Thursday, April 26, 2007

Negotiating the appendix

I guess we're calling the new security bypass road "The Large Intestine". So I'm going to call the driveway into the Motorola building parking lot "the appendix". It's hasn't opened yet, but when it does, I predict big trouble for pedestrians and cyclists.

Currently it is easy to cross the appendix at 12MPH going in to LANL. This is fast enough that it's not possible to do a sufficient check behind for right-turning traffic. I've tried. In fact approaching the crossing at a proper angle for cycling requires swinging wide and doing basically a 90° left turn, then (possibly) a quick stop. It is a very badly designed crossing and I'm really concerned someone's going to be hit as soon as it opens.

Pedestrians fare better at the crossing since they're already travelling under 3MPH. However, many pedestrians cut across the now-gravelled area as a shortcut to the light that never changes. In order for those people to check for oncoming traffic, they are going to have to look 180° behind them for traffic going 25-35MPH through that wide turn. This is a scary proposition.

Fortunately the county is going to change the whole design into a tradition "double-T" intersection. But if LANL decides to open the appendix in the meantime, we need to spread the word to be really careful. Anyone have ideas for a short-term fix should LANL decide to open the road?


Greg said...

The Valles Caldera has just put up their dates for the Mt. Bike tours this summer.

Go to their reservations page to check the dates at

Anonymous said...


Every time I ride by this thing I think about how bad it will be once the barrels go away. Maybe the county can install a speed hump right before the cross walk section with good signs. You're right, some one is going to get killed.

That light that never changes is one I run when the conditions are right. In actuality, I usually end up adjusting my seat, checing my panniers, drinking some water, mashing the button a few more times, plucking my nasal hair, and looking at the line of cars on Diamond trying to get through that intersection.


Scott said...


Since you are on the transportation board, maybe you can explain the following for the dense (e.g. me): What exactly is a "double-T" intersection and exactly where will it be? Will it really replace the appendix or will it exist between the appendix and the bridge (in addition to the appendix)?

[Never thought I'd use the word appendix so much in one paragraph]

-Scott D.

Neale said...


That signal irritates me too. But it's at least predictable. I've been thinking about how to increase your chances of hitting it near green, and how if traffic is going straight through both ways, you really need to sprint, especially if there's a pedestrian or cyclist already waiting for it to change. Maybe that's worth a blog entry of its own.

The county probably won't be able to do anything about the appendix until they begin work on the new intersection, but I'm not sure about that. I'll find out.

The best solution in my personal opinion would be to just leave it closed. Any other solution will just cost money and will have to be bulldozed in short order for the new intersection. But since I'm talking about it, I'll offer that a speed bump in a 35MPH roadway probably violates all sorts of codes, and the curvature of the thing is such that probably landscaping features would be the only option. Making the rock garden unhikeable would fix things for pedestrians, and re-pouring the sidewalk to resemble a question mark would do it for bikes. Those are both high-dollar fixes, though. Orange barrels are cheap by comparison.

The fact that they've striped the appendix does not bode well, though.


Imagine what Diamond would look like if Trinity disappeared but we kept that non-arterial on the other side of it. That's the first T. Now, take away the parking lot for Sullivan field. That's the second T. The appendix will not connect to anything but it sounds like it might dangle there for a couple years doing nothing, just like a real appendix!

I'm unsure how much information I'm allowed to disclose, but a quick 311 call could give you enough information to post a whole new blog entry :)

Neale said...

On a related note: any guesses as to what that sidewalk ramp is for? I'm talking about the one you see just south of the bridge when the appendix exit's separation begins.

My guess is that it's to allow bikes off the bridge, but I'm not sure if that ramp is even legal since it doesn't connect foot traffic to anything. Even if it were for bikes, a cyclist would have to make 3 lane changes to position themselves correctly for making that left turn, a maneuver I speculate 0% of bike commuters execute.

I could be remembering this feature incorrectly though. Maybe I just made it up.

Scott said...


Thanks for your description of the double T.

I have not noticed the ramp that you are referring to, but I will check it out tomorrow on the way in.

-Scott D

Scott said...


I saw the ramp you are referring to. I never noticed before but there is what appears to be a bike lane in the appendix and it seems to connect to that. The ramp indeed seems to serve no purpose.

Perhaps the ramp is some form of ADA-compliance so that in theory a wheelchair or ECV could access the bike lane after crossing the bridge...?...?...?