Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Conchas Fire

Not much to say here from Santa Fe except what I hear from elsewhere. If you are interested in updates, please follow Greg Kendall's Los Alamos County Views site or KRSN (webcast link below). Greg is working the local radio station, KRSN AM 1490, which webcasts. Inciweb is a good place for fire information.

Be safe out there, and pray for rain and no wind. Right now we got plenty of the opposite. When this is all over, we have to do something really great for the fire, police, National Guard, LANL Emergency Ops crews, and all the other county, state, and Federal civil servants who have been holding back a pretty hellish fire. (and who sez we don't need no government services...). Just kidding, Steve...obviously, these are essential ones.

Finally, a tip of the water bucket to Greg Kendall, the volunteers, and the KRSN station owners David and Gillian Sutton for the tremendous effort they have put into keeping us all in the loop in these scary times. We need to make sure they get their building permits!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Los Alamos is being evacuated. Fire is too intense, moving too fast, and the wind is too unpredictable.

The next day: All smoke, no mirrors

Not much of a photo even with the big Canon T1i as I wasn't thinking of tripods, but this gives you the idea, along with the surreal mood. Greg Kendall has some great pics at his site.
Middle School Parking Lot at about 11 p.m. as the fire topped the ridge. 
Armegeddon must look something like this.
Oddly, I didn't notice till listening to National Public Radio this morning that the Pacheco Fire north of Santa Fe is also blowing up fast. Funny how a fire just upwind of you takes your mind off other people's problems that are already downwind of the fan.

Its touch and go in BombTown; some have already left.  There seems a strange calm right now until the wind picks up again. After watching the smoke all yesterday, around dusk I saw flames shooting over the ridge just the other side of Frijoles Canyon, just to the southwest, as the fire burned its way all the way through the Jemez in just a few hours. 43,500 acres at last report based on overnight infrared mapping, assuming no typos (the last report last night claimed about 4000-5000 acres and that's more like what local radio is saying this morning). It did look like a large, powerful fire. That's more than a bit chilling. We packed clothing, dog and cat food, and other essentials last night and there was a voluntary evacuation, but we decided to stick it out here unless there is a mandatory one. My asthma didn't even kick in, as a lot of the worst smoke settled over White Rock.

When the suitcases were packed, albeit frantically, we went up the hill on North Mesa to the Los Alamos middle school. There was a pretty big turnout. It scary watching a big crown fire from a few miles away--and from downwind. 100 foot trees literally go up like roman candles. I was watching through binoculars and could see big trees literally explode. I could also see what they mean by "spotting". Little orange dots would appear in advance of the fire like little paratroopers and pretty soon that area was engulfed in real time.

The fire burned into the Cerro Grande fire area and into a previous 1990's burn and that slowed progress in the direction of town. I don't think there is going to be much left of the Bandelier National Monument except rocks, though. The fire was burning through Frijoles Canyon and Bandelier. That's tragic.

The Southwest is a tenuous place to live under normal circumstances, because normal here can include fire, drought, megadrought, and the occasional wet decade or two that encourages mass numbers of fools to move in. This year should serve as a reminder that we live at the behest of Ma Nature and her complex climate cycles; she doesn't take prisoners. Political smoke and mirrors matter little at times like this when reality takes over.

New Mexico Fire Info updates on the Conchas Fire are HERE.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Las Conchas Fire in the Jemez--this one's upwind again

There's a reason for those Stage III Fire Restrictions. According to latest reports in The Albuquerque Journal though, this one broke out on private land. Fire doesn't know boundaries I guess.

The sky was clear at 12:30 when I got back from a bike ride of the Bandelier Loop, where I ran into some Santa Fe folks riding up from the valley and we all road like fiends up the climb from Bandelier to Back Gate.  Had lunch, took a nap, and woke up to a dark sky. Apparently, the fire blew up at about 1 p.m. near the Las Conchas campgrounds near mile marker 35 of NM Rt. 4, about 12 miles upwind of us. The fire is growing fast in high winds. NM-4 is shut down at the Back Gate and some areas in the Jemez are starting to evacuate.

