it this weekend if its not deep snow.

Clearly, some community discussion that includes trail users needs to happen to ensure the trails are preserved in recognizable form and to ensure a sense of fairness of process. The County needs to hear from trail users loud and clear (and sooner the better). The County needs to do a better job of reaching out to trail stakeholders, or we will end up with yet another set of angry citizens feeling snookered and petitioning Council to kill a potentially valuable project. But its not all the county's work. Citizens are obliged to engage early and often, too, rather than wait till decisions are made and then get mad.

I think the golf course is a very valuable community resource even though I don't play a single hole of golf. I support the golf course and the aquatic center for the same reason I expect golfers and swimmers who don't bike to support bike lanes, bike riders, and Tour de Los Alamos bike race--for the greater good. Further, the course needs to and should be making some important safety improvements such as to its driving range and realigning some of the tee off areas that occasionally drive balls across Diamond Drive.

But ultimately, what makes Los Alamos special isn't a golf course. Many communities have those. Its really our wonderful geography and isolation from the urban madness: our lovely trails, mountains, mesas, and canyons. And, we lost a lot of National Forest trails to the Las Conchas Fire, so our county trails are even more critical to maintain since so much of the surrounding Forest Service land was burned and trails destroyed by the fire and subsequent flash flooding. Lets not lose any more trail resource, but instead find a way to make this all work together in some sense of harmony. Just like we should deal with other civic issues--harmoniously.

This topic will be covered early at the Parks and Rec Board meeting next Thursday.  I am not sure where it will be covered in the agenda, or how the P and R Board runs its show. It will probably be discussed under B or I or both, as I have highlighted below. Be there if you care.

Los Alamos County Parks & Recreation Board
Aquatic Center - Training Room
December 08, 2011
5:30 p.m.

A. Approval of Minutes – (A1)
B. Golf Course Phase 1 Study – Exhibits at the meeting
C. Overlook Park
D. Communication/Linkage Between Council and Boards
E. FY2013 Work Plan – (A2)
A. Chairman Report
B. Council Liaison Report (Mike Wismer)
C. Recreation Division Report – (B1)
D. Parks Division Report (B2)
E. Capital Improvement Projects Progress
F. Open Space & Parks Advisory Subcommittee
G. Ice Rink & Recreation Advisory Subcommittee
H. Aquatic Center Advisory Subcommittee
I. Golf Course Advisory Subcommittee
J. Environmental Sustainability Board
A. Parks & Recreation Board List (C1)
B. Subcommittee List (C2)
C. Action Items Log Sheet (C3)
D. Action Items for Next Month
VIII. NEXT PRB Meeting – January 12, 2012

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For those days when human power isn't quite enough

Yeah. I finally did it. Its heaps of fun, and still on two wheels. So I guess it qualifies as "LA Bikes". As an LCI, it will be interesting taking a course from a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Instructor.
I used to live on motorcycles and bicycles back in the ninteen seventies and eighties when I lived in Rochester, N.Y. and out on Long Island.  I sold my last moto, a 1979 Honda CX-500 wearing a black Pacifico Aero XP faring (whatever happened to Aero farings?), when I moved to Honolulu to take a job after grad school. The roads in Honolulu were just too nuts for a motorcycle. Well, at least I thought so. It was/is a little easier to ride a bicycle--life is in slow motion compared to being on a big motorbike.
Its important as an old fart who has been off moto for a quarter century to start slow and ease back in, something I would highly advise for anyone entering a long dormant activity requiring a skill set needed to stay in one piece. Ride careful and build up slow, moto, bicycle, hang glider, or otherwise.Keep the rubber side down, as we like to say. Especially when the rubber is attached to 580 lbs of very fast bike.

1995 BMW K1100 RS
MSF instructor Frank Allen of Albuquerque 
traded it in for an F800R

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Climate Change: What We Know and What We Need to Learn

This from my PEEC e-letter. Make sure you ride yer bike to this one and leave Old Belchfire home.

Note to readers. If you want to leave comments on anthropogenic climate change or lack thereof on this blog entry, please do, but please make them substantive and sign them. Or, make the sarcasm obvious. I'm increasingly clueless lately when it comes to attempts at humor....

