Monday, September 24, 2018

Autumnal Equinox and More Bike Politics

Rail Trail headed back from El Dorado
 Fall arrived on schedule last week. The weather has cooled a bit and the aspen up in the Sangre de Cristos are bright yellow. There are so many rides in this town that its hard to figure out which bike to break out. This weekend, it was the off road stuff that got exercised. Well, I got exercised too.
La Tierra Trails

This morning I had to drop the old Tacoma off for some diagnostics, as it suddenly went on strike when cold starting, so I dropped it off at Aztec and rode the cross bike back home after pumping the tires to road pressures, which to me means adding 5-10 psi front and rear. The newly finished River Trail extension, which normally connects Casa Solana to Siler Road, is still closed down at Siler Rd due to damage from those massive summer rainstorms, so I took West Alameda home. Alameda was busy but pleasant, part due to the lovely fall weather. Here is a short video of that flash flood courtesy of an Albuquerque Journal article.

Which brings up the politics. What does it mean to be a good bicycling city? How good is good enough, and how comfortable is comfy enough?

 It took me a bit to get used to the busier Santa Fe after sixteen years in Los Alamos, but riding home from Aztec on Siler in rush hour traffic seemed just another day on the bike. But would our bike lanes, where they exist, count for decent infrastructure? It depends.

Last week, we got notified that Santa Fe was rated 1.6/5 by People for Bikes. No one I talked to is quite sure what that means. I took a quick look at the city rankings and Ft. Collins was tops with a 3.5. Seems Santa Fe, a silver level BFC, is in the top third. I looked at Honolulu, which I was familiar with and it got a 1.8. I'm not sure Honolulu (Bronze) is better than Santa Fe (silver) but YMMV. Albuquerque (Bronze) got a 1.7 and frankly, that place has far more ghost bikes than we do in the City Different.

Team of riders who worked with the LAB on Santa Fe's BFC evaluation
Steve Clark, the LAB representative, on lower left.

Nice to be able to ride five minutes to the grocery store
 on a casual bike. Even safe right after major shoulder surgery,
 explaining my dismal fitness in this picture.
 So from that quick comparison, I think we are looking at broadly similar rankings, if not metrics. I would appreciate if People came down to brief us in detail as to how it uses the data they use as metrics. At least when the League ranks cities, there seems to be real human interaction.

One place PfB hits the bullseye is on low stress connectivity. Former BCNM President Dr. Gail Ryba fought a losing war with the NMDOT over its expansion of St. Francis Drive to six lanes, thus eliminating any possibilities of bike lanes in spite of verbal commitments to multimodal transportation. So there is no direct route from Casa Solana to the shopping along St. Francis, and that's a big issue. Likewise, those bike lanes on Cerrillos leave me wondering whether any bicyclist is suicidal enough to use them. I rarely see cyclists on that mega-stroad.

There is always slop in these rankings and sometimes, a hard-boiled look at numbers is good. I'd be happy if PfB and LAB just put big error bars on their measurements and dropped by for a Q and A on how we translate their reviews into actual improvements.
And of course, that Harvest Moon