Monday, June 30, 2014

They Paved Pajarito, and Put Up a Parking Lot....

With apologies to Joni Mitchell, and a thanks and a tip of the brain bucket to Jon Niehof for sending me the link...this video just seemed soooo relevant to BombTown given we now have not one but two additional large swaths of asphalt in Los Alamos, one at the new county administration building and one at the new Smith's Marketplace. Seems this whole town is continuing to degenerate (pointed out with areal photos by urban planner Michael Ronkin a decade ago) into a low density sea of asphalt, and no one can think outside the box. A comprehensive plan has been a third rail of the development discussion for as long as I can remember. County gets land, puts up a new parking lot. Heck, even a parking structure would be more compact, albeit more expensive. But I wonder what we would save in useable, compact development.

Donald Shoup talks about this subsidization of parking via zoning and the expectation of free parking, and how it ain't so free. He is a prof of urban planning at UCLA. Example

Also, a tip of the hat to Strong Towns, where this video is posted. The original is at the real Cincinnati Preservation Collective site, here.

This New Rules post over at Strong Towns is quite relevant.


 Los Alamos Townsite from the air, vintage, the Michael Ronkin visit.
New Smith's Marketplace location, formerly LA Schools buildings, in lower right.
Click picture for full size version. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Is Safety Getting "Too Dangerous" for Santa Fe Bicyclists?

"Riding made simple. The choice to ride a bike is yours. The responsibility to ensure safe and convenient riding opportunities is ours. "
--People for Bikes

For the second time since April, a Santa Fe bicyclist has inexplicably ridden into a Railrunner train where the tracks cross a sidepath or sidewalk. Both of these fatalities occurred in broad daylight, with good visibility up and down the tracks, and based on current reports, in both cases the lights and gates at the adjacent road crossing were working properly and well within the line of sight of cyclists or pedestrians. As, presumably, would be a train. See photo below.

I'm still not convinced that it is a good idea for DOT to neglect putting lights or crossing guards on sidepaths for what now might be obvious reasons, but I fear something else is going on here.

For a few years now, some advocacy groups have been telling cyclists they need safer accommodations (and in many cases, I cannot argue with that!). Published journal articles, although some seriously critiqued (see John Allen's site for details), tell cyclists there is safety in numbers and safety in separated infrastructure. Perhaps this is having a bit of an unintended consequence, to wit, a message that safety does not have to be a cyclist's personal value, but is a commodity provided to the cyclist by advocates, infrastructure, and government. Easily chewed or swallowed whole.

Maybe its because I'm a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, or maybe because I've been riding on roads and trails for 35 years (more, if you count childhood riding and motorcycling), but I think most of safety resides in that space between the earlobes. Nothing against good infrastructure, advocacy, and programs. I gave a thumbs-up to Santa Fe's Silver level Bicycle-Friendly Community application for its efforts at solving some vexing problems through the strategic use of separate pathways. I've also supported (actually pushed for), warts and all, any possible extension of the Canyon Rim Trail to provide better connectivity between Townsite, the new Smith's Marketplace mall, and Airport Basin since improvements on NM502 seem to be going nowhere, fast and all the on-road "improvements" I reviewed during the Trinity Corridor project seemed to make things more complex rather than safer. That said, the external stuff like infrastructure and enforcement is not enough on its own. Safety has to be internalized.

In a comment, John Allen suggested a possible mechanical (brakes). Or, perhaps, gross inattention. Someone commented in the New Mexican that with at most only 17 trains per day vs. thousands of cars, people discount the train.  But timing is everything. Please maintain your situational awareness, your cycling skills, and your gear, and let's be careful out there. You can examine a crash video multiple times, but you can't do a "rewind" on real life.

What I assume was the cyclist line of approach, headed W. on N. side sidewalk on St. Michael's Drive
Click photo for full size version of picture. 
Acknowledgements to Jerry Merkey for the photo.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Should Albuquerque Bicyclists Start Packing Heat?

  Depraved indifference, or, it sure seems like more than the usual number of alarming headlines lately.

"Saturday morning an SUV hit Rivers as she rode her bike through this round-about at 4th Street NW and Roy Avenue. The driver didn't stop. Another cyclist found Rivers unconscious in the middle of the road.

