Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Trail Riding Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The City Different has put itself into another minor skirmish over how to spend a little over a quarter million dollars left over from a 2008 trail bond. The decision involves two issues. One, that the bond was voted on to support projects in the 1st District and two, that there are compelling social justice and transportation planning issues for moving the funds to the South side. Here, according to the New Mexican, are the two options:

Option A: Connect the 25-mile La Tierra Trails system in the city’s northwest quadrant with the Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park, a popular north-side play space for residents and their pups. Restrooms, shade structures, picnic tables and drinking fountains would be installed at the trailhead. (Note added: connecting to the Dog Park would probably increase parking at the dog park. Not sure it would reduce the number of cars being driven to trailheads very much. Is there a study?)

Option B: The Tierra Contenta Trail on the far southwest side needs a 0.4-mile connector segment to link the growing mixed-income neighborhood with South Meadows Road, where a pair of public schools sit, and eventually to Camino Entrada, the Santa Fe Place mall and points beyond. (Added note: observe on the map all the arterial and cul-de-sac development there, a transportation design which is usually not conducive to cycling, especially by less experienced cyclists. Such a design funnels large amounts of traffic onto heavily trafficked arterials, rather than providing multiple-option grid transportation patterns found in older parts of cities. In addition, to be truly useful as transportation and recreation, this trail should be connected to more destinations and cul-de-sac developments along its length using spur trails).

As far as the reallocation, here is my read. Beware of moving money around if the voters specifically earmark it for one job.  The City Different already has voters wary over the 30 million parks bond issue dustup. Although city spokesperson Matt Ross says that this reallocation can be done, I'd like to hear that from the city attorney's office rather than an administration spokesperson. Meanwhile, city voters may be a little leery of voting future bond issues if subsequent decisions are made to use earmarked money for something else.

My dog in this fight...
although Cash was more a 
lover than a fighter.
 As far as the relative value of the projects? I live in the 1st District and ride La Tierra trails a lot. So I have a dog in this fight, seen on the left here.  So do a lot of other cyclists, given the constant stream of bicycles I see being pedaled passed my house on Camino de las Crucitas. If these numbers are a vote of confidence, the system works pretty well as it is. To me, it is a wonderful resource as it is today. I would recommend fixing the broken pavement edges on Buckman road (and a few locations on Camino de las Montoyas) and some day, if the state doesn't fix it first, continue a paved path from the NM 599 bicycle underpass to Camino de las Montoyas so road bikers don't have to pray the rosary when crossing 599  at grade. As far as increased use or a magnet for tourism? Maybe, but we have to balance the desire for tourists with the needs of the folks who live here.

And on that note, the South side has been undergoing more development, including affordable housing. Those folks need connections and resources too and perhaps there is an undercurrent of thinking, elucidated by Tom├ís Rivera of the Chainbreaker Collective, that the nice upscale folks on the North side get first pick at the goodies. So on the social justice scale, Option B wins hands down. On yet another scale of spending money on facilities that have dual transportation and recreation components, Option B wins too. As Councilor Chris Rivera was quoted as saying, “Right now, they (people in his district) don’t have that (access to different parts of the city),”  “Right now, it’s a challenge to take your bike from Tierra Contenta and ride it downtown, and this would make it much easier.” With schools, kids, and a need for active living on Mr. Rivera's side of town, we need to make sure everyone in the City Different has a similar size bite of the bike path.

I think a very good case can be made for reallocating the money to the South side and its pretty easy to argue that this is money spent on the greater good, given that La Tierra is already a damn nice resource. I also suggest that Council put more money into grade-separated connectivity where needed so folks can get around Santa Fe as seamlessly on a bike as we can in our cars. Especially as we develop in new areas where we have the tendency to be auto-centric in our development.

Meanwhile, I will go ride my bikes.
Salsa La Cruz 'cross bike shod with 700-40 Donnelly MSOs
Works great on those La Tierra trails

Exploring the far side of La Tierra trails on the Stumpjumper

Sunday, June 24, 2018

None Shall Pass...