Climate Change: What We Know and What We Need to Learn

December 14, 7 pm at PEEC

The history of how scientists have pieced together the puzzle of climate change is also the history of critics' suggestions being examined and incorporated. Most informed critics now agree on some points, but disagree about the amount of human-caused warming. We'll look at where the science stands and the current uncertainties that worry critics. Free--no registration required.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Red Kite Prayer

click here to go there
I had not heard of this site, but it looks like an interesting one. No site that opens with a picture of a mud spattered Bernard Hinault riding a Paris-Roubaix can be ignored.

Besides, the owner has hired on Charles Pelkey, who, if you recall, found out he had cancer about the same time he found out that he had gotten the boot ride (i.e., "laid off") from VeloNews. Charles is a fine writer and his Live Update Guy site continues to grace the web. I guess some of his work, including The Explainer, will be moved to RKP. Owner Padraig tells us "... I’m not doing this to make my job easier, I’m doing it to make RKP better. In barest terms, this is a chance to stand up for quality..."

What a breath of fresh air in the stale halls of U.S. corporate decadence.

Patrick Brady, the RKP site owner, says this: "And that name? It came from a bit of code I liked to use with friends. My favorite moment in a race comes after passing the banner for the final kilometer—the red kite—and at some point you’ll see every rider look straight down. That look says something of their effort. Whether it’s Cavendish on his way to his sixth win of the week or some guy about to finish DFL on a mountain stage of the Giro, nearly everyone does it. It unites us; that look says volumes about how we each have something in reserve, how going hard is more than just legs, how our greatest efforts teach us about ourselves.
That attitude applies to far more than cycling, to be sure.It applies to Charles Pelkey's ongoing fight against cancer and each of our efforts in the daily Tour de Life in these hard times.  So I'll add this link to the list of stuff to read and look forward to dear reader's reviews. And thanks and a tip of the brain bucket to Patrick O'Grady for giving us a heads up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Golf Course Expansion Report from Tuffriders list

Jerry Merkey cross posted this to Pajarito Riders. Original Author was Brian Larsen. In addition to Brian's comment about contacting, I would suggest you copy and the County Parks and Recreation Board, which has an Open Space Subcommittee, which presumably should be involved in this topic.  Their email is

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Brian Larsen
Sent: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 8:47 PM
To: Tuff Riders
Subject: [Tuffriders] Golf course improvement project

Hey all,

I attended the meeting and thought I would send a few notes around.

There were about 50 people, mostly golfers.

There are two options on the table:
A: Revamp of the current course, more or less in bounds, $6.2M
B: Re-build the whole course on site which would expand into parts of the Walnut Canyon rim (and trail), $8.6M There was some discussion of return on investment and it had not been studied yet, if this interests you it is worth a note.

Both options would re-vamp the irrigation system and build a million gallon water tank in the Woodland Trail basin.

My recommendation to people especially in light of losing a lot of trails to the fire is to send some comments to the county, (they become public record so be thoughtful) telling them that trail users and open forest habitat have to be a bigger part of any decisions made about the golf course. To have impact, include your name and address in your email.

The presentation given by the golf course "architect" was well done and I think there is a path forward that will make us all ok (and better) but we have to be involved.

There was discussion about forming a trails committee for the remainder of the process, I suggest supporting this in your note to the county, along with a self-nomination :)


Tuffriders mailing list

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Golf Course Expansion Plan could kill Walnut and Woodland Trails??

Note that the first Wednesday meeting has already happened.  The 2nd meeting is tomorrow, 11/16.  It would be a shame to lose these two trails for many reasons.

According to June Fabryka-Martin, there will be a public meeeting on 16 Nov, 5:30-7:00 in the Training Room of the Community Building regarding the Golf Course Improvements Project. According to June, this will be an expansion project that could block trails along Walnut Canyon and Woodland Trail. Details are not available, but will be presented on Wednesday at the public meeting. 

The agenda will be to present a business plan, conceptual designs (including changes based on comments recieved from the first meeting), and the costs associated with the proposed improvements.

If you mountain bike around here, you should probably be there. From what I can tell its a very popular route. I've ridden it quite a few times. Would be tragic to lose it.  

What follows was copied off the County page linked above.