"'To me, it was an intentional hit and run,' said Roni Gibbons, who called 911 and stayed with Rivers until paramedics arrived.  Gibbons said the same SUV honked at her and swerved into the bike lane just moments before hitting Rivers. She said the SUV went up on two wheels when it turned into the round-about.

"'There was a cyclist further east of her that says they had done the same thing to him,' she said. 'And when they got to me they harassed me. They got to her and they actually hit her.'
"At this point, investigators aren't considering the crash intentional. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputies said it's more likely the driver was speeding and lost control."

Per the story, Barbara Rivers is recovering at UNM hospital from a long list of injuries including bleeding in her brain, a broken ankle and severe road rash. But her husband, Thom Stein, said she's expected to make a full recovery.

Unintentional? Hmm....based on witness statements, sounds like three cases of assault with a deadly weapon. Is going into a roundabout on two wheels when innocent lives are at stake ever unintentional?

Here, too, is part of Joline Krueger's article in the Journal regarding another cyclist reduced to shards of a human being.

Answers elusive in Edgewood hit-and-run 

"...Michael Wolff, 56, had been riding his bike on a rural stretch of U.S. 66 near Barton Road about four miles west of his home in Edgewood on a blustery June 6 evening. ...
No one knows if he saw what hit him. He hasn’t regained consciousness. From the injuries to the bike and his body and the shards of polycarbonate, like what is found on turn-signal lights, Bernalillo County sheriff’s investigators speculate that whatever struck and ran over Wolff was larger than a pickup truck, possibly a commercial-style heavy truck.
Whatever it was, it hadn’t stopped.
So much damage had been done. Wolff’s left leg – the “good” one, Ball said – was so badly mangled that it was later amputated above the knee. His scalp was peeled from his head. His pelvis was crushed, his ribs broken, right arm shattered, face pulverized, lungs bruised, abdomen splayed open..."
6-16-2014 NOTE: As just reported by KOB, this cyclist has died of his injuries. 
As far as packing heat and deadly force? With the caveat that this is not legal advice, nor am I a lawyer nor do I play one on TV,  threatening or using deadly force is only permitted in extreme cases where needed to protect your or someone's life and that is the best option.  Buzzing, careless and reckless driving or hit and run are rarely if ever, cases where one can use deadly force to protect one's self. Perhaps if the guy backs up and is taking a second run at your down and immobilized loved one, that is a different story.  Using, or even threatening deadly force without justification (such as brandishing) could likely end up with the brandisher enjoying an extended, all expenses paid stay at the New Mexico Greybar Hotel while that reckless motorist is home enjoying a cold one. Popping a few ventilation holes in a reckless motorist's car or truck may feel great at the time, but is not allowed, esp. if the holes are in the back of the cab. After all, this is not Florida.

 But generally, if things get bad enough or if your commute involves a five a.m. ride down Zuni while dodging armed meth-heads, what can a cyclist do to protect against intentional use of deadly force against him or her self, other than take a different route, learn to sprint, talk the perp down, or be frightened off the road? I always wondered if the New Mexico legal notion of "Extended Domain" that motorists enjoy applied to a bicyclist on a bike.

NM 30-7-2 states:
30-7-2. Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon. 
A.   Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon consists of carrying a concealed loaded firearm or any other type of deadly weapon anywhere, except in the following cases:  
(1)   in the person's residence or on real property belonging to him as owner, lessee, tenant or licensee;  
(2)   in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance , for lawful protection of the person's or another's person or property;  
(3)   by a peace officer in accordance with the policies of his law enforcement agency who is certified pursuant to the Law Enforcement Training Act [29-7-1 NMSA 1978];  
(4)   by a peace officer in accordance with the policies of his law enforcement agency who is employed on a temporary basis by that agency and who has successfully completed a course of firearms instruction prescribed by the New Mexico law enforcement academy or provided by a certified firearms instructor who is employed on a permanent basis by a law enforcement agency; or  
(5)   by a person in possession of a valid concealed handgun license issued to him by the department of public safety pursuant to the provisions of the Concealed Handgun Carry Act [29-19-1 NMSA 1978].  
B.   Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the carrying of any unloaded firearm.  
C.   Whoever commits unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.  