None Shall Pass, Even For a Quick Look.
Honest, Ranger Smith. 
I'm just looking for my lungs.
 With much of the forest closed off due to Stage III fire restrictions, scoring a ride is becoming harder if one likes off-road amusement. My old trails in Bayo Canyon are apparently closed off, as is much of the mountain in Santa Fe. La Tierra trails and parts of Pajarito Mountain remain open.

Meanwhile, back in Fanta Se, all of the national forest pulloffs on Hyde Park Road were blocked off today, as was the overlook at the top, as I discovered after chugging up and looking for a place to rest, get rid of some oxygen deficit, and recuperate for the somewhat technical descent.

I suppose the alternative to the trails is, after all, a road ride. If one has a road bike and proper gears, that is easy enough. Indeed, with all the trails closed, bicycles seemed to outnumber motor vehicles on the ride up and back down Hyde Park Road today so it was a welcome change from the madhouse of busy weekends on the mountain, watching for some clueless tourist to swing in or out of one of the numerous pullouts  that happen to be on the far side of a hairpin curve during a fast descent.
West side of La Tierra Trails, which are open and fun

More stuff on the West side of La Tierra Trails

For those without a road bike, its not that hard to snag a pair of smooth tires or even a second wheelset and put them on the off road machine. I  did that, as shown below, a year point five ago when I had shoulder surgery and decided to fit my double boinger with road hoops so I could take advantage of suspension while the shoulder healed. My Mavic Speed City wheelset worked best, but I am not sure those are available any more. At least some suspension bikes allow one to lock out the suspension or put it on a firm setting, so one doesn't have to go boinging up the mountain. I think some of the recent high tech stuff even avoids the operator-induced boinging on its own.

But I suppose the bottom line is pray for rain.

The Stumpjumper in yet another incarnation,
fitted out with road hoops and smooth tread.

Friday, June 22, 2018

KSFR "Wake Up Call" Interviews Two Bicycling Advocates Regarding the Santa Fe Police Study of Bike Crashes

"This morning on KSKR’s Wake-Up Call, reporters Ellen Lockyer shares New Mexico reaction to Wednesday’s Executive Order from President Trump, ending his policy of separating families at the southern border. Also on the program, Tom Trowbridge discusses the recently-released City of Santa Fe study on bicycle crashes, which is getting the thumbs-down from local bicycle advocates. Also, the Marketplace morning report and a local news update."

Note that Tim and I didn't offer any thumbs; this was the lead-in to the interview. For the actual interview, I'll just redirect you to the station link for the recording. KSFR News Director Tom Trowbridge extracted the bike part into its own podcast.

And now, a word from our resident cartoonist, his Maddoggiest, Patrick O'Grady.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"How Many Idiots Can There Be? Some Say Its One Out of Three..."

With all the recent sturm und drang regarding bicycling crashes in Santa Fe and the need for safer cycling, we can't simply throw time and money at problems. Especially if people are doing their level headed best to defeat the existing safety system, as rickety as it might be.

Tonight while walking the dog, we were passing through the Alamo and Camino de las Crucitas intersection, which has a four way stop. Crucitas is a very popular cycling route as it connects the city to the quiet country roads north and west of the urban center as well as to the La Tierra Trails. As we walked past the intersection, a bicyclist in tight lycra was barreling downhill on Crucitas from the west as fast as he could pedal, hunkered down on the drops. He simply blew through the four way stop without so much as looking for traffic. I think he was going between 30-40 mph.  I had barely contained my amazement at Mr. Testosterone when a lady in a midsize SUV likewise cruised through the four way at about 15-20 mph without slowing or braking or looking. Go figure.

Carlos Mencia had it right. We have a lot of Dee Dee Dees who think safety is someone else's problem. No amount of throwing scarce tax dollars at safety will stop the bloodshed as long as idiots think responsible behavior is for other people. Yeah, I know...getting that personal best time onto the laptop in the Tour de Strava is pretty damn important; its definitely more important than slowing down at a stop sign or thinking about consequences. Not sure what Blondie The SUV Girl was thinking. Maybe she was thinking about dinner. Or chasing Mr. Lycra.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Santa Fe Police Study of Bicycle Crashes: Are They Primarily "Somebody's Fault"?

