The Los Alamos Regional Bike Trail Planning Meeting happened today in the new County government building. I've scanned in the flyer that was handed out--scroll down to the bottom. What this proposal envisions is a separated path system that would essentially parallel the Bandelier Loop.
As Lisa Dougherty mentions below, this is a National Park Service driven project, albeit working with DOE (and the county) since much of the land is on DOE property, so its not clear if there would be any potential overlap with State or local transportation money unless those options were tied to this proposal by other government entities such as the State or County.
It was also clear that this vision is for a separated bike path system with a clientele somewhat distinct from existing users and which asserts boldly that traffic safety will benefit by removing cyclists and runners from the road and onto a sidepath (see flyer). I wonder how that would fly with the cyclists one sees on NM4.
Several of us brought up roadway conditions as a first consideration, since the Bandelier Loop is, after all, a road course. My take is that NM-4 between White Rock and the eastern end of Truck Route (NM 501) is on every cyclist's (and motorist's) list as needing some decent shoulders or perhaps a separate right of way due to high speeds, narrow road profile, total lack of shoulders, and heavy traffic. This section could also be well served by a properly designed separated path connecting Tsankawi and White Rock. These two locations are less than three miles apart, so runners, hikers, walkers, and casual cyclists, especially those living in White Rock, could be expected to use such a facility. Several of us voiced a concern that such a separate facility would create conflicts between the typical fast cyclist riding the loop and more casual users, but that shoulders would intimidate casual users. Perhaps we need both treatments in that section of the Loop.
For the rest of the loop, I think some well designed off road facilities capitalizing on existing trails, jeep roads, and similar rights of way could augment but not replace decent road resources. For example, the dirt road descending from TA-21 into the canyon between DP site and Canyon Rim Trail could link up with an offroad path connecting Tsankawi to White Rock. Perhaps that could extend as far as Bandelier National Park. Each part of the loop could be examined to see whether a trail system makes sense, based on distances, expected users, and the availability of easily exploited right of way. Given the excellent trail network in Los Alamos County, adding medium and long distance trail resources, perhaps even an entire loop, could make a lot of sense. That is, if it is both used and maintained.
But as far as cycling on the Bandelier Loop, I think improving the existing roads where necessary is the primary consideration for the kinds of cyclists I see out there (the people working on this idea don't seem to have seriously considered who rides there or what they want). The Bandelier Loop is the preeminent medium distance, year-round road cycling route for cyclists in Los Alamos County and indeed, is used by cyclists riding up from as far as Santa Fe. My read is that existing riders, to a person, consider the State Route 4 section between Truck Route and White Rock to be the most vexing and my own opinion is most of the rest of the loop is just fine with minimal improvements.You don't get occasional cyclists dusting off their bikes and riding a 30 mile loop with nearly 2,000 feet of climbing. Riders on the Bandelier Loop know what they are doing.
I was therefore not convinced that some of the "bike path" segments being considered would serve the cycling clientele very well and in fact, could hurt us significantly by creating a political backlash against our continued presence on NM4, should this facility be built. I noted that the New Mexico mandatory sidepath law had been repealed some time ago (NMTS says 1997) and that cyclists need to ensure their roadway rights and safety are not compromised by a "put them on a path" mentality that could result from this project.
Stay tuned. A landscape architect firm with a PE on board is supposed to work on this. I'd like to see some details and a vision statement before I put my happy shoes or grouchy face on. If this project moves forward, it will need your continued attention.
Added the following morning (10-4).Since Lisa, who attended, left a detailed comment, I think it bears adding to the main post:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the author of the pamphlet meant "Los Alamos Canyon", not "Bayo Canyon."
The point is that the woman heading the project right now is a recent college graduate who is not from Los Alamos and is not a cyclist. She seems willing to work closely with local cyclists, but she doesn't know their needs. Obviously, she doesn't even know which canyon is which. And note that, in the pamphlet, it specifically states that "The path would separate drivers from cyclists and runners," so she is expecting all cyclists to ride on the trail once it is complete.
So please get involved and stay involved in any developments related to this project. If you don't, we could end up with trails that don't serve the needs of local cyclists or, worse, make our situation on the roads around Los Alamos more precarious.
To emphasize something alluded to in Khal's post, this project does not involve DOT managed roads. This project is about building separate trails because the color of money is different from that used to improve roads. So asking to have the project improve roads is like asking FEMA to shorten wait times at the MVD. Separate issues, separate organizations. The project is about trails, not state roads.
It may not be the best solution to our problems, but do local cyclists want to discourage the development of additional cycling resources?
Here is part of the flyer.