Wednesday, June 28, 2017

County Council Approves 2017 Los Alamos County Bike Plan

Got this email this morning.

Good morning T-Board and Bike Plan Subcommittee,

Just a quick note to inform you that Council adopted the bike plan last night.  Thanks for the great cooperative effort from all, the hard work of the subcommittee, and Desirae’s diligence with the details to see this through.  All in all, great team effort!

Eric Martinez

(Eric is the Los Alamos County Engineer, Dept. of Public Works)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Green is for thee, but not me....

Some prominent politicians, including Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales and New York City Mayor DeBlasio, have repudiated President Trump's efforts to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate accord.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the soap box. Its harder to do something than to sound impressive.

Not that I am arm-waving my way past the considerable uncertainties in climate science. Readers of this virtual fish-wrapper have been down that path of caveats before. But in the face of major, unresolved uncertainties, one should, I think, hedge one's bets and that means not adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as if we were drunken sailors on a fossil fueled shore leave binge.  Uncertainty recommends prudence.

In New York, my old friend and Vision Zero colleague Charlie Komanoff called Mayor Bill DeBlasio on his statements that the Big Apple would work to preserve the spirit and letter of the Paris Accords even as the Mayor routinely drives a hulking SUV on congested NYC roads to a gym that is eleven miles from Gracie Mansion (aka the mayor's residence).  Mayor Bill huffed back that Charlie was long on symbol and short on substance but I agree with Charlie: if our leaders think they are too important to reduce their carbon footprint, why should Joe Sixpack, who is just as busy juggling his life as the mayor, trade in his Tahoe for a bicycle? And if transit doesn't work for Mr. Mayor, why do we think it will work for anyone else?

Closer to home, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales also promises to fight climate change through local action and I tip my hat to him. Indeed, while it would be tough for Mayor Gonzales to find a gym eleven miles from city hall in compact Santa Fe, those in the City Different are plagued with bad designs that maximize road surface, vehicle speeds, and level of service at the expense of transportation options other than the family car. Indeed, the New Mexican complains about a proposal to use privatized speed vans to slow down speeders.  The problem is, enforcement, privatized or otherwise, cannot trump bad planning because roads that look like they were designed for high speeds (wide, clear lines of sight, etc) will be driven fast. Indeed, the whole notion of the 85th percentile rule to set speed limits means that a road that looks like it should be driven fast will have its speed limit set fast. While government enforcement is a requirement for public safety, privatized enforcement has proven to generate huge amounts of public mistrust at the motives of those speeding tickets. But the bottom line is that speeding and the bad road design that encourages it go hand in glove and puts huge emotional and safety roadblocks into using biking or walking. So Mr. Gonzales and his council will have to somehow take back the city from bad state planners who think roads in a city should be urban versions of interstate highways, aka "stroads".

The bottom line is that going to a low carbon transportation future is not someone else's problem. Its everyone's problem. Even Mr. Workout, Bill deBlasio's problem. I think Mayor Gonzales gets it but like other mayors, he is somewhat held hostage not only to the current paradigm, but to those government organizations and their private sector tagalongs in the transportation industry who have a vested interest in continuing business as usual. And business as usual is moving more cars efficiently.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Los Alamos County will host a community bike ride

More than 150 public transit systems and organizations are celebrating the 12th Annual National Dump the Pump Day on Thursday, June 15th. Los Alamos County will take it one step further by asking its residents to Dump the Pump and Bike It, Walk It, or Bus it.  

Invite your family, bring your friends and join us on a three-mile Community Ride. The ride was originally scheduled for Bike to Work Day on May 19th, but was postponed due to snow.  Therefore, “Dump the Pump Day” is another a great way to celebrate bicycle transportation.  The ride will start at 11:30 am from the Ashley Pond Pavilion.  Members of the Los Alamos Fire Department and Los Alamos Police Department bike patrols will lead the ride through town.  After the ride, free hot dogs, chips and refreshments will be served to the first 100 participants.  Staff and a bus from Atomic City Transit will be on site to demonstrate use of bus mounted bike racks along with information promoting safe cycling.

A raffle will be held at the lunch time event for a 26” Roadmaster Mountain Bike that was donated by Wal-Mart, and adult bike helmets donated by the Los Alamos Heart Council.

Atomic City Transit would like to thank our customers for choosing public transportation on this and other days. 
Questions/Comments please call the Public Works Department at 505-662-8150 or send an email to
Bike safety is very important!  Please be sure your bike is in good working order prior to the ride, inflate your tires and a bike helmet is required to participate. Route Map below.

Monday, June 5, 2017

City Bike/Country Bike

A bicycle-friendly city needs to have fun rides and convenience in using a bicycle for utility purposes. The nice thing about Casa Solana, on the north side of Santa Fe, is you can ride a city bike half a mile in street clothing and do one's shopping in a bike basket at La Montanita or Albertson's. One can also hightail it outa town in two minutes on the road racer (not that I can even outsprint a jelly donut any more) and have some awesome riding north of town, which is one of the things I have been doing some rubber to the road research on lately.

Where Los Alamos excels is that one can ride a bike on any of our streets and not be in mortal danger. That is due to low traffic, generally high levels of motorist compliance (when half the town has a security clearance, there is less overt violence), and adequate capacity even at rush hour. Where it has shortcomings is that due to the topography (narrow mesas with deep canyons in between), the food co-op that is a mile from my house as the crow flies is on the other side of a deep canyon, and is seven and a half miles by bike or car. Short of a multi-million dollar suspension bridge or a catapult, it is a serious haul on the utility bike. Santa Fe is more compact, as I said above. Furthermore, it is working madly to create bypass urban trails for bikes because many of its roads do put one in real and perceived mortal danger, thanks to bad "stroad" design (well, that is redundant: is there such a thing as "good" stroad design?) by the State Dept. of Transportation and its car-centric friends in the City Not All That Different.

When designing a bike friendly community, one has to play the cards one is dealt and I think both Bombtown and The City Sorta Different are trying to do that, given that politics constrains the options. But the bottom line is that the riding, as well as utility bicycling, don't get much better than this, as shown in the pics below.

Looking west towards the Rio Grande Rift on Tano West Road
I suspect these rollers are downdropped fault blocks

Looking kinda north on Tano Norte road, riding into rift features
Riding the half mile to the La Montanita food co-op by way
of Rio Vista.  Helmet optional

Friday, June 2, 2017

2017 County Bike Plan Next Heads to County Council

The Transportation Board endorsed the Draft Bicycle Plan last night unanimously. After last night it heads to Council Chambers for a hearing and hopefully, a vote to adopt. Its not on the agenda yet so stay tuned. It might make it onto the June agenda but if not, July.  Meanwhile, here is a semifinal version. I don't expect too many changes (mostly polishing up the prose) so if you have not looked at it yet, here is your chance.

Note that no one showed up to testify or offer comment last night except a couple of us who are on the bicycle plan subcommittee. I don't know if that means everyone is happy with the draft or if there is just massive indifference.

This is a massive upgrade compared to the more rudimentary 2005 edition and I'm pretty happy with it. The document hits all the E's but does so on policy, leaving engineering details to what will be best practice when stuff gets done.

Stay tuned, and please show up in Council Chambers when this is being discussed and debated.