Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Atomic Number 22, Titanium

 Well, it was a good day in the saddle.

First ride on this new rig was only about ten miles, after I wrapped up work, my significant other got home from volunteering at the Food Depot, and I finished putting pedals on the bike and figuring out with help from the helpful Litespeed folks in Tennesee (Sam Voigt and Dave Dickey) how to properly mount the rear derailleur. Rides nice. Almost too nice. Almost plush, but stiff and responsive. I think I have to put narrow tires pumped to 130 psi on the bike so it feels like one of the boneshakers that I am used to.

The downtube is big. Bigger than I thought. Wow.

The tires should be great for off road and the handling geometry is exactly what I was hoping for after reading the Nick Legan review in Adventure Cycling: quick and road bike like but not nervous. The tires were pretty good on flat road where the bike felt really fast but when I was headed up the steep part of Gonzales Road and was grinding away in the 30x28 combo, you could feel the little offroad nubbins on the rear tire groaning and deforming. Maybe I will try to find a better on road/off road tire compromise but if I were to hammer the Rail Trail, I think those would be great tires. As Litespeed told me, the whole point of those tires is gravel, not pavement, and I suspect in that, they will be great.

Handlebar controls are excellent. Thank you longtime pal and Adventure Cycling bike reviewer, Patrick O'Grady, for our discussion of various levels of Shimano whizbangery as I was sorting through this decision. The shifting and front derailleur fine tuning worked well, the brakes predictable and firm with only a couple finger touch and as I found out, quite powerful when some dipshit in a car made an unannounced left turn directly into my path. And somehow, I got a wheel upgrade from the listed Sun Ringle Charger Comps to a pair of FSA AGX'es.

Only minor annoyance is the saddle, but I expected that might not be perfect and in most respects it is pretty good for a short ride. I don't think it is a bike company's job to know everyone's ass as well as one knows one's own ass.  The saddle on the bike was just a little squishy. Not bad, actually, and great saddle shape, but a little soft for an ass that has forty two years of high mileage on stiffer Selle Flites or Selle Turbos in it. Pen Pal Pat O'Brien has a spare Terry he is going to mail me.

Bottom line is this felt pretty darn good on first spin. I do have to get this rig offroad onto some of the nearby gravel roads or the Rail Trail to see what a Gravel Bike can do. 

Now, if we could just solve all the world's problems this way...just by riding a bike.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Last Day of Summer Ride

 Its been a long and difficult year with the Covid bug, and its not over yet. One thing that kept us sane was being able to get out on hiking trails and in my case, escape the city on the rural roads and trails on the north, south, and west sides of town. I know folks, including a cousin, who have weathered this pandemic in massively urbanized places like New York City and its tough.

So here is a hat tip to having a bicycle and Ma Nature at my beck and call. Now, on to "the first day of fall ride"?

One of the ash trees in front of the house providing us a subtle hint that Mr. Sun is headed for the southern hemisphere.
Headed north on Bishop's Lodge Road towards Tesuque
Headed east on one of the many roads named Tano.

The obligatory picture of the bicycle

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Santa Fe Mayor's Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee Looking for Subcommittee Members

 Greetings, cyclists.

At the last BTAC meeting, 3 subcommittees were created, namely:
1) Planning and Fundraising;
2) Law and Policy; and
3) Promotion, Education and Programming.

The above subcommittees will lead in implementing BTAC’s duties and responsibilities below. Each subcommittee can have a maximum of 3 members-at-large. Each subcommittee is chaired by a sitting BTAC member. We need your help. Please email me if you are interested in joining any of the subcommittees above so Councilor Michael Garcia (2nd District) can appoint you at next BTAC meeting scheduled on Oct. 8.

Summary of Responsibilities:

1) Planning and Fundraising (Chair: Sky Tallman, NMDOT Transportation Planner)
a) Assist in the prioritization of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects in the City of Santa Fe.
b) Review preliminary designs of Public Works’ roadways and trails projects at or by 30% design and before plans are presented to the Public for comments or submitted for review to NMDOT.
c) Review and recommend updates to Bicycle Master Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Parks Master Plan related to trails, and the City’s Land Use Development Code as it pertains to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
d) Seek funding from city, state, and federal sources to implement bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects prioritized in the Bicycle and Pedestrian master plans.