Golf Course Improvement Study 

The second Public Meeting is scheduled for November 16th, 5:30-7:00pm, in the Training Room of the Community Building. The agenda will be to present the business plan, conceptual designs (based on comments from the first meeting) and the costs associated with the proposed improvements. Please attend!

On December 7, 2010, County Council authorized staff to move forward with the CIP Phase I Study for the Golf Course Improvements project at the existing facility.  The proposed study includes reviewing the current irrigation system, water storage, the feasibility of practice facility expansion to mitigate safety concerns, the re-routing of holes, cart path replacement and potential renovation of fairways, bunkers, greens and tees.  Based on this physical review, a plan of course improvements will include but not be limited to: the cost of each of these components, a recommendation as to the most efficient and least disruptive and finally timing and phasing of the various components of the course improvements recommended.

The study team will also include a golf course analyst to review golf and maintenance operations, provide a market and economic assessment should these improvements be made as well as the number of rounds these improvements may generate.  This analysis will also review what the appropriate maintenance budgets should be, in order to maintain the course in good condition.

A public meeting was held September 21, 2011, which primarily focused on gathering public feedback based on basic conceptual designs.The study, which is budgeted at $75,000, will provide planning, schematic design options, programming and a cost analysis for each of the tasks listed above.

What’s Next:
The intent is to complete and submit the CIP Phase II Application to the CIP Evaluation and Oversight Committee by January 2012.

To be notified on project upates, email us at

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tell the Senate that bikes have a right to the road

The draft of the Senate's transportation authorization bill, S. 1813 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, includes language that would introduce a mandatory sidepath law on roads in our National Parks and other Federal lands. It requires cyclists on Federal lands to use a path or trail, instead of roads, if the speed limit is over 30 MPH and a trail exists within 100 yards, regardless of its condition or utility of the path. The provision sets a terrible precedent. Passing it would send the wrong message to transportation agencies that these policies are acceptable. Laws like this have been taken off the books in states over the past 30 years. This takes us in the wrong direction.
For more information, read Andy Clarke's blog post.
The League is working on many other aspects of the transportation reauthorization bill. This petition relates specifically to the mandatory sidepath law, which we felt deserved special attention. Stay tuned for news and action alerts related to this and other aspects of this critical legislation.
Please join us in telling the Senate that the mandatory sidepath law is a bad idea -Go here to sign the petition.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Transportation Bill Includes Draconian Mandatory Sidepath Provision

I suggest folks read this bill and be prepared to call our Senators. I don’t know with any degree of certainty how this could affect us but it could reasonably be expected to apply to our Federal roads (which could include Dept of Energy, National Park Service, possibly other roads). I’d like to hear from LANL whether this would apply to DOE roads.

I see no safety benefit to cyclists in proportion to the drastic restrictions this could put on bicycling if passed and mismanaged, since to my knowledge, there is no real good definition of what would constitute an acceptable sidepath. John Allen is pretty cynical.

Recall that those of us who live in Los Alamos are at the mercy of DOE and Park Service roads (East Jemez, W. Jemez, our work routes to our jobs, Bandelier National Park)

Those of you who are normally apolitical but whose cycling is dependent on access to the open roads might want to wake up and smell the coffee this time.

O:\DEC\DEC11671.xml [file 2 of 7] S.L.C.
8 ‘‘(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appro
9 priate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the
10 use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a
11 speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adja
12cent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of
13 the road.

Andy Clarke, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, has written an excellent analysis of this bill here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Los Alamos gets sharrows, and some actual biking stuff

Pardon my combining what would have been two posts. Sharrows and touring bikes are a little orthogonal, I suppose. Unless you ride your touring bike on a road with sharrows.

It was my day off, and given how lousy I've been feeling lately (having re-aggravated a herniated disk), I decided to actually forgo work for a change. But prior to a 4:15 with my M.D. and after an 0900 taking the cats to the vet, I decided to check out some fine tuning I had just done on the new Surly Long Haul Trucker and take it for a second ride up the Col d'Pajarito, riding up the 4 miles of hors fat guy Camp May Road to the Pajarito Mountain ski lodge.
The Las Conchas fire was not kind to Pajarito Mountain
On the way through town, I noticed that the County road crew was erasing some of that worrisome bike lane at Canyon and Diamond Drive. I had packed the small Olympus digital camera, so I planned on checking back on the way down from the mountain (and got a ping on the Blackberry from Jon on the way up--thank you, Jon). The plan, as discussed Thursday night at a T Board meeting, was a variation on a combined bikelane/right turn bay that, while not idyllic, would eliminate the constant hazard of right hook crashes. I wanted to see what would actually be painted on the road when spray can met asphalt.