Santa Fe bicycle crash map. 
Credits to SFPD and the New Mexican
The Monday New Mexican ran a front page story on a recent SFPD investigation of bicycle crashes in the City Different. I have a few concerns.

First, I was concerned that not a single member of the BTAC or any other cycling organization or cyclist was quoted for the article. I don't know if the reporter contacted cyclists or BTAC members. The result is a focus on who was at fault in crashes rather than on root causes such as how design affects behavior (flagrant use of cell phones and other forms of lawbreaking notwithstanding). I attended the May BTAC meeting where the police presented their study and indeed, it focused more on the actual crashes than on the role of design although the BTAC and audience members did bring design into the conversation. Also, before I forget, I don't think adding signage fixes bad underlying design. The sign on the hideous St. Francis/Cerrillos/Railrunner crossing warning cyclists not to crash on the tracks comes to mind, i.e., "we goofed, so don't get killed here".

My friend and fellow cycling advocate, 
the late Dr. Gail Ryba, 
worked tirelessly to improve cycling conditions 
for Santa Fe's cyclists and fought the NMDOT 
over its redesign of St. Francis Drive
Although we know that cycling crashes are under-reported unless there is death or serious injury involved, number of crashes reported to the police is the database that was presented.  That said, the article indicates that the police found cyclists and motorists about equally responsible for the causes of the crashes, which is consistent with what the League of American Bicyclists teaches in our classes.  What we don't know is how many cyclists are on the roads, i.e., how many crashes per total number of cyclists, which is a usual metric for safety. We also don't know how many minor crashes went unreported.

In a glaring omission perhaps understandable, no one questioned the role of infrastructure as bearing on "fault". That's not surprising because police are charged with deciding who made a mistake or committed a citeable offense that causes a crash, not whether the infrastructure is properly designed to be shared or whether design contributes to human failure or misuse. So looking at this study, its not surprising that Councilor Mike Harris thinks that operator error is the major problem.

But if you look at the crash map in the article, which I have included above, the major state managed arterials are heavily represented. Many studies have been written about the role of infrastructure in increasing or decreasing crash frequency and risk, i.e., the Vision Zero concepts. For example, as far as turning and crossing crashes, which the study said are a major cause of crashes, its hard enough for motorists and cyclists to see each other at a busy intersection but when you make the roads extremely wide such as the Cerrillos, St. Francis, and St. Michaels arterials, aka "stroads",  picking out small vehicles or pedestrians in busy traffic is even tougher on a wide multilane design. But to be fair, these three arterials are state roads under the jurisdiction of the State of New Mexico Dept. of Transportation, so its not clear to me if the city has the authority to change or influence the design.

The article says most cycling crashes involve male cyclists, but doesn't tell us whether the cycling population is overwhelmingly male. One might wonder if male cyclists are risk-takers. But at least some sources indicate that male road cyclists far outnumber female road cyclists in the U.S. so the proportion might just statistically represent each population within the city. We don't know.

I just moved here so I don't want to go around condemning people or institutions. That said, I spent a dozen years on the Los Alamos Transportation Board (often enough as chair or vice-chair), wrote or contributed to three urban bike plans and a complete streets ordinance, and am a longtime League Cycling Instructor who twice reviewed Santa Fe's Bicycle Friendly Community application.  I am a little perplexed that this article or the police study it covers did not take on a broader, deeper scope and talk to a few more people. The city has been making great strides in providing trails and other resources for cyclists but in a city where it is still more practicable to get from Here to There and Back Again on the roads, we need to pay attention to roadway design, not just decide who gets the traffic ticket.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 7, 2018

May 18th is Los Alamos Bike to Work Day

To celebrate bicycling as a green, fun, and healthy way to get to work, the Laboratory is providing coffee, tea, water, 100 Virgin Pulse points, and snacks to (LANL-badged) cyclists who roll up to the J. R. Oppenheimer Center, (TA-03, Bldg. 207), May 18, 7–9 a.m.

