Saturday, March 28, 2015

What LA Monitor Opinion Writer Harold Morgon Does Not Understand About Bicycling Infrastructure

Bicycle "Cultist" and former Laboratory Director Harold Agnew
Although Harold Morgon's "Fixing Roads Is Better Than Building Bicycling Underpass" in last week's Los Alamos Monitor seems more political agit-prop than analysis (referring to cyclists as a cult, and to the funding of bike facilities as the spending orgies of liberal Democrats), it's worth, in its wake, reviewing a few things about bicycle infrastructure.

Morgon overlooks that transportation is about moving people to where they need to go.  To create an efficient system, the tool should fit the need.  For short distances, bicycles work well as people movers. By contrast, short distance driving is not particular good for the car, the human, or the built environment. Such driving is often referred to as "severe use" as it doesn't give the vehicle's lubricating fluids time to heat up and drive out volatiles. For the human, sedentary lifestyles lead to a host of health problems. Finally, someone (customers, storekeepers, the local government) has to pay to store cars; as land values go up, storing cars drives up the cost of government and of doing business. So building a "complete" transportation system that gives people maximum options, including bicycling, can have an attractive cost benefit ratio and lead to a culture where bike mode share can approach the level seen in some European cities. The League of American Bicyclists notes that many Bicycle Friendly Communities, including Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Denver and Lexington, Ky., have more than doubled their bike commuter share since 2000.
BombTown from the air: note all the space devoted to parking cars

As far as whether special facilities are needed to provide safety, New Mexico ranks second only to Florida in statewide fatality rates of bicyclists. This is due to a variety of factors including drug and alcohol use by motorists and poor facility design. Albuquerque, for example, has designed its surface transportation system around high speed, very wide arterials that attempt to maximize motor vehicle level of service but which make a cyclist vulnerable to being overlooked in fast traffic, where a crash can be devastating since impact speed directly correlates with bicyclist and pedestrian fatality rates. This sort of urban design, which overlooks non-motorist safety, has in retrospect, necessitated targeting key problem situations with separate facilities to provide a safety margin for cyclists. In this context, the occasional  million dollar bicycle facility that solves a problem created by the construction of multimillion to multibillion dollar fast arterials and interstate highways is a necessary part of the transportation system. 

Finally, it is misleading and inaccurate to say that we can fix our roads by cancelling a few high profile bike facilities. A recent FHWA report states that the U.S. needs to increase spending on our roadway network by some 25 to 50 billion dollars a year just to fix what is broken. Morgon admits that fixing one New Mexico highway alone will cost close to 200 million dollars. Cancelling a million dollar bike project would not even be noticed. Plus, such illogical thinking would result in putting more cars on the road in urban areas, increasing the pressure on a crumbling system. To fix those potholes and creaky bridges, we need to both prioritize what to fix and raise the funds to do so, either by raising the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993, or tapping into the general fund, which bicyclists pay into via Federal, State, and local taxes.Or both.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How To Kill With A Car, The Story Continues....

Matt Trujillo
 Following up on last night's post about the dangerous driver, someone at work sent me this:

"About 3 weeks or so ago, one of our engineers observed a driver on Pajarito road that appeared to be drunk.  As he was leaving work at TA-55 heading east, he observed a Nissan Maxima in front of him wandering back and forth across the road.  He followed the car down to White Rock.  The car headed north on NM 4 and went down off the hill.  Between TA-55 and the light in WR, this car ran two west bound cars off into the dirt (off past the wide paved shoulder) on Pajarito and hit both curbs several times heading north on NM4 in WR along the new section with center divider.  Our engineer got a license number and called 911 and also LANL security and gave them the license.  Hard to imagine a drunk LANL worker with a badge driving on Pajarito."
Drunk? Texting? Putting on mascara? Nothing surprises me. 

Its not too hard to imagine people getting the willies about bicycling, even on six foot bike lanes or wide shoulders, when one sees and hears this stuff. Heck, even David Anderson was not safe when  a careless driver autocrossed off the road and through a barrier to kill Anderson on a nearby bike path in Albuquerque. 