Back to a bike ride. The climbing on the Trucker, albeit without a full load of panniers (just a rack trunk with camera and spare heavy clothing), felt pretty good.  The frame tubes are sturdy enough that I did not feel any flex or wasted energy while climbing, including on that first "wall" one hits at the bottom of the climb and during some out of the saddle stuff later. It feels more like a good hardtail mountain bike and is happy being ridden hard. But it is comfy. My last touring bike, a Univega Specialissima (good example here), a lovely bike with thinner, elegant tubes and a Cadillac of touring frames, would have groaned and flexed noticeably under similar conditions (or conversely, I was a stronger rider then...). The ride was almost uneventful for a shakedown. I had to fine tune the front derailleur, since with the 115 mm bottom bracket I put on this morning, had some adjustment available in the trim screw and sure enough, dropped the chain off the granny ring first time I tried it on a ride rather than on the workstand. Out with the screwdriver.

Summit, stage right.
Thankfully, not every tree burned

Last pitch. Almost there.
Gasp, cough, wheeze. 
Long Haul Trucker gets fat guy to the top
Once at the top, it was time to descend. Those who know me have commented that I descend pretty fast, using skills learned while riding motorcycles during my misspent youth and usually limited by the interplay between gravity and wind resistance. The LHT, amazingly, handled quite well on fast switchbacks. Yes, the bike lets you know that the wheelbase is LONG. But once I made some mental adjustments, it swept through high speed switchbacks gracefully. Whoever designed this bike did a good job.

Getting back to town, the Public Works crew was busy reconfiguring that troublesome intersection. County staff and I had discussed a shared right turn lane, similar to that shown in the new  National Association of City Transportation Officials guidebook.
Work in progress. What will it look like?
Note the downhill slope, which is the source
of the problem here
Sure enough, that's what we have. It should be a huge improvement in not having cars overtaking bikes on their left and then turning right, i.e., that dreaded "coffin corner bike lane". Like any other traffic control involving bikes vs. cars, this one will not be perfect, but it looks intuitively a heck of a lot better. You will STILL HAVE TO USE YOUR HEAD! And, of course, someone is bound to get behind you and honk the proverbial horn. 

This NACTO stuff is slightly outside the box when you consider how conservative traffic engineers are (and they SHOULD be conservative). If it doesn't work well, we need to hear from you. And, if you are flying north off the bridge at the speed of traffic, this doesn't mean you cannot take the lane--use your best judgement. Just do us all a favor--don't weave in and out inconsiderately as neither fish nor fowl.
Not quite NACTO, but MUTCD 
compliant and pretty intuitive
Many thanks to DPW Director Kyle Zimmerman, Traffic Manager Nancy Talley, Pavement Manager Tom Roach and his crew, County Administator Randy Autio, Asst. County Administrator Ann Laurent,  and others who worked on this. This sort of cooperation and willingness to make things better surely shows that Los Alamos is a Bicycle Friendly Community. Rumor also has it we may be seeing more sharrows. Plus, we will need some educational efforts to ensure everyone knows what they mean.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Giant Bicycles to GM: Who needs a car?

Giant's riposte to GM.
Scrounged from the League of American Bicyclists web site
It didn't take long for one of the major bike companies to take my advice and turn the tables on General Motors and its anti-bike advertisement. While Giant went so far as to point out the burden of costs and traffic congestion that a collegiate car or light truck purchaser would be saddled with (see above, courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists, they left out the obvious sexual innuendo from the original ad.

