Monday, February 11, 2013

Renovating NM502 between Knecht Street and Tewa Loop

Dear: Transportation Board
         Eric Johnson, Marron and Associates
         Los Alamos County Council
         Pajarito Riders
         Los Alamos co-op,
         Diane Albert, League of American Bicyclists National Board member

I received a mailing on Friday inviting me to attend a Public Open House on 20 February at the Los Alamos Community Building/CouncilChambers to examine the latest proposal for rebuilding NM502/Trinity Drive between Knecht Street and Tewa Loop. In the brief discussion it is proposed that there be an assortment of travel lanes, intersection treatments, and pedestrian amenities.

You do not mention whether (or how) bicyclists will be accommodated.

This is a critical oversight and I hope it is merely because of the brevity of the mailing. Between Airport Road and Sombrilla Court, NM502 is presently one lane in each direction. Furthermore, it does not have shoulders and there are large central medians between the opposing lanes in many locations. This results in 35-40 mph motor traffic "squeezing" into cycling traffic at each of these medians, especially westbound, where the cyclist is laboring upgradient. That is not the least bit comforting to a westbound cyclist riding uphill and probably not for motorists either.**

Given the County has heavily developed the Airport Basin and can therefore expect more cyclists to be using this road for transportation, the section of NM502 in the proposed scope of work should be improved with safe cycling accommodations such as bike lanes or paved shoulders. The shoulders east of Airport road are excellent for the most part. I think regardless of the scope of this project, paved shoulders or some sort of safe cycling accomodation should be added to NM502 starting west of Airport Road.

I should mention, in case anyone else is thinking of it, that in my opinion as a skilled cyclist who wrote quite a bit of the Los AlamosCounty Bicycling Transportation System (2005) document, that the Canyon Rim Trail is not a safe substitute for roadway cycling. Whoever designed it unfortunately put aesthetics far ahead of safety. It is a beautiful trail, but was purposely built to be quite sinuous and often has very poor lines of sight. A quite responsible cyclist travelling at a reasonable cycling speed can come immediately upon a walker or walkers on one of the numerous blind curves on that trail. I've done that at a slow cycling speed and the reaction of walkers is often one of surprise and alarm. Trinity Drive from Diamond to Airport Road is one of the county's Priority 1 arterials for the purpose of cycling access.

If the information on how cycling will be accommodated is already posted somewhere, could you please send me a link? I'll post it on the LA Bikes blog.

** Note added later: The County Corridor study leaves bicycle facilities up in the air. The County Council voted thus: " ...This (design) option is to be modified to incorporate bicycle lanes or bicycle paths where it is physically viable and cost-effectively feasible to so do in the opinion of the NM Department of Transportation and Los Alamos County. The motion passed 6 – 1; Councilor Chiravalle opposed..."

Boldface mine. That's a lot of iffy wording.

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