Saturday, January 3, 2009

Speaking of environmental sustainability, lets examine cycling infrastructure and policy in Los Alamos

I'd like to start collecting feedback on local bicycling infrastructure and policy here.

Policy seems fine. We don't have any egregiously bad law here, the LAPD is supportive and professional regarding cyclists rights to the road, our Transportation Dept. is keen on cycling issues, and Council has been pro-cycling and pro-pedestrian. But the devil is always in the details.

The infrastructure needs to be examined critically since there is often the presumption among less experienced cyclists that infrastructure equals safety. In fact, no infrastructure is safe unless everyone using it (motorist and cyclist) is skilled. Some infrastructure can actually increase the danger for a nonskilled cyclist by creating a false sense of security and creating conflict points. As far as problematic infrastructure? One must not build it. One must critically examine it.

A particularly worrisome example, supported by some in the cycling community in the past, is the "downhill" North Rd. bike lane descending to the Quemezon intersection.

Here, downhill cyclists at any speed approaching motor traffic speed should be fully in the lane. You need to prevent North Rd. motorists from overtaking you and then right hooking you if they turn right into Quemezon. You need to make sure uphill North Rd. motorists see you and not turn left in front of you, thinking a curb-hugging cyclist is going slowly. You also need to be as visible as possible to prevent motorists from exiting Quemezon in front of you (fail to yield) as you ride downhill. Again, a curb hugging cyclist is less visible.

Not all "bicycling facilities" are created equal. Some are fine. Some create hazards as well as benefits. Some just are not a good idea. We need to sort these out and have some input as Los Alamos rebuilds its streets.

Further, this is a great time to add such input, since Los Alamos is trying to make itself "environmentally sustainable". What better way to be environmentally sustainable than to replace a fossil fuel trip with a cycling trip? But let's not uncritically equate facilities with safety.

See below.

Hello members of Boards, staff and community,

The County Council asked the Environmental Sustainability Board to provide recommendations for objectives under the Council’s Strategic Goal to Maintain Environmental Quality. The Board held a work session on December 11, 2008 to develop recommendations. Various members of the public, boards and staff attended the work session which is documented in the attached document.

Before we present these recommendations to Council, we wanted to give you a chance to provide comment. We are available to make a short presentation to your Board if you would like. Please provide any feedback to me. We would like to have these recommendations ready for Council’s next strategic planning session which is likely to occur in February 2009.

The recommended objectives are listed on page 3 under Workshop Outcomes, followed on page 4 by the actual words from the brainstorming session. Recommended objectives are also listed below:

Proposed Objectives for Council’s Strategic Goal to Maintain Environmental Quality

1. Demonstrate sustainable design, renewable energy and green operations in County facilities.

2. Pursue community wide independence from hydrocarbon energy sources.

3. Take bold actions to conserve water and energy.

4. Maximize recycling, waste reduction, and reuse.

5. Increase the use of products with positive environmental attributes.

6. Establish key baseline measurements, establish conservation goals and measure progress annually.

7. Create sustainable education and outreach on environmental and energy goals.

8. Incorporate sustainable land use practices wherever feasible including protecting open space, trails and habitat and encouraging beneficial planting and community gardens.

Thank you for your consideration,

Regina Wheeler

Los Alamos County

Environmental Services Manager

505-663-1920 office

505-690-4197 cell

To this call, by the way, I made the following suggestions:

Develop land use planning codes which minimize the need for additional vehicle miles travelled and additional roadway space required in the county (a Transportation Master Plan cannot be written in isolation from a land use/development plan, since people need to travel from where we let them build homes and offices and what facilities we provide them to displace cars--so why are we spreading out all the way to the Airport Basin?)

Ensure that new and existing roadways are constructed/rebuilt to encourage pedestrian, transit, small electric/hybrid vehicle, and bicycling oriented movement. Ensure that new and renovated roadways and their speed limits do not serve as impediments to the above modes of travel. One potential benchmark can be how the transportation mode split changes as we implement these plans.

Provide tax incentives for local businesses to provide bicycling end-user facilities and plug-in parking for future fleets of plug-in hybrid vehicles. If future county/regional transit centers are to be provided with private vehicle parking, these should be equipped to encourage non-traditional travel to these facilities (plug in hybrids, bicycles, mopeds, etc.)

Examine how we tax property to encourage "best use" practices from an environmental quality perspective. Should downtown Los Alamos look like a sea of parking lots interspersed with buildings?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We've had two snow events this year. Each one has shown how far we are from being a community that values other forms of transportation. Each time the roads were plowed, onto the sidewalks. Anybody not in a car has to wait for the sun to make travel easier.