Be careful out there.
Looking across the neighbor's house

Sky above North Mesa at 3:45 pm
Our new neighbor--welcome to the hood, buddy!
Looking over the house at about 4 pm, and southwest from the Mari-Mac Shopping Center at about 3 pm

Friday, June 24, 2011

Better Pray for Rain--most of Santa Fe National Forest Closed under Stage III Fire Restrictions

Just talked to the Espanola Ranger District. Appears that even popular trails such as out to Canada Bonita are closed. We better get some rain in these parts...see below for details and check back with the Public Lands Information Web site. Guess I'm glad I did my mountainbiking up off of American Springs last weekend.

LA County has some info here.

In the comments, Jon points out that  much of the following trails are on Forest Service land: Perimeter, Guaje Ridge, Pipeline, Quemazon, Mitchell...

Please be careful out there. But I guess I don't have to tell that to any longtime residents.

Date: June 24, 2011
For Immediate Release: June 23, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ask Council to help put an end to partial pavement overlays that wreck roadway shoulders

Sent this to County Council tonight.

Dear County Council Chair Stover and Los Alamos County Council:

In August, 2009, the Los Alamos County Transportation Board passed and sent Council a motion asking Council to pass and send on to the State of New Mexico and the Dept. of Energy a statement from the Los Alamos County Council requesting that partial paving overlays that degrade roadway shoulders not be used on State and Federal roads in New Mexico. This is a practice that saves money by narrowing the application of pavement overlays (such as Open-Graded Friction Course) to as small an area as possible, excluding part of the roadway shoulder. While this practice is not advised by roadway engineering authorities (see the text of the 2009 motion for details) and while it seemingly runs counter to state and Federal multimodal transportation guidelines **, partial paving is used in New Mexico to save a little money by sacrificing bicycling and motorcycling safety. To my knowledge, this motion was not acted on.

While the Los Alamos County Government does not install such partial pavement overlays, these can be seen on both State of New Mexico and Dept. of Energy roadways in or near Los Alamos County. Past attempts to remedy this through meetings with Governor Richardson have not solved the problem at the State level (see letter here:

Since roadways affected by this practice are used by Los Alamos bicyclists or bicyclists visiting our county, they directly impact the safety of the Los Alamos County Bicycling Transportation System and its cycling users. This is especially true since the 2005 Council included regional routes in the definition of our Bicycling Transportation System.

Partial pavement overlays create a hazard since the longitudinal raised lip they create on a roadway shoulder can deflect a bicycle wheel, causing a crash or causing a deflection in steering that can send a bicycle on an unintended course, such as into traffic or off of the shoulder. They further require a bicyclist to ride in the traffic lane on high speed roads rather than on the shoulder, thus increasing the chances of a rear-end collision caused by an overtaking motorist. An example is a doctor recently killed outside Las Cruces. The doctor, Ronald Fronczak, was riding in the travel lane of a State Bicycle Route when hit from behind and killed. The shoulder on that route, U.S. 70, was unrideable due to repeated application of overlapping partial pavement overlays. Pictures can be seen here.

These partial pavement overlays can be seen locally on NM-4 in the Jemez Mountains, where they are particularly egregious, to a lesser degree of seriousness on East Jemez Road, and on NM-4 between NM-502 and White Rock These are routes popular with local cyclists as well as those visiting Los Alamos County from elsewhere.

As cycling is a very popular pastime for County residents, and as cycling brings money into our community from elsewhere through the visitor industry by virtue of cyclists who visit for rides and races (for example, MS-150, Los Alamos Triathlon, Little Boy and Fat Man Duathons, and the Tour de Los Alamos), I am asking Council to bring this request to end partial shoulder paving back to the table and formally ask both our State and Federal roadway managing authorities to cease this practice.

Thank you,
Khal Spencer


Rep. Jim Hall, 43rd House District
Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists
Chris Tough, Tim Rogers, and Diane Albert, Bicycling Coalition of New Mexico
Eugene Dougherty, Los Alamos County Transportation Board Chair
Pajarito Riders bicycling email list

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Avoiding the dreaded left cross crash

There is a nice video here demonstrating good riding position and good situational awareness moving into an intersection. The rider's attention to detail and awareness may have prevented a nasty crash. Check out this video on the Cycling Saavy site.