Now even though my new Surly Long Haul Trucker Project is probably cheaper than two car payments, doesn't use gas, or need insurance, we can't leave out the sex, can we? For gosh sakes, these ARE college students being targeted, and they have their priorities. So to finish the story Giant should have told, I offer my own addenum to the Giant advertisement: Get the bike, get the girl. A still or two from Breaking Away, featuring Robyn Douglass as Katherine, the gorgeous co-ed, and Dennis Christopher as the local guy Dave, obsessed with Italian bike racing.And, of course, with Katherine....

"I'd much rather date you than that wheezing frat guy with the pickup truck.
Aside from his bad health, he is so far behind in his GM car payments that the only place he ever takes me to is the Golden Arches"

And later that night.....
"Its so much fun to date a guy with such endurance! 
Can you teach me to ride, too?"
Nuff said?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What bike lane???

Cars were parked everywhere during yesterday's athletic event at the golf course

From my morning LA Monitor tickler.
Young girl hit by vehicle near golf course Friday

An SUV struck a girl in a crosswalk on Diamond Drive near the Los Alamos Golf Course Friday afternoon.

Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Brian Nickerson said the accident occurred about 4:10 p.m. and the girl, reported to be a young adolescent, was taken to Los Alamos Medical Center with what appeared to be moderate injuries.

"It was a fairly serious accident," Nickerson said.

Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy said his officers are investigating the cause of the accident.
Read the story on our website!

I was wondering what all the commotion was about. By the time I rode by, there was no one down in the street. Also wondering why the bike lane suddenly became an optional and chaotic parking lot. But when everybody in the county decides to drive their private vehicle to the golf course to cheer on the team, its not surprising you would have chaotic parking and the occasional crash or two. Rush hour vs ped crossing on Trinity can't be much better.

I don't object to occasionally giving over the bike lane to parked cars, county law as told to me by Kyle notwithstanding, but worry about cyclists getting doored or hitting a pedestrian. Support for the local athletics must be balanced by good planning. Lesson learned, I guess.

Next time we have a big athletic event at the golf course that results in heavy parking impeding the bike lanes, heavy ped traffic along the bike lanes, and heavy traffic, I wonder if we need to have better traffic controls in place in advance, such as signage WARNING, ATHLETIC EVENT AHEAD, and WARNING, BIKES IN THE ROAD.

or how about:

Might have to get an MUTCD waiver for that one.

Infrastructure can't do it all by itself. We have to help.

Hope the girl is OK. Helluva way to start the weekend out, i.e., in a hospital bed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

roadside memorials, more

Unlike Bob Fuller's Roadside Memorials, this one is pretty poignant. In honor of all those people whom can't speak for themselves any more (because they are dead), and with a tip of the tinfoil beanie to Traffic Safety Month at the Laboratory, and finally, wishing more people would make the connection between these memorials and their driving behavior, here goes...

The memorial below has special significance for me. About five or six years ago, Meena and I were returning from shopping in Santa Fe on a Saturday. We followed NM 502 where it splits from NM4 and headed up towards the hairpin turn below the airport. I saw a car that seemed to be getting bigger really fast. Realized it was headed right towards me going the wrong way. I flashed my lights and laid on the horn to no avail, so I bailed out onto the shoulder and braked to a stop. A very old lady was behind the wheel of the wrong way car. She was now trapped on a divided, high speed highway.

I called 911 to report a wrong way driver and then ominously, told the 911 operator "you better get some gear down hear real fast. I don't see any more traffic coming up behind me and there should be a lot of it". I then put the car in reverse and hauled ass in reverse about a quarter mile around the sweeping curve below the Y. There I found the wrong way car, crushed into a Harley. Two riders were bleeding out on the road. A following motorist, who saw it all, said it was horrific, with boots and helmets literally ripped off the riders by the impact. A woman who identified herself as a nurse said they were gone.

With yet more cars alternately braking hard or whizzing by us on a high speed curve, about half a dozen of us formed an impromptu emergency traffic control team by stopping cars and telling them to stop upstream of the curve in an en echelon pattern with their flashers on. We then slowed all the high speed traffic coming around the curve and directed it into the one open lane, so no one else would plow into the mess. Eventually the EMTs and police got there. All they could do was cover the bodies. An EMT tried CPR on one motorcyclist, but all that happened was geysers of blood came out of the person's mouth and nose.