“The Lab sees more bicycles on the road during the summer weather, so this is a good opportunity to increase awareness for both motorists and cyclists. It is important that respect exist amongst all employees who utilize LANL roads—each of us wants to arrive home safely after each work day,” said Debra Garcia, Vehicle and Pedestrian Program Lead.

The County is providing coffee, water, snacks and prizes at the Lemon Lot from 7 to 9 a.m. on May 18. They’re also sponsoring a Community Bike Party at Ashley Pond on Wed., May 16, 4–6 p.m., with a kids’ bike rodeo, free hot dogs, and prizes.

REI Corp. Throws Cyclist Safety Under the Bus for a Questionable Political Statement

Or, why does it have to be "guns or helmets" just in time for Bike Month?

I went down to REI yesterday to look for some tires for the cross bike, as I wanted something a little fatter than those 700-32's that left my teeth chattering during a recent downhill ride on a rocky trail. Sure enough, a set of Donnelly MSO's were beckoning to me and some electrons substituting for greenbacks changed hands.

When we sell guns like we sell cars
what does one expect?
Bushmaster ad, discussed by 
David Yamane
 What was not beckoning to me was the wide variety of bike helmets and Camelbak water systems that usually grace REI's shelves. Why? Because REI has decided to boycott Bell, Giro, and Camelbak products until those companies parent corporation,Vista Corp, cleanses itself of the sin of guns. Vista owns Savage Arms, which makes "black rifles" and Vista owns several ammo companies; Federal ammo helps underwrite the sometimes sophomoric and obnoxious NRATV. As far as Savage, it makes a lot of traditional rifles, as well as those euphemistically referred to as "modern sporting rifles" whose actual "sporting" purpose is overprinted onto a design based on shooting people in combat, benign civilian sporting use notwithstanding (of course, so many guns are based on "weapons of war" designs that this can be a meaningless, political phrase, too). But to fill in the blanks, the modern US military "black rifle" was originally designed by Eugene Stoner and the Armalite company (hence "AR" actually originally stood for Armalite Rifle although it has been generalized to black rifles of all types). Civilian, semiauto-only versions have proliferated in the decades since and although the vast majority never make the news, some, as readers know, have been used to ghastly purpose (Newtown, Pulse, Las Vegas, Parkland, etc). For the record, I don't own one; my interest here is in policy, not hardware.

Now its popular right now to make extreme political statements for and against guns and organizaations. I agree that gun violence, and how to reduce or suppress it, is a valid topic for conversation (and policy). But according to various sources, one here, handguns make up the lion's share of guns used in murders (and by inference, criminal activity in general); that number being around 7000 in 2016. Rifles of all types, ARs included, make up a minimal fraction of murders, a little under 400 in the same year. Several thousand firearms murders were undetermined as far as gun type. If you ask people in violence-drenched cities like Chicago, St. Louis, or Baltimore what gets people shot, they will likely respond that its lunatics armed with hand cannons doing the bloody work. The roughly 100 million law-abiding American gun owners are scratching their heads wondering how to get out of no-man's land in this discussion.

Oh, and back to helmets.  According to the CDC, there were over 1,000 bicyclists killed and close to half a million bicycle-related injuries in 2015; head injuries are serious business. One can thoughtfully ask what the cost-benefit is to society of having unrestricted civilian ownership of ARs (how many mass shootings does it take to negate whatever benefit these have in unrestricted distribution) but why would REI compromise the safety envelope of a huge number of bicyclists to do so, helmet wars notwithstanding?   Especially when REI doesn't sell guns. Perhaps a letter writing campaign to Vista or a movement to get bike products out from under the Vista umbrella, and meanwhile, keep the brain buckets on the shelves. Note to readers: Vista may be considering dumping Savage and Stevens Arms but not its other gunsport stuff.