I have seen similar situations unfolding at numerous locations in Los Alamos. Especially on our wide E-W roads where like the rider, its possible to have the sun at a bad angle and be screened by overtaking traffic.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Don't miss the Tour de Los Alamos

Patrick O'Grady captures my self-image well
There are a couple days left to pre-register for the Tour de Los Alamos (which occurs this Sunday, 19 June) before the price goes up. I don't fancy myself much of a racer (see photo at left) but I may do the Citizen's race to support "the oldest bike race in the southwest". At any rate, come out and support our own hometown bike race.

Click here to go to the Tour site

Get off the road???

Yes, they are your roads, both here and in Texas. 
Please respect them when you ride.
Photo hoisted from Steve A, DFW Point to Point
Albert Hsu and I ran into each other this morning in the Western Areas while biking to work. We rode out of the Western Area via West Road. We caught up with another local cyclist, one I recognized from a past League of American Bicyclists course Neale or I taught, while crossing the Omega Bridge.

That third cyclist got to the southbound crosswalk at the Diamond and W. Jemez intersection, looked both ways, and then blatantly ran the red light to cross W. Jemez. Did this in front of a lot of motorists.

After the light changed, Albert and I crossed and were riding south on Diamond. At the first signalized intersection (Embudo, by Building 1498), yet another cyclist ran a red light to cross Diamond in the ped crosswalk.

So of the four cyclists an observer might have seen at that time, roughly 0800, two were blatantly disobeying traffic law. 50%. Small wonder we get the "get off the road" treatment.

Maybe some of you should consider getting off the road. At least until you start being better ambassadors for cycling. Albert and I get a little tired hearing about it.

Just sayin'...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Road rage incident on NM-4 during lunchtime ride

A touch of civility, anyone?
acknowledgements to Patrick O'Grady

The email below was posted to pajarito-riders, Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy, and the Los Alamos Triatomics club on Friday, 10 June by Clay Moseley. Note that as far as we know, this dangerous driver is still out there.

I strongly urge that if you are in such a situation as described below, remain calm, get to a safe place, and call 911 at once. Posting to a list can alert other riders and that is good, but unfortunately, doesn't do anything of legal standing nor get a dangerous driver off the road. The next cyclist might not be lucky enough to be home safe, hitting "send". 

From: "Clay Moseley"
Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2011 22:06:38 GMTTo:,
Cc: Police Chief Wayne Torpy wd dot torpy at lacnm dot us
Subject: Driver vs. Cyclist incident on NM-4

"After avoiding road riding for almost 3 weeks now, Dina and I headed out for an easy ride to Bandelier and back today during the lunch hour. 
We had a bad incident with a lady driving a late-model white Hyundai Sedan, NM license plate (will check with Clay before posting plate number here)Be aware of this car if you're out riding.  Read on as to why...
For those of you who don't know how I ride on the road, I essentially avoid most group riding, and am a real stickler for single-file, out-of-cars'-way bike riding habits.  I don't ride in busy streets and avoid altercations with cars in almost all situations.  In short, I'm a big advocate for non-intrusive bike riding for a few reasons, mainly because I think we're our own worst enemies with how we look to motorists, regardless of whether we're right or wrong.
All that said, I was in disbelief at what a motorist did to me today while out on NM-4 heading just east of the TA-49 entrance.  Dina and I were riding along single-file, going about 25mph and as far to the right as was safe (there are some bad shoulder cracks right in that area).  The traffic was very light and there were lots of other lunch-time bikers out there, and suddenly this person comes up behind us going about 35 and honking like an idiot -- absolutely without any sort of provocation other than being on a bike.  Anyway, when she passed me, she veered over within a cat's whisker of hitting me, then hit her brakes.  I had to veer out toward the other lane to avoid hitting her.  Dina was freaked out by the honking at very close range and had to hit her brakes to avoid being caught up in a crash.
I screamed at her because she was just about to take me out, and she began to hit her brakes again, then sped off.  Of course, I was pretty pissed off and gave her the ol' single-finger invitation to face up to what she had just done.  She slowed down and when I began to draw near again, she tried again to run me off the road with her car -- this time toward the opposing traffic side of the road!  Finally, she realized she was all over the road and started going nuts about having been flipped mention of the unprovoked attempted assault with her car.  I got in a few very loud shouts that hitting someone with her car is illegal, to which she reacted by veering (again) into the on-coming lane to take me out while wildly yelling that flipping someone off is illegal.  I had to call on some good bike handling skills to avoid this crazy lady and her car.
Anyway, nothing good came of the altercation, of course.  But, I did ascertain that the lady was either completely mentally unstable, off her meds, on way too many meds/under the influence, or a combination of two of the above.
Ironically, she had an Obama campaign sticker on her rear trunk.  I guess there is no Hope for some things...
Be careful out there.  It just doesn't seem to matter if you're right or wrong.  The people in the cars have all the control."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stage-two fire restrictions in effect Friday, 10 June, in Santa Fe National Forest