Crashes are not pretty and those memorials show the names of real people whose lives were abruptly snuffed out. Usually in a completely unnecessary manner. Be careful out there, and make sure anyone who you can influence thinks about that too.

NOTE ADDED SATURDAY. Looks like we almost got another memorial. Young girl hit in the golf course crossing yesterday afternoon. Don't we have enough descansos already?

I was present for this crash, driving onto the shoulder
 to avoid the wrong-way car that went on to hit the motorcycle head-on. 
This is on 502 just below the Y.
Double fatal, both on the motorcycle. 
Watching two people die is not fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Diamond and Canyon, the Saga Continues

Wearing my bicyclist and LCI hats, I met with Ann Laurent (Asst. County Administrator) and Nancy Talley (County Traffic Manager) yesterday at Canyon and Diamond at 11:30 to bat around some ideas for a redesign of the bike lane/former right turn lane on northbound Diamond at Canyon.  County Staff have been looking at a couple of redesigns and I suggested one as well out of the National Association of City Transportation Officials guidebook, just released. The idea I suggested is of a combined shared right turn/bike lane, but with clear markings consistent with better roadway positioning. That specific design can be found here and I pasted a picture from the NACTO guide below.

Mind you, the NACTO is not the same as MUTCD, i.e., MUTCD is the engineer's bible and NACTO is not. We will have to find a MUTCD consistent solution, I suspect.

We saw at least three instances of two cars trying to turn right synchronously while we were standing there, i.e., one car using the bike lane and one car using the regular lane, and both trying to squeeze into Canyon headed east at the same time and having to jockey around each other. Crazy stuff. 

Example of a shared turn/bike lane, Eugene, OR
From the NACTO Guide
The wheels are turning on this and that's as far as I will go. Stay tuned, and meanwhile, "let's be careful out there". Regardless of the design, its your grey matter that keeps you safe, not the stripes on the roadway.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is it a touring bike, a commuter, or a monstercross bike?

Its hard to believe that someone might actually post something here about simply building and riding a bike rather than ranting about the latest injustice to bicycling, but here goes. I finally decided to foray into a long considered project and build up a loaded touring bike. So when we finally took the old Trek T-200 tandem off the road (we have not used it since buying the Co-Motion Primera) I took it apart, saved all the parts and bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker loaded touring frameset from the nice folks at Mellow Velo down in Santa Fe. This would be the test frame to hang the parts onto. This has resulted in a touring geometry bike with 9 spd bar-ends,cyclecross drop bars, linear pull brakes, and a triple touring crankset in 46-36-26 configuration driving an 11-34 cogset with 26 inch wheels, the 26's being standard on Surly's smaller LHT frames.

Long Haul Trucker in original form, on a Camp May Road 
 fire road entrance, wearing  those Bontrager Jones fat tires.
Yep, those fatties really do fit fine

In its original form I threw a set of ancient 26 x 1.95 inch Bontrager Jones knobbies on it because that was all I had in the parts pile, leading my longtime pen pal Patrick O'Grady to call it a monstercross bike. Those tires, along with an ancient but still true Bontrager mountainbike wheelset, have been hanging in the garage since God was a child and finally had a home. In that form, and with a last minute panic purchase of some steerer tube spacers from Jim Rickman at Little Jimmy's Wheelhouse, right here in BombTown, I took it out on Sunday morning, climbed Camp May Road, and wandered between road and fire road indiscriminately.  The bike was actually happier clawing up steep rocky fire roads in the granny ring while it felt a little sluggish on pavement due to the full off road tires. So back to REI that afternoon for some road rubber.  Right now it is shod with 26 x 1.5 inch city tires and is a very efficient, fast and stable commuter. At some point, I need to put on my front Blackburn Low Riders and take it on a real bike tour.

Long Haul Trucker in commuter trim.
The 26-1.5 Serfas Drifters are a tad heavy, but look pretty bombproof 
Next time I'll get some faster, more supple tires
11-4-11 addenum. I did get around to trimming the steerer tube. Gotta replace that ancient bar tape, too. The big improvement was swapping out a 110 mm bottom bracket for a 115. Now I don't have the front derailleur, which had the low limit screw all the way in as far as it could go, rubbing the chain in the 26-34 and 26-30 combinations Chain line is still OK, but I have to take it out now and ride it to see how the Q factor feels. If the pedals are too far apart, I'll have to find a front derailleur that can move closer to the centerline of the bike.