I think REI is ignoring cyclist's safety needs to make its Board of Director's point (less than 25k petition signatures, not all REI members, out of 6 million co-op members does not a majority make). I would suggest that any cyclist worried about wearing a helmet, or about getting a little dehydrated this summer on a long rural or mountain ride, ought to take his or her business elsewhere and I say that as an REI member.

Road deaths per 100,000 people. (source: Angie Schmidt article in Streetsblog).
 Netherlands 3.4
 United States 10.6

Since we are talking about public safety, if REI is really worried about the safety of its client base, perhaps it ought to dissuade people from driving to its stores. Replace those parking lots with parks and trees and multiuse paths.  I suspect a lot of the deaths and more serious injuries suffered by bicyclists are due to the misuse of a certain four-wheeled contraption called a motor vehicle rather than misuse of something with a breech and muzzle called an assault rifle. Especially since the safe operation of either is determined by the operator, not the item itself. Given my time behind the wheel or handlebars in Santa Fe, its more likely to be a distracted, drunk, or clueless motorist who is going to kill me. Meanwhile, this weapon of urban destruction is still legal and acceptable at REI:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

More of the Rail Trail

I decided to turn around at the top of the descent down to Lamy. The trail was getting really rough and primitive and my teeth were knocking as I rode on those 700-32's. Plus, as the going got slower, the water in the Camelbak was not being used up any slower. Between the Camelbak and a water bottle, I got back home with about an ounce in the tank. But nice ride.

I suppose if I had taken a map and realized I was about a quarter mile from my destination, I would have bombed on down...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Sins of Urbanhood

So I finally dug out the mountainbike and explored the La Tierra Trails today. Nice, if not as rocky and technically challenging as North Mesa. But there is a lot of riding to do on La Tierra and it is only a mile from the house by mountain bike. A lot of the trails are pretty mellow as trails go but you can still find rocky sections and technical places where a biff is probable if you are not on your game. But its not Bayo Canyon, either.  Another angle on Bayo Canyon and North Mesa here.

I put the ancient but still in great shape Richey Speedmax tires on even though they are a little small for this bike. At an alleged 26x2.1 they are a lot smaller than my usual mud grinders but since its a mile on tarmac to and from the trails and since even the "technical" trails are dry and fairly smooth right now (see below), these have plenty of grip except on coarse, heavy gravel sections but those are rare. Meanwhile, they are fast and fun.

This is a nice way to burn off some stress on an afternoon that is windy as all getout and not much fun on a road bike!

Looking south from somewhere or other on the La Tierra Trails

View from a little knoll towards the S. end of the La Tierra Trails
Nice view of the rift volcanics to the S. near Albuquerque

Just a reminder that we really can be that stupid. 
We live in the shadow of some really dumb decisions.

And of course settling in to dinner and the evening means dialing in Dave Brubeck on Pandora. Sigh. I must be getting old.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Tour de Subaru 18 Month Service

The 18 month Subaru service doesn't take too long but sitting in the waiting room only encourages me to think about buying cars that I don't need. Not to mention, turning more carbs into fat cells. So I threw the newly re-purposed 'cross bike in the back and took it on a short adventure while the service guys were doing their thing on the Forester.

I checked the trail maps before leaving home and decided to find my way to the Spur Trail and from there to the Rail Trail, which will be a future adventure. This ride involved heading up Cerrillos to Governor Miles Road from the dealership, riding to Richards, down Richards past the Community College to the Spur Trailhead, and then off to my destination, the junction with the Rail Trail. Were this a 60k check, I would have time to ride all the way to Lamy and back. But today my purpose was to simply ride to the Rail Trail, poke around a bit, and head back to get the car.

I ran into some mountain bikers at the Spur/RailTrail junction and they told me that the trail was  pretty smooth to Lamy except for some rocky stuff near the Lamy end. They said the ride could be easily done on a cross bike without losing my teeth fillings. So that will be a future ride.