2) Law and Policy (Chair: Atty. Yolanda Eisenstein)
a) Monitors city and state government changes in ordinances and laws, or shifts in policy that may impact the work of BTAC.
b) Advise on policies, programs, and ordinances as they relate to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
c) Draft the language for any new policies or amendments to City’s policies, resolutions, and ordinances related to bicycling and pedestrian safety, viability, and user comfort as these affect bicycling and walking as modes of transportation.

3. Promotion, Education and Programming (Chair: VACANT)
a) Develop, review, and advise on media and educational campaigns that provide information and promote bicycle and pedestrian related activities and education.
b) Pursue higher rankings in the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Community designation for the City of Santa Fe, up to and including Diamond level, as well as pursuing any other local, state, or national awards or designations that the City deems worthy of pursuit.
c) Educate the public on the work of the Committee.

For those who did not watch the Sept. 10th meeting, the Law & Policy subcommittee will work on proposing City policies on e-bikes. The Planning & Fundraising subcommittee and Promotion, Education and Programming subcommittee may work on finding solutions to increase safety of underpasses particularly the St. Francis – Cerrillos Underpass as well as sidewalk safety.

Please contact the BTAC if you might be willing to be a member of a BTAC subcommittee. And as always, please e-mail us (rsglorioso-moss AT santafenm DOT gov) if you have any questions and we wish to thank you for all your support of BTAC.

Romella Glorioso-Moss, PhD, AICP
Projects Administrator
Public Works – Roadway and Trails
500 Market St., Suite 200
Santa Fe, NM 87501 T (505) 955-6623

Friday, September 4, 2020

End of the Line

 Small check-off on the mental bucket list today. I have been meaning to ride the Santa Fe Rail Trail all the way out to US 285 for a long time, but something always interferes. Short ride plan. Lazy. Not enough water. Not enough reasons to avoid making excuses.

Last weekend I rode out to Spur Ranch Road with the bike on the light wheels and turned around. Yesterday, having goaded myself into doing the full ride, I put the heavier duty wheels, a set of hoops built on LX hubs, 32, 3x Wheelsmith spokes and Salsa Delgado Cross rims shod with 700-40 Xplor MSOs on the bike as I recall the last almost two miles being rough, rocky singletrack. I also filled two water bottles with Gatorade along with the Camelbak full of water to avoid dehydration or running out of water/Gatorade. Off I went.

Note that in the AllTrails link above, they recommend a mountain bike for the dirt portion. I've done the trail on both a double boinger mountainbike and on a cyclecross bike (seen below, a Salsa LaCruz) and prefer the 'cross bike as it is more efficient and I don't think a full on mountain bike is really needed, even for the southernmost couple miles. I do recommend wide off road rubber, for both comfort and control on tight dirt curves where a slide can bring you into the loving arms of a tree or fence. But YMMV and regardless of whether you use a mountain bike or a cyclecross or gravel bike, it will work if you do.

Was a beauty of a day. Not too hot, not too windy. Checked the mental box and had a good time. Round trip about 34 miles (I have to check to see what tires were on the bike when I calibrated the Cateye).

Urban parts of the trail have recently been refurbished with new deck planking on bridges and a nicely paved cut-through on the Rail Trail towards the Acequia Trail near Baca St. Oh, sure, you can shorten the ride 5.5 miles from my house by driving to the Rabbit Road trailhead but really. Load a bike on a car when you have a beautiful paved trail system just about from your doorstep out to the rural trails? Eeeeyewww....

And if you love trails, please support the Santa Fe Conservation Trust with your donation. The Rail Trail is one of their many priceless creations.