The State Dept. of Public Safety site says:
Question: Do I have to be licensed to have a concealed loaded handgun inside my vehicle?
Answer: No. New Mexico law allows a person who is not otherwise prohibited to have a concealed loaded firearm in his/her vehicle (including motorcycles and bicycles). If you are not licensed to carry concealed in this State or in a state that NM recognizes, you may not have the weapon concealed on your person when you exit your vehicle or motorcycle. Top of Page

 I would not advise anyone whether or not to pack heat except to say if you have any doubts about your judgement, training, or ability to use it, DON'T. But there are better sources of advice, such as excellent concealed carry trainers in these parts, including some at the Los Alamos Sportsman's Club. The final decision is up to the individual and the decision should not be taken lightly. Way too much at stake and way too many ways to get things screwed up if you don't do it right.

Meanwhile, if you are anywhere near that Bermuda Triangle of civic decency called Albuquerque, be careful out there. Just because some of the cyclists in the Duke City are paranoid of traffic, it doesn't mean they are not out to get you. Examples abound.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Letter to Monitor Reporter: Please Don't Sell a Bandelier Multiuse Path With False Assertions of Danger

After reading last night's Monitor, I sent Arin McKenna this letter, which I also sent to LAB Director Andy Clarke, the BCNM Board, and County Council.

Arin McKenna, Los Alamos Monitor

Dear Arin

Once again, as you report extensively in the Monitor, the National
Park Service is selling its multiuse path in significant part as a
safety feature, saying, in essence, one of its major purposes is to
get existing cyclist users of these roads onto a path. This assertion
of danger is wholly unsubstantiated for all but small portions of
this route (i.e., NM4 between White Rock and E. Jemez Road comes to
mind) and certainly an assertion of danger should not be made without
challenge. Furthermore, a multiuse path will probably not serve the
needs of the cyclists in question and indeed, may create serious
hazards where none now exist.

The roads in question have been used by scores of local riders and
cyclists from as far away as Santa Fe for decades. These roads are
the home of two triathlons and the oldest road race in the Southwest,
the Tour of Los Alamos. The cyclists in question are fast
recreational, fitness, and race riders who would not be served by a
path shared with casual users and pedestrians and whose design could
seriously impede shared use.

Further, these roads are specifically mentioned as regional cycling
resources in the 2005 Los Alamos County bike plan, which I wrote much
of and which was adopted by council. Multiuse paths do not take the
place of road resources for the kind of cyclist who rides this route.

A "grand path" is certainly an exciting idea and may well attract
other constituents, both resident and visitor, and benefit both the
park and the county as well as the health and well being of those who
do not currently hike or bicycle. I've actually supported this for a
long time, and brought it up a few years ago when I was Chair of the
Transportation Board and when there was an RFP for such a
collaboration between national parks and nearby communities. That is good.

I have repeatedly made these points as have others and they seem to
have largely fallen on deaf ears. I would suggest you (and others
getting this email) read the following two blog posts and comments
following for more information. I also suggest other riders contact
you directly via the above address.

thanks, and glad to discuss this further,

Khal Spencer

Khalil J Spencer
League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor 1173
1799 Camino Uva, Los Alamos, NM 87544

Friday, June 6, 2014

Los Alamos/Bandelier Loop Trail Surfaces Again

Lucy Gent Foma, the National Park Service person responsible for conceptual development of a largely paved Bandelier Loop Trail/Los Alamos Loop Trail, gave a briefing to the Transportation Board last night. The details were virtually identical to those she presented last October at a brainstorming session at the County offices.  It looks like that trail is still being considered and the gist of last night’s briefing is that the Bandelier folks need to do an environmental assessment (sensu lato, not sure of the legaleze here) and may then come back to the county and other legal entities for some sort of MOU if things are to proceed.

I think it is a great idea to expand Los Alamos County’s existing trail network with some sort of grand loop trail such as this as a way to better integrate national park and county resources and to build a new clientele of users. That said, I continued to caution both the TBoard and Ms. Gent-Foma that the idea that this trail would serve the typical cyclist who is presently out riding the Bandy loop is largely indefensible and based on last October's meeting, likely to ruffle a lot of feathers.  Furthermore, I take serious umbrage that it is somehow dangerous to ride that loop except, perhaps if one is ascending Main Hill during Rush Hour and to a lesser degree, NM4 between White Rock and East Jemez Road.