I've been missing BombTowne, but frankly, there is a boatload of cool biking to do down here in Fanta Se.  Might take a while to get bored.  Oh, and since I am nearly to Social Security age, I just joined Santa Fe Seniors on Bikes, since in addition to being well into geezerhood, I have often been called an SOB anyway.

Heading South on the Rail Trail. Smooth as a baby's bottom up here.
At least compared to the singletrack on N. Mesa I am used to (see masthead).
The cross bike was ideal.
Foothills on the other side of the tracks
Heading back towards town on the Spur. 
My main problem is I'm pretty inept when 700-32 Ritcheys meet deep gravel
Nice panoramas along the route
Back to the dealership with 16 miles on the odometer. 
Salsa LaCruz in current form
That's a 48/34 on front and 11/34 on back.
Tires are folding Richey Speedmax Pro, 700-32.
45 psi front and 55 psi in the back.
They ride fast. I wish I did...
A little more flotation in deep gravel patches would have been nice.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Bicycling in and around Fanta Se

Well, I finally unpacked enough boxes that I can find the bicycles, helmets, and shoes in the mini-garage in Estate Solana (the previous owners had converted about a third of the small garage to a laundry/spare bathroom, so its really a motorcycle/bicycle garage now).  So it was off to the hills.

There are plenty of places to go as one rides north from Casa Solana. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, some are not paved. I rode up Camino de las Montoyas and then onto Tano (east) Road, followed the access road north, swung north past Tesuque on Bishop's Lodge Road, and up NM 592 into the Sangre de Cristo foothills. At the top of the climb, one can get on Pacheco Canyon Road and take that forest road up to the ski hill at 10k feet (see last summer's post for the destination). Unfortunately, Pacheco Canyon was so washboarded that after a half mile, I thought my fillings would fall out so I gave up and turned back. Not the place for 700-25 Vittoria Open Pro tires on an aluminum race bike.

On returning home, I decided to return one of the commuters to its roots as a cross bike. Let's see how that works next. Besides, since I am now commuting from Fanta Se to BombTowne, there is that other bike set up as a commuter to ride.

Up Santa Fe County Road 76. It looks nice.
Not the ideal washboard bike.
Stock photo from last summer.

End of Mr. Pavement at the top of NM 592.

Salsa LaCruz back to its roots. 
I think a set of 700-43's might be better, but these Richeys were hanging in the garage.
Still a bunch of boxes to unpack, but not today.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cyclists raise safety concerns at Santa Fe City Council meeting

Carl Gable addresses the Santa Fe City Council. 
Sami Edge, Santa Fe New Mexican, photo credit

Good coverage of Carl Gable and company in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Sent this to Mayor Webber and the Santa Fe City Council

I apologize for missing last night's Council meeting but wish to second Carl Gable's concerns for safe cycling.

Traffic safety for bicyclists is a complicated issue. Road design, enforcement priorities, and both driver and cyclist competence come into play. I think all of these functions have to be working in order to have safer streets. A BTAC has to have real power to influence outcomes beneficial to bicyclists.

As far as behavior, little things matter.  Police have to put a high priority on deterring texting, distracted driving, and moving violations by both motorists and bicyclists. To fellow motorists, risky behaviors usually result in bent metal. To bicyclists and pedestrians, serious injury or death.

During my 12 years on the Los Alamos County Transportation Board, I made a point of working with Public Works, the Police Dept., and County Council to pass policies such as the Complete Streets and Bike Plan and worked one on one with Public Works and the Police Dept leadership towards safer streets. I hope to apply to the BTAC for membership in Santa Fe, if there is an opening.