Sadly, when I wrote to Chief Sgambellone last night reporting the incident with last night's wobbly driver, the Chief said such stories were not surprising to him or the force and that they see plenty of it. One wonders when an inept, careless, inattentive, reckless, or drunk driver will next intersect with a pedestrian or bicyclist. 

If you see them, don't be shy. Call 9-1-1 and get these clowns off the road. It could be your own life you ultimately save.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Does Careless Driving Become Dangerous Driving?

You tell me. Meanwhile, I sent this note to our Chief of Police.

Shit like this doesn't just happen in Albuquerque
Dear Chief Sgambellone

I was riding my motorcycle home today and was behind a motorist on Diamond Drive near the High School who was driving extremely carelessly. Driving towards the Diamond Roundabout, she was about half the time entirely in the bike lane, randomly weaving in and out of it erratically and slower than the speed limit. Thankfully there were no bicyclists there until I got to "Conoco Hill", i.e., Diamond and Arkansas. There I saw a bicyclist who I know riding home from LANL.

Looking back, I could still see the wayward motorist weaving all over the place. I positioned my motorcycle parallel to the rider and gave him a heads up, staying there until the motorist changed lanes to pass me.

 I hope you let the patrol officers know that such driving is not only potentially dangerous to cyclists, but has a chilling effect on anyone contemplating using those bike lanes. Thanks for any help you can provide in having officers look out for such bad driving.

p.s. In case anyone called in asking why someone was riding a red BMW slowly in the right lane, this is the reason.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Platinum-Level Portland In Faceplant Mode With Mountainbiking

Illustration from link in text
I sent this out yesterday and subsequently edited it slightly out of embarrassment at some of its original flaws. For some background with additional links, go here.  Lucky we are that we have more trails than people, and that we live in a small enough place that life with the County is usually a little less jarring. It seems that even with the Portland mountainbike folks working with the City, brown stuff happened.

Andy Clarke
President, League of American Bicyclists


Dear Andy

 I live in a mountain biking mecca and know how devastating it would be for local government to restrict seriously, without due process, our trail facilities. I have to agree that putting Portland on notice, up to and including reconsidering its Platinum level status, is reasonable if the situation is as grim as you explain in your letter to the Mayor (readers should go to the LAB links above to read it).

Bicycling comprises transportation, recreation, and competition. Mountain biking provides a safe and wonderful off road opportunity for people of all abilities and especially for those who are not comfortable in traffic. In Los Alamos, mountainbiking is likely the major form of bicycling given our spectacular off road resources. So mountain biking is definitely part of our League of American Bicyclists mission, and we need to represent and advocate for the off road community. If LAB thinks that mountain biking is being mistreated, especially in a Bicycle Friendly Community, it is no different than if other parts of the cycling community are being mistreated, and we should act.

I have long advocated that LAB consider downgrading a Bicycle Friendly designation if an entity (state, city, business) deliberately fails to live up to the expectations of the ranking, whether it be bronze or platinum. I applaud the League for putting that potential response on the table. We don't want to lose influence with these cities, but neither do we want to be taken for granted and be trampled on. Thank you.

Khal Spencer

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bicycle Route 66 Celebration, April 19th

Contact people listed at end of this.

Join the New Mexico Touring Society (NMTS), New Mexico Bicyclists Educators (NMBE) and Adventure Cycling Association for a special celebration of the new Bicycle Route 66 at the Albuquerque Golf and Event Center at Balloon Fiesta Park on Sunday, April 19, for a 30 mile ride followed by lunch and presentations by Adventure Cycling's Executive Director, Jim Sayer and Adventure Cycling's Routes and Mapping Assistant Director/Cartographer, Jennifer Milyko. Enjoy food and drinks, meet kindred cycling spirits, and learn the latest about bike travel and cycling in North America including the brand new Bicycle Route 66 and very popular Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route, upcoming routes (like Chicago to New York and Texas Hill Country) as well as beautiful imagery of bike travel from around the planet. Mr. Sayer will discuss the official U.S. Bicycle Route System, bike overnights, and national advocacy, including partnerships for better biking with Amtrak and the National Park Service. Ms. Milyko will speak about the history and highlights of Adventure Cycling's Bicycle Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

When: Sunday, April 19, the ride starts at 8:30 am followed by a lunch and the presentation at noon.