Bridge just north of Zia Road crossing

Here the bike has the 700-32 Richey Cross Pro rubber on a Speed City wheelset (from last week's ride)

The cut-through near Baca at Santa Rosa Drive at Monterey is now paved the entire width of the easement

View North somewhere in Eldorado

View North between Spur Trail and Rabbit Road trailhead/parking lot
Just north of Spur Ranch Road in Eldorado, you now go under this RR overpass to continue on a wide trail until the trail goes down to rough singletrack (with some doubletrack) south of Spur Ranch Road
Some nice scenery along the way

Nice overlook of the Galisteo Basin in the last mile of the singletrack above US 285
Note the 700-40 Xplor MSO's
End of the Line, at US 285

And, speaking of the End of the Line, I couldn't in good conscience use that title for this post without including the original.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

To Tunnel Or Not To Tunnel, That Is The Question

Acequia/Rail Trail Tunnel. Santa Fe New Mexican photo

On 25 August, the Santa Fe New Mexican published an article about attacks on pedestrians in and around the pedestrian tunnel crossing St. Francis Drive just north of the St. Francis/Cerrillos intersection. This tunnel provides partial grade-separated connectivity between the segments of Rail Trail on opposite sides of St. Francis Drive and grade separated access to the Acequia Trail from the Railyard. Some commenters responding to the article and at least one Councilor criticized building tunnels due to their seeming to be a magnet for homeless people and the criminal element. So we have a tug of war at play between grade-separated access to the city's bike/ped trail network that reduces car-bike and car-pedestrian conflict vs. designs that sometimes lead to street crime. 

But let's not forget that the criminal activities have been in several locations along the Railyard-Acequia Trails alignment, not just in the tunnel. Crime is a bigger problem than an issue due to a tunnel alone.  I'd like to see an official, SFPD crime map of Santa Fe to see if this area actually stands out in terms of crime frequency as opposed to being magnified beyond actual risk due to a high profile article in the newspaper. We have seen assaults in other parks and Downtown. My suspicion is that the criminal element sees isolated pedestrians as easy targets, regardless of location and that good trails attract pedestrians, aka targets. Perhaps we need some undercover cops dressed looking like easy marks wandering our trails, aka a Detective Belker.

Now, on to some basic multimodal transportation issues. It is well known in the bicycle-pedestrian design and advocacy community that you cannot expect to have your bicycle transportation system enthusiastically utilized by average citizens (as opposed to "serious cyclists") if it has intimidating choke points on it. These have to be circumvented with good designs. Santa Fe is a city sliced in pieces, bicycle design-wise, by major highways ("principal arterials") that were not designed to effectively accomodate pedestrian or bicycle travel. St. Francis, Cerrillos, and St. Michaels are all fast multilane principal arterials currently controlled by the State of New Mexico Dept. of Transportation and are, in my opinion, designed to move as many cars as efficiently as possible rather than optimizing access to all modes of transportation. There are no bike lanes on St. Francis, for example, a design deliberately approved more than a decade ago by the NMDOT against the wishes of the bicycling community. The St. Francis-Cerrillos intersection is further complicated by the diagonal crossing of the Rail Runner track alignment, which can trap the wheel of a cyclist trying to cross as traffic. Indeed, any at-grade crossing of a major highway by a person on foot or bike is somewhat risky, as the fatal crashes at St. Francis and Zia as well as elsewhere demonstrate. That is why grade-separated crossings on busy principal arterials are strongly recommended in spite of their often considerable cost. 

Indeed, at a recent Santa Fe BTAC meeting, a 2018 crash analysis was discussed that pointed out that "... the main contributing factor (to crashes between motorists and bicyclists) is a failure to yield on behalf of both the bicyclist and motor vehicles (33%) and second was driver inattention (19%). Bicycle crashes are predominantly at intersections (64%); incidents are disbursed across town but generally on arterials: Cerrillos Road 45%; Airport Road 17%; St. Francis Dr. 13%; and St. Michael's Dr. 9.4% and primarily on weekdays." Hence the need for safer designs consistent with the Vision Zero concept that one engineers roads to protect against likely human error.

 There is a side benefit to motorists in these separated facilities, as they increase motor vehicle level of service, since there is no requirement for a long red light cycle when pedestrians are crossing wide streets if pedestrians have their own right of way. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (2009) estimates a speed of 3.5 to 4 feet per second for pedestrians crossing a street but some recent research suggests that is too fast for almost half of older pedestrians and some younger ones. So on a 130 foot principal arterial such as St. Michael's Drive, a pedestrian walk light can stop busy traffic for approximately 37 seconds and this timing may increase as our population ages.