 For you mountainbikers and hikers out there. FYI

SF Forest, Valles Caldera Going To Stage 2 Fire Restrictions

On Friday, both the national forest and the preserve will move to Stage 2 restrictions — meaning no campfires at all, even in developed campgrounds. The new rules stop short of any closures of forest areas.
The new restrictions apply to all wilderness areas including the Chama River Canyon Wilderness, Dome Wilderness, Pecos Wilderness and San Pedro Parks Wilderness.
The forests previously have been under Stage I restrictions, which ban smoking outside of vehicles or buildings, fireworks and campfires outside of developed sites.
The Stage 2 restrictions prohibit:
  • Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, wood or stove fire.
  • Using an explosive.
  • Smoking, except inside a vehicle or building.
  • Possession, discharging or using any type of firework or pyrotechnic device.
  • Possessing or operating motor vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and ATVs, off National Forest System roads.
  • Operating a chain saw or other tools or equipment powered by an internal combustion engine, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Welding or operating acetylene or other torches with open flames.
Violations are punishable by fines of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations and imprisonment for up to six months.

For other information, go to or or

Or call 505-438-5300.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Durango, CO: Silver Level Bicycle-Friendly Community with Door Zone Bike Lanes

One suggestion for striping a door zone bike lane. 
Note--picture NOT taken in Durango, but their design
might be even narrower on 3rd Ave
(photo courtesy of BikeOrlando)

I really enjoy Durango and have had several great bike rides there. Plan to go back, too, with my wallet and my bicycles. One of these days I'll ride to Silverton on the Six-Thirteen. This time, we took our tandem up there for some less insane family riding. Durango is a great place to do that.

But not all is idyllic in Durango. I sometimes wonder what good some of the well publicized efforts at shoe-horning in bike facilities does for us cyclists*. Especially on a road such as 3rd Ave in Durango, which has plenty of room to share sans bike lane stripes.

Durango, in my eyes, is definitely a bicycle-friendly community, but not because of the striping I found on some of its city streets (in fact, my wife Meena more than once heard me mutter a quiet sigh of relief as I got past its downtown streets striped with hazardous door zone bike lanes). In fact, my opinion of a city that will put in bike lanes in what should be a clear buffer space along side parked cars is that it is NOT willing to go the extra mile to be truly accommodating to safe and lawful cycling. That's downright cynical. That is a lesson we should not forget here in Los Alamos, where we are in our own "complete streets" movement.

Let's face it. Appearances can be deceiving to the uneducated. An uneducated bicyclist may be happy to have his "own space"--until a door flies open into his path.  Face it, even careful drivers make mistakes. An uneducated motorist may be happy to have slower moving bicyclists in their own space--until a crash leaves them defending a hefty lawsuit, since unsafely opening a door into traffic is usually citeable (NM 66-7-267) Finally, its yet to be seen when a city will be sued for creating an attractive nuisance with these things when a child is doored. The bottom line is some streets are better left alone and intuitive to use if they can't be improved, rather than made worse through stress-inducing stripage that herds cyclists into hazardous riding.  I've often worried about North Road by the Urban Park tennis courts in this regard (although in our own defense, that bike lane is quite wide, but see the asterisked note at the end of this post--what would work better there in my opinion is a buffered stripe between parked cars and a bike lane--or no bike lane at all).Bottom line: First, do no harm. Then, do good.
Striped DZBL on 3rd Ave (Google Earth photo)
There are two perfectly good lanes for overtaking.
Why put cyclists in the door zone?