Where: Albuquerque Golf and Event Center at Balloon Fiesta Park, 9401 Balloon Museum Dr. NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113. The Albuquerque Golf and Event Center is in Balloon Fiesta Park past the Balloon Museum.

This event is made possible by generous contributions from the New Mexico cycling community including the following organizations and businesses: New Mexico Touring Society, New Mexico Bicycle Educators, Adventure Cycling, Two Wheel Drive, Santa Fe Century, Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, Royals, BikeABQ, Sandoval County Cycling Club, Willman CPA, Dianne Cress, The Bike Coop and Taos Cyclery. The ride and presentation are free. The lunch featuring New Mexican Cuisine is $10. Lunch tickets must be purchased by Sunday, April 12. For more information and to register for the free event and purchase lunch tickets, go to

There will be free water bottles after the ride for the first 300 people. Contacts:

Chris Marsh, chris at candjmarsh dot com
Tammy Schurr, Tammy at nmbikeed dot org

And while you are at it, read this, which is a close match to Chuck Marohn's commentary on the subject: 

They paved paradise, put up a parking lot …

Drawing by Scott Santis, posted at the URL above


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some comments on the Monitor's coverage of the NM 502 presentation to the Transportation Board... and Homage to Wombats.

When Does a Highway Become a Street?

Thanks to Arin McKenna for covering the NM DoT's presentation for the Los Alamos Monitor. A couple things from her article. Note that although I talked myself into accepting the vice chair of the Transportation Board, as always, my comments and criticisms here are mine alone. Here is my $0.02 on two issues raised at the Board meeting.

1. "Cyclists’ concerns about having to dismount at the roundabout were addressed in the new design. They will now have the option of sharing the roundabout with vehicles or diverting to the (10 foot wide) sidewalk without dismounting."

Actually, that is standard practice with multimodal roundabout design. Cyclists have the legal right to ride through the roundabout or divert through the sidepaths provided them, provided they do not endanger pedestrians and they are careful when re-entering the street. The way the DoT guy explained it was not clear and I didn't say anything. Maybe I should have. The provision of ramps and expanded sidewalk space so cyclists can avoid the roadway in a roundabout is normal. See, for example, the San Ildefonso/Diamond Drive roundabout. Given this will be a multilane rather than a single lane roundabout as designed and therefore more complicated for both cyclists and motorists, it is probably critical to provide an offroad option.

2.  "The plan includes the placement of High Intensity Activated Cross-walks (HAWK) at the East pool and East Park crossings. However, pedestrian counts at those crossings have to reach at least 20 per hour as some point in the day to meet Federal Highway Administration warrants for installing pedestrian signals. The count is currently at 12 crossings per hour.

Vice Chair Khalil Spencer asked what, if anything, could be done to override those warrants. NMDOT Project Development Engineer Bryan Danielson said there was little flexibility to override those standards unless traffic counts got closer to 20.

“When you’re in the gray area where you’re close, you can start looking at different justifications,” Danielson said. “I know the county has brought up the new trail that’s going in and how that could factor in, but at this time we don’t have the numbers.”

“We’ve had numerous times when people come into this room and complain to this board that it’s unsafe to cross that street, so presumably not many people are doing it,” Spencer responded. “So we’re in a Catch-22, where if people aren’t crossing the street because it isn’t safe, you don’t get the warrants, therefore you don’t make the street safe to cross. I find that impossible to justify from the standpoint of this community’s commitment to multi-modal transportation.”

Vehicle miles travelled vs. year, from Streetsblog
click on the pic to actually see something. The max
is at 2008.
 It never ceases to amaze me that a transportation department will rebuild a road with excess capacity based on hazy projections of traffic growth into the future (vehicle miles travelled in the US are flat and who knows what Bombtown will look like in 20 yrs), but will not install ped-friendly infrastructure even as the town builds out into an area. There is now a community pool as well as multiple trails and destinations (including extensive LA Schools and County facilities at Airport Basin, a hotel, and a food co-op) along NM-502 to the east of Smith's Marketplace. Instead of being pro-active, we demand that suicidal peds dash across the street where it is dicey to do so in order to justify a safe crossing.