We (spouse, cats, dog, me) are still getting our bearings in the City Different, tripping over boxes and bumping into walls, so I missed this meeting but agree with Carl Gable as quoted in the New Mexican story this morning. We have owned a home in Santa Fe for about 3 years and finally moved in full time. So far, my cycling experiences in Santa Fe have been good ones and indeed, I twice reviewed favorably Santa Fe's application for Bicycle-Friendly Community status for the League of American Bicyclists. I really do appreciate the five minute bike ride to my food co-op rather than the 15 mile round trip bike ride from my former Los Alamos home to the LA co-op! But as the recent spate of incidents suggests, we are not finished with the job of making Santa Fe a Bicycle Friendly Community.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Post - #MeToo Valentine Cards

First two post “Me Too” valentine cards

Roses are red
Violets are blue
My love is special
And all meant for….oh, forget it….this can only end badly

To: Our client’s special valentine
From: The Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe
Our client would like to send you a pretty valentine but wishes to receive, in advance, an affidavit stating that you will receive this card in good faith and agree to not take legal action against our client in the case of any misunderstanding as to the innocent nature of this card.
Signature_____________________, notarized before________________

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bike and Biker Day at the Capitol

NMMRO Co-Chairs Annette Torrez and Ray Gallegos 
addressing the crowd.
Click on photo for full size picture.
The Saturday rally was a good one. We had a decent turnout of folks from the lycra crowd and got a lot of recognition from the moto crowd. Recent crash victim and bike pro Irena Ossola of Santa Fe gave a compelling talk, after an intro from Jennifer Buntz (Duke City Wheelmen). Ann Overstreet (BikeABQ) and Diane Albert were recognized for making the food possible and Tony Farrar, owner of NM Bike N Sport, sponsored us as his shop is a great location to meet and then easily, for non-Fanta Seans, get to the Capitol as well as the Railyard. The moto crowd was sponsored and fed by Santa Fe Harley-Davidson.

I'm having trouble typing as I speared my left index finger while spazzing at something, and keep making mistakes. Have a great day.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Drought? Or Normal?

God speed the plow.... By this wonderful provision, which is only man's mastery over nature, the clouds are dispensing copious rains ... [the plow] is the instrument which separates civilization from savagery; and converts a desert into a farm or garden.... To be more concise, Rain follows the plow.
--Charles Dana Wilber

Since this blog bounces between bicycling for fun to more serious issues such as transportation, health, and climate, I thought I would toss this out in the interest of sustainability issues.

Yesterday the Albuquerque Journal said that "Drought Returns to New Mexico". I would argue it never left. Drought has various definitions and understandings and can be defined on different time scales depending on one's frame of reference (agriculture, climatology, ecology, etc.); it generally means "golly, we are getting less moisture than we have come to expect based on our limited experiences". I tend to think of it in climate cycles, because climate tells us what variations we can expect. As civilizations, we have to manage our societies in light of that expectation. Rain does not follow the plow.

That said, there may be a modern variation to that theme of rain vs. plow that has a lot of credibility: climate change follows the smokestack.

So in the interest of trying to understand what is going on lately as far as that wet stuff that falls from the sky, here are two graphs from a John Fleck article in a 2012 issue of the Albuquerque Journal. Just looking at a century, there appear to be both short (a few years) and longer term (about half a century) cycles.  This is not meant as a prediction or alarm bell, but two things. We can, of course, expect short term El Nino/La Nina/ENSO cycles that mean snowpack/rainfall differences on the year to year basis. We can also expect, if this trend is not an aberration (see tree ring data below), longer term cyclicity in water feast and famine due to physical processes such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and other processes, sometimes coupled or that may be teleconnected, such as the PDO and AMO. Note also that if winter precipitation decreases while temperatures increase, this is a double whammy. Snowpack may not last as long due to increased early melting and sublimation. We may see higher transpiration rates in trees that may not be sustainable. Plus, insects such as bark beetles may rev their biological engines faster.

I guess its "ask a climatologist" time. Indeed, climatologists have been studying the underlying causes of "drought" cycles in the US Southwest. Some examples here, here, here, here, and here.

Here is that century long record of precipitation and temperature variation in New Mexico, from John Fleck's 2012 article.

Another way to look at precipitation cyclicity.  Elephant Butte Lake levels, ~1910-2015,  from John Fleck's blog.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Pretty similar to the Elephant Butte Lake graph, eh?

Finally, a long term tree ring record based model of precipitation in NW New Mexico, showing century duration cycles, from the International Tree Ring Data Bank.