Sunday, August 7, 2011

Partial Shoulder paving continues to be business as usual for New Mexico

Speaking of Century rides (previous posting), one has to contend with the pathetic paving policies practiced in the Land of Enchantment. I wrote about this earlier this year after an eye doctor was killed outside Las Cruces on a road with unrideable shoulders. Once again, it is in the news as New Mexico Dept. of Transportation has gone back on its word on the High Road to Taos Project.



Partial shoulder paving means you have to ride in the travel lane, whether it is a wonderful idea or not. Its not neccesarily good for you as a cyclist, and its not neccesarily good for the motorist overtaking you. So why the lousy work? A few bucks saved, for what?

The partially paved shoulder shown below required Dr. Ronald Fronczak to ride in the travel lane on a 65 mph "bike route" outside Las Cruces (on US 70). He was hit from behind and killed. I wonder if he would be alive today if not for the NMDOT's choice to sacrifice his safety on a publicly defined bike route.

Support the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico in its fight against these travesties, which save a few dollars at YOUR expense. Also, email the Los Alamos County Council (countycouncil at lacnm dot us) to ask why it has not acted on a Transportation Board motion advising Council to send an official public statement to State Government opposing this NMDOT travesty. Santa Fe already did so.

Shoulder treatment on the road where Dr. Ronald Fronczak was hit from behind and killed.
There are actually two shoulder lips here! 

Assumed impact position, picture from Ben Widmer's Facebook page


Steve A said...

Is it known what lane position Fronczak was in when he was hit? With the shoulder unavailable, he had the choice of inviting a sideswipe by riding right on the fog line or else the less commonly exercised option of controlling the lane. While neither could save him in any conceivable circumstance, I'd act to reduce the likelihood of a motorist concluding a full lane change was not required. Have any news reports made any similar statements? I'd guess not.

Khal said...

See second picture, from Ben Widmer's Facebook page.

I think Doc was hit from behind, not sideswiped. Not clear whether lane position (farther left) would have caught the driver attention in time (at 65 mph), or just moved the point of impact farther left on the truck. Or, of a safe shoulder would have prevented the crash. Too many variables, too much room for conjecture.

Steve A said...

The major effect of riding further left would have been to cause the overtaking driver to making an early, full lane change due to elimination of any doubt that was what he needed to do. Would that have helped? Maybe not and we shall never know, but it sure couldn't have turned out worse. It is why I always ride LC when I have to ride on the Alliance Gateway Freeway.

Khal said...

From my limited understanding, there was no attempt to change lanes or brake in advance.

I don't think the driver "saw" the cyclist, or the driver would have moved left at least enough to clear him, as the rider was pretty far to the right.

The other issue is that the police investigation was not alleged to have been very comprehensive nor was it ever written up in the press, at least to my knowledge. Its tough to hang a hypothesis on anything when there is such little information available.

The idea of occupying the lane is to force (or shall we say encourage) a motorist to change lanes to pass and to be more visible. When you are slammed from behind at 65 mph, its not clear those assumptions would work with the driver in question. This isn't about lane sharing. Its about not moving over at all and not paying attention. Why???

The only answers to that "why" question I can think of is either complete driver inattention, sun in the eyes, or other forms of limited visibility. In the later two cases, driving too fast for conditions is strongly suggested but no citation was issued. Now, if you rear end someone, isn't a citation warranted??? Did the cops interview the son in the passenger seat?

But since the driver who hit the cyclist was a law enforcement official at White Sands, I wonder if this was handled a bit softly by the NMSP, who have historically not been highly supportive of roadway cycling to begin with. Law enforcement official cited for a wrongful death, or cyclist blamed for being in the road? (See my March post).

BCNM has been working with the NMSP to try to change this stated attitude, but the comments offered by the State Police spokesperson after this crash were downright dreadful, and not confidence building.

The bottom line is that a wide, safe, clean shoulder provides a separate lane for slow moving bicycle traffic on a 65 mph highway. New Mexico is too cheap to provide one, and our FHWA representatives are lax in their duties.

My opinions alone, obviously.