This isn't about simply painting crosswalk stripes, which as Kyle Zimmerman points out can be ignored by motorists unless in constant use. Its about putting up a damn bright set of flashing stop lights. If the community is growing to the east, it has to be reflected in how we build the road. It also means that the DOT and County have to find a way to effectively transition "from a highway to Main Street" as the nature of a community evolves. I hold both entities responsible for making this work since just as the DOT wants to concentrate on level of service, the county wants to develop along NM502 regardless of how the transportation infrastructure presently works.

There is clear guidance on overriding warrants of 20 peds per hour in the FHWA. I wonder if anyone seriously examined this.

2009 Edition Chapter 4F. Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons

Section 4F.01 Application of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons

05 If a traffic control signal is not justified under the signal warrants of Chapter 4C and if gaps in traffic are not adequate to permit pedestrians to cross, or if the speed for vehicles approaching on the major street is too high to permit pedestrians to cross, or if pedestrian delay is excessive, the need for a pedestrian hybrid beacon should be considered on the basis of an engineering study that considers major-street volumes, speeds, widths, and gaps in conjunction with pedestrian volumes, walking speeds, and delay.

Note. There are several other rationales where a warrant can be overridden by the engineers. Have these been examined?

Safety Effectiveness of the HAWK Pedestrian Crossing Treatment (Tucson
Tucson safety study.

Note: The county subsequently found out that the State had not done a gap analysis, one way of overriding the warrants. More to come, so stay tuned.

3. Thanks always to Joel Williams for bringing up stuff that would otherwise not be discussed.

Women in Bicycling, revisited. My small tribute to Jacquie Phelan...and Eve DeCoursey...and...

Jacquie Phelan
 LAB recently did a spread on women's history in cycling. I commented to the author that it seemed odd to leave out WOMBATS founder Jacquie Phelan in what was otherwise a good piece. So here is a tip of the brain bucket to Jacquie from up here on the mesas where mountainbiking is king. Jacquie has done a lot for women in cycling. She's done a lot for humans in cycling, period, because unless cycling is inclusive, it is woefully incomplete.

While we are at it, I might as well add my old friend and fellow Hawaii bicycling advocate, the late Eve DeCoursey, to the LA Bikes Woman's Hall of Fame. Eve was a Hawaii State Champion (USCF, road racing) and longtime Exec. Director of the Hawaii Bicycling League. She worked tirelessly to get more people riding,  personally leading several big rides a week, especially for aspiring women riders, and started the Pace Car program to combat speeding. When Eve moved from Hawaii to Washington, D.C, she took those efforts with her and grew them at the WABA.
Eve DeCoursey

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Italy, Daylight Savings, Vernal Equinox, and All That

Fellow BombTown cyclist Frank Pabian emailed the Pajarito Riders crew from Italy, where he is enjoying great bicycling, riding and racing in some amazing places.  This link was last summer on the cobblestones of the San Gottardo Pass crossing the Swiss Alps. The first pic is last week in the foothills of Ticino, above Lugano, Frank on the left.

Could almost mistake that for the NM-4 climb into the Jemez....

Sez Frank: "Ciao Again, I had also meant to include these two slides...They take cycling pretty seriously here in Italy.  :)  One is a statue in the middle of a roundabout.  The other is a museum dedicated to a local hero, World Champion, Alfredo Binda.


Sure would be nice to see something like that in our proposed 4th Street roundabout or the existing one at the NE end of Diamond Drive. Meanwhile, life may not be quite so exciting in Los Alamos, but in honor of the clock moving ahead and the sun moving north, I converted Commuter I back to sport form, shown below, sans heavy wheels, winter tires, and fenders. The wheel swap alone saved me close to 200 grams per hoop, and will hopefully convince me to find a more convoluted ride home after work. The 650 lumen headlight and the taillights/reflectors will remain on the bike in honor of this being a work bike. The Delgado Cross wheelset and wider tires remain ready to go in case they are needed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Infrastructure (HBO)

Getting back to Chuck Marohn's writings. I owe reader Mathias Sneed a virtual beer (or a real one if we ever meet) for posting this to his own blog. If you are a true geek, you will enjoy the "movie" that starts at about 17:40.