So to make Santa Fe's network of bike-ped trails functional, we need grade separated crossings on principal arterials and highways. How to do it is the question. Tunnels are protected from the weather to some degree and can be compact, since they need only provide enough headspace for people rather than sometimes huge commercial vehicles. Of course a tunnel provides protection against the elements for everyone, including homeless people looking for refuge. Bridges, by contrast, are exposed during foul weather and winter conditions and would require more maintenance during winter weather to provide year round connectivity if snow and ice are present. Furthermore, they can be massive. The Federal Highway Administration requires a minimum of 14-16 feet of overhead clearance for a bridge over an arterial so that large trucks can pass underneath. Meanwhile, the Americans With Disabilities Act stipulates a gradient on ramps no steeper than 1:12 (one foot of rise for every 12 feet of distance). This results in ramps leading to an overhead crossing that could be more than 200 feet long. In an analysis of building a pedestrian bridge over St.Michael's Drive prepared for the State in 2014 by Souder, Miller, and Associates, approach ramps to the overhead structure were listed as being approximately 350 feet long to provide for a bridge with 16' of clearance over the road. So access to a substantial easement is required.  The bottom line? Nothing is cheap or without costs as well as benefits and sometimes you need a pretty big hammer to make it fit.

Given the planing for a tunnel at the Rail Trail crossing at St. Michael's drive, which is currently an uncontrolled midblock crossing of a multilane, fast arterial, we need to come to some consensus on whether the city will support these or other designs with enforcement, maintenance, and also to assist in providing better shelter to the homeless. Plus, these are not the only tunnels in town. There are several small but critical tunnels along the Chamisa Trail and one near the Zia station for a spur off of the Rail Trail as well.

Given that our arterial system carves up Santa Fe and impedes bike-ped mobility, grade-separated crossings are necessary to make our trail system work. Tunnels provide advantages in cover as well as space but can also attract a criminal element and the homeless. Bridges require a lot of space, which is sometimes an issue. Neither are cheap. As a cyclist and a citizen of this city, I don't want to see these tunnels turn into something the public fears or despises. And as a cyclist and someone concerned with multimodal transportation, something important to public health, urban planning, and environmental protection, we need to make the bikeway system not only efficient but desirable rather than something putting fear into people's heart. We need to solve this problem.

More reading: The Underpass Dilemma.

Yet more reading.

Neighborhoods and Trails: Why Trails?

Prepared by Margaret Alexander for the Santa Fe Conservation Trust January, 2009;
Updated April, 2010


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

At Times Like This, Little Things Matter Quite a Bit

I saddled up the Salsa La Cruz and took a ride out to Eldorado on the Rail Trail yesterday morning. It was still cool out and the air was not too thick with smoke from the various sundry fires yet. Plus, its a weekday so I dare venture out on the trails, which can be pretty busy on weekends. 

 So I headed into town and hopped on the Rail Trail at the Railyard. Heading South, the first thing I noticed was that the city has put in a nice paved sidewalk connector where there is an easement to get from the Rail Trail to neighborhood streets near Baca at Monterey and Santa Rosa and connect through to points north and the River Trail. The easement below used to be a narrow right of way, all dirt or mud and a fence on one side where I occasionally cut my knuckles or hit a handlebar riding through. Now its nice, wide, paved, and good to go regardless of the weather.

I also noticed that all the bridges I crossed on the Rail Trail have received new decking. Some of those bridges were in tough shape a year ago. Now they are all nicely decked. This picture is of the bridge just north of the Zia station.

Bridge just north of the Zia train station

Between the Covid, the drought, the fires, and the bad national politics, its nice to see those not-so-little touches like this. It puts a smile on my face and probably the faces of a lot of other folks who are trying to retain their sanity in these troubled times by getting some air and exercise on our trails. A tip of the hat to the city of Santa Fe for getting these trails gussied up, even as we scrounge the city coffers for funds.

Be safe, be careful, and stay healthy out there. Practice smart social distancing and don't forget that mask or face covering, as appropriate.