I sent this email to the Mayor of Durango and after not hearing back, to Mary Oswald, listed on the LAB site as a point of contact. Ms. Oswald has chaired the La Plata County Safe Roads Coalition.

Dear Mayor Rinderle
Mayor, Durango, CO

We just spend our second short vacation in Durango in the last few years and as usual had a great time. However, there is one thing I wanted to discuss with you or your roadway engineer.

Durango is listed as a Silver level bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. During my two trips to Durango during the last five years, it is pretty obvious that a lot of folks are bicycling in Durango. Mode share is obviously high. Bicyclists are everywhere. But some of your bicycling infrastructure left me a little shocked.

My wife and I were staying at the Rochester Hotel, on 2nd Ave, this weekend. We brought our tandem so we could get around Durango by bike and also get out of town for some good rides. Our typical route out of Durango was to go north on 3rd Ave. to Florida Rd. and out into the country. I noted several things while biking and walking.
East College Drive near 3rd Ave
That space by the curb isn't designated as a bike 
lane (at least I didn't see any signs), but was used 
as one by every cyclist I saw on
College Drive. Who reinforces such bad behavior?

The bike lanes on 3rd Avenue and on either 8th or 9th Street (I forget which) were very narrow and the bike lanes were entirely within the "door zone" of marked onstreet parking.  These bike lanes are therefore dangerous to ride in. I rode outside the bike lane on these roads and frankly, would have considered it dangerous to use these bike lanes.

I also noted that there is striping on College Avenue such that there is a very narrow (three feet?) space to the right of a stripe bounding the right edge of the right travel lane. Is this marking a bike lane? This space to the right of the travel lane, about three feet, is split rougly half and half between a concrete gutter pan and asphalt. Thus the narrow space to the right of heavy traffic is split by a longitudinal gap between the gutter pan and roadway. That space, used by a lot of cyclists I saw riding there, could result in a diversion fall and is inconsistent with AASHTO guidelines.

I would offer that all of these striped situations (College Ave, 3rd, Ave, 8th St and any others like them) should either have the striping removed or be re-striped so that these bike lanes meet (2010) AASHTO (pg. 74-75) guidelines** and do not endanger cyclists via diversion falls or dooring incidents. An experienced cyclist such as myself was constantly wondering if I was going to be cited by police for riding outside the bike lane. That is hardly fun. Do you have a mandatory bike lane law? A less saavy cyclist, and I saw lots, were riding well within the door zone of parked cars. This included Sunday morning, when a lot of church traffic was loading and unloading on 3rd Ave. This is hardly bicyclist-friendly.

I have been a member of my county transportation advisory board for most of eight years and have chaired or vice-chaired this board for about half that time. I've co-authored the Los Alamos County Bicycle Transportation System legislation and worked on the Honolulu Bike Plan (1999) back when I lived in Hawaii. I'm quite concerned that we ensure that our bike plans work well and are safe. Hence, I'm writing you to share these thoughts, which are my own entirely and are not spoken in any official capacity.

* Finally, a nice quote:

"...a lot of times the cycling community has a myopia when it comes to the function of a road. 'Bike lanes' is the answer, now what was the question? Theirs is a less pernicious mentality than the DOT that says 'more lanes' is the answer, now what was the question? Both groups stand in the way of creating streets that work better..."
--a member of a national advocacy organization who wished to remain anonymous, in an email to me.

** From the 2010 AASHTO Guidelines, pp 74-75: "...When on‐street parking is permitted, the bicycle lane should be placed between the parking lane and the travel lane (see Exhibit 4.13). The recommended bicycle lane width in these locations is 6 feet...Several communities employ markings to encourage cyclists to ride further from parked cars, such as providing a wider parking lane, a wider bike lane, or a striped buffer between the parking lane and the bike lane..."

Door Zone crash in Cambridge, MA that killed graduate student Dana Laird
Acknowledgements to John Allen. Original photo by Robert Winters, Cambridge Civic Journal