A separate path used by typical, highly fit and fast travelling Bandelier Loop cyclists is especially problematic in specific areas. For example, as cyclists descend from Back Gate towards Bandelier National Park, we are are often hitting pretty high speeds (30-40 mph) incompatible with a multiuse path, especially one that would probably have a fair amount of gradient, curves, limits on sight distances in specific areas, and other modes to share the space.

What I did say was that based on my recollection of the October meeting, the consensus of cyclists is that some sort of better treatment for NM4 between White Rock and East Jemez Road would be great and that there would be considerable enthusiasm for this project if it is NOT sold as all things to all people, or as a way to get those pesky cyclists off the road. I strongly suspect that quite a few people who would not cycle the Bandelier Loop might be excited about riding a well designed, scenic paved trail from DP Site to Tsankawi, Tsankawi to White Rock, from White Rock to Bandelier, Back Gate to Bandelier, etc., etc.  This could be a grand version of the Canyon Rim Trail!  This could be a really cool thing and could provide Los Alamos/Bandelier National Park added recreational resources for tourist and local alike.

I’ll not belabor it more here, but direct you to my blog post from last October.  Main thing is to keep this on our radar. I obviously don’t speak for everyone here, so make sure you speak for yourself.

Note. Today is the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and invasion of Europe.   A tip of the hat and a long silent remembrance to two old friends, since departed, who were on the beaches or parachuted inland: architectural engineer and former father in law John Zeh Jr. and Rochester Police Dept. Officer Fred "Woody" Woodard.  Thanks for all you did, and a silent prayer for the many who didn't make it inland. War is Hell, and is the last place we should ever want to send our sons and daughters. Unfortunately, we have not always had a choice.
Photo from the Bookworm Room

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bicycle Coalition Opposes New Santa Fe Police Chief Appointment

Note that as a BCNM Board member, I supported this letter.

Khal Spencer, BCNM Board Member
League Cycling Instructor 1173

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales
Santa Fe City Council
City of Santa Fe
PO Box 909
Santa Fe, NM 87504-0909

Dear Mayor Gonzales and Santa Fe City Council members:

The Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico (BCNM) strongly opposes Eric Garcia hire as Santa Fe Police Chief, and the following factual account will show you why.

Lt. Garcia has historically shown a level of willful ignorance of the rights of bicyclists or at the very least, a lack of concern with following established New Mexico bicycle law, and has also demonstrated condescension towards the well-being of bicyclists.  Such attitudes and beliefs ill-suit the police chief of a city that prizes its League of American Bicyclists “Silver Bicycle Friendly Community” ranking and will likely create an uncaring or negatively prejudicial attitude toward bicyclists on the police force.

An example of Lt. Garcia’s stance on bicycling is that after Dr. Fronczak was killed while riding lawfully on a state bike route outside Las Cruces (see attached article), Mr. Garcia blatantly blamed the victim.

"There's an important message for bicyclists here," Garcia said. "It is recommended that bicyclists visit their local bike stores for brochures and information on recommended routes of travel, instead of riding on open roadways."
I (BCNM President Diane Albert) personally met with Lt. Garcia to discuss his wrong attitudes and interpretation of NM law, yet he remained adamant in his stance that it is unsafe for bicyclists to travel on public roadways.   Here is another Garcia quote from D’Val Westphal’s “Road Warrior” column (attached):

“Garcia says he has told cyclists that what they are doing is dangerous, hazardous, that they must yield right of way to vehicles unless they are in a designated bike lane, and they simply can not impede traffic.”;

We recognize that you have already offered Lt. Garcia the job and he has accepted.  BCNM respectfully asks that the Mayor and Councilors fully explore Lt. Garcia’s stance on bicyclists’ rights and his knowledge and understanding of New Mexico law in a public venue that would be open to bicyclists and bicyclist supporters.

Very Truly Yours,

Diane E. Albert, PhD
President and Board Member, Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico (BCNM)
League of American Bicyclists LCI #2292

Greater Albuquerque Bicyclists Advisory Committee member

League of American Bicyclists National Board Member