All in all, its been a lot of fun. Heck of a lot cheaper and far healthier than some hobbies, too!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bob Fuller's Roadside Memorials

With all the talk over how to redesign Trinity to be bike-ped safe and with this being our largest employer's "traffic safety month", I still think I need to remind us that the biggest issue we face is not specific designs but lagging human behavior. Hence this video, which is guaranteed to offend everybody. Its been around the block for a few years but I had not thought of it until I emptied out an old computer case and found, much to my surprise, the Bob Fuller Roadside Memorial business cards.

Yep, I have the business cards too if you wish. Given to me by Randy Neufeld back when he headed up Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, back when we both were attending the 2006 Pro-Bike/Pro-Walk conference in Madison, WI. Enjoy, and while watching out for those distracted drivers and oblivious joggers, remember that this is actually deadly serious business. I'll find the collection of descansos pictures I took a few years back and post them later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

GM to Students: Get Hooked Early. Young Lady to Bicyclist: Go Ride That Bike

From the look on that woman's face, he's got nice quads...
Or something. 
Kudos to BikePortland and the LAB for running this up the flagpole

Having been in the loop with a couple of campus facility managers and even a University Vice Chancellor for Operations during my time, I bet they are less than pleased with that advertisement, unless GM is paying for the next parking structure, road project, and traffic management study. Especially for urban campuses such as the U of Hawaii.  Just what they need—more cars.  My understanding is UH is vying for Bicycle-Friendly Campus status, having just made honorable mention. Congrats to Kathy Cutshaw, the UH Vice Chancellor for Administration, Finance, and Operations, and her remarkable team. Back when I was on the SOEST faculty at UH, Kathy, as chief administrative officer of the School Of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology (SOEST), was working to make SOEST a bicycle-friendly university unit.

Not to mention, I knew too many students back at the UH who were hopelessly in debt and had to work part time jobs to cover the bills spent on shit I never dreamed of owning in college, rather than using their time to study. It’s tragic. One has the rest of one’s life to buy toys. Presuming, of course, you leave college with that sheepskin rather than broken and burdened with a mountain of senseless debt.

On the other hand, that pretty girl in the car is giving that guy on the bike a pretty serious looking over. Sigh…for a twentysomething guy, that’s actually a pretty good advertisement for riding a bike on campus and saving the money spent on a large, gas guzzling liability instead for a date. If I were the local bike shop, I'd have that ad on my door pronto.

Speaking of, I once gained a lady friend on campus back in grad school at Stony Brook University when I rode my old Motobecane Mirage to the Stony Brook natural food store to grab some groceries for a pot luck. She was a friend of the friend of mine throwing the pot luck. When I said I was there to  “score some veggies for the potluck” while loading them into my pannier, I immediately had a new friend. One has to have priorities.

Looks to me like GM pulled the ad, by the way. I suspect they saw all those young men fantasizing about that dark haired young girl and then stampeding to their Local Bike Shop.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Maybe we need some "Truck Ed" around here too?

Sheesh. Two tractor trailers have lost it and crashed in two days on one of our most popular bike rides, New Mexico Rt. 4, just above Back Gate. From those pictures in the LA Monitor, it sure is lucky no one on a bike or motor vehicle was in the way. Its also good to know how to descend that road really fast, I guess. Faster than an outa control eighteen wheeler, that is. I better stop trying to lose weight. One's survival might hinge on bike handling skills in the face of up to 80,000 pounds on eighteen wheels.

Is it my imagination, or have there not always been a few big rigs driving that route? Is it more than coincidence that both trucks were from the same company (according to the Monitor, it is BB Transport of Colorado) and both loaded with crushed cars?  Did anyone at that company train its drivers to handle our twisty switchback mountain roads? Colorado's got mountains, right? Did they check the maps? Drive the course? Check if the fully loaded eighteen wheeler could even make those awful turns?

We are lucky no one, including those drivers, was hurt or killed. I think the NMDOT better look at this before we are not so lucky.

Let's be careful out there. Lotta diesel still in the pavement after the cleanup. Watch those corners.