Thursday, December 29, 2011

Durango's Silver, Door-Zone Bike Lanes, Haven't Changed

But world events may make them quite heavily used.

We got out of Dodge for a couple days, sneaking off to our usual hideaway in Durango, CO.  Durango is a Bicycle Friendly Community (silver), and for a lot of good reasons, although our penchant for heading up there with our tandem is probably not officially on the list. Durango, in addition to being thick with cyclists and cycling friendly destinations, will be hosting the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge this coming year in addition to the annual Iron Horse Classic. Its newspaper was quite excited about its newly acquired pro-level exposure today.
Carver Brewpub on Main Ave, where I'm
likely to be having lunch and a pint,
reserves the best parking spots for bikes
pic from Acorn to Oak, acknowledged
But Durango, like any real world place, has its warts. Its door zone bike lanes, found on quite a few of its urban arterials, are not its strong suit and that's the stuff on which your local, non-racing beginner or journeyman cyclist trudging off to work or school depends. Nothing seems to have changed since last summer except those lanes are really dirty this time of year from road grunge being swept into them by passing cars and trucks. I found a few hardy cyclists using them, too, riding in cramped space not fit for man or beast. I wish them well. 

If it were up to me, I'd downgrade Durango to Bronze. The level of official cynicism and disregard to the everyday cyclist's safety and legal equity these lanes indicate is depressing. After all, it is these everyday cyclists who do the real work that helps Durango support those high profile races that bring in the big bucks to the hotels and restaurants. If any place on earth should do better, its Durango, given how important cycling is to its economy. I hope they rise to the occasion. I'll keep bugging them till they do so. 

In an age when international sabre-rattling (see link to NY Times story) could drive people out of their motor vehicles via oil interruptions or price instability, not to mention ongoing climate worries, sedentary lifestyle health issues, and the American customer's choices to be increasingly oil-frugal, let's not marginalize utilitarian cycling through bad design. Provide safe, not marginalized, accommodations for Joe and Jane Sixpack. That's what Silver-level BFC status should be about.

Well, that's not all I thought about. This was, after all, a vacation. This eagle in the picture below, sitting on the Animus River by Durango's dog park last night, was really cool. Interestingly, and of course leading back into the interaction of politics and human activity, the dog park occupies a breathtakingly beautiful riverside location on the West bank of the Animus R right across from the heart of town. An older local who has lived in the region much of his life said the reason it is a dog park and not the locus of million dollar riverside McMansions or yet another luxury hotel is because it was the site of an old Manhattan Project era uranium milling operation, and before that a lead smelter. You can see the numerous monitoring/venting pipes sitting in the park. Some interesting pictures and history of the town's mining and industrial past are here and here

The dogs and dog owners of the community, not to mention visitors like us with dogs, are beneficiaries of that bit of industrial history. Sometimes a little pollution can be a good thing for the 99%, eh?
An apparently healthy eagle trying to eat, if not for me pestering it. 
Note: No patriotic overtones are expressed or implied by the photo of this bird.
Taken with a Canon T1i, 18-200mm lens, fully zoomed out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Colorado Supreme Court to hear Black Hawk Bike Ban Case

To keep it from happening here, 
don't let it happen there

Of particular interest to those of us in the West, where roads can be few and far between and the public occasionally cranky. I'll direct you all to Bicycle Colorado for the complete story, which slowly unfolds.

From the BC site:
From the Court's documents, they will hear arguments of the following: 
  • Whether municipalities may ban bicycling on local streets absent a suitable nearby alternative bicycling route.
  • Whether legislation is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest, and thus a reasonable exercise of police power, when the evidence on which the legislation is based does not address that governmental interest.
  • Whether banning bicycling on the only route connecting Central City to the Peak-to-Peak Highway is a reasonable exercise of Black Hawk's police power.

Once this Supreme Court decision is made, we can see how much damage control needs to be done. If this court overturns the ordinance, that is probably good news for cyclists in other states, who can cite it as precedent if needed, at least at an appellate level. Note that in the successful Selz vs. Trotwood appeal, the appellate court referenced a case not even having to do with bicycling:  Lott v. Smith (1980), 156 Ga. App. 826 275 S.E. 720. (from the Selz appellate decision "...That court held that an operator of a corn combine could not be found to have violated the statute...")

And, of course, this once again reminds us to support our local, regional, and national cycling advocacy organizations, who often end up leading the fight in these kinds of cases. We can bicker all we want, but at times, we need to circle the wagons and make sure the guns are pointing out rather than in.  I like how Warren Devon would put it:

Black Ice!

You think he looks rattled...
Well, I rode to work today on the La Cruz, which is presently shod with 700-40c Schwalbe Land Cruisers. These tires have nice big lugs but no studs. Bad move. As a result of the last storm, a lot of melting, and County efforts to clear sidewalks, there is not only a lot of black ice on the shoulders and bike lanes, but a lot of black ice hidden under snow that has been moved off the sidewalks. I took it very careful this morning, including a rather humorous crab-walk past the North Community Fire Station while riding on snow that turned out to be covering glare ice.

Some suggestions. First, unless you are mentally and logistically equipped for ice riding, consider using another form of transportation until the roads dry out a little. If you are mentally prepared but not fully logistically prepared and insist on riding, consider forswearing bike lanes full of ice and take the lane instead if it is clear and dry. Its legal and logical.  Its better to be predictable than suddenly floundering horizontally into other traffic;  avoiding glare ice on a shoulder or bike lane falls under the caveats of our As Far Right As Practicable laws.  I found it wasn't worth trying to move into and out of the lane on Diamond today, as it confused motorists and had me making steering corrections on ice.

Secondly, beware of Canyon's and Diamond's south sides, as well as other risky bike lanes that collect water by day and ice by night. Some lanes are better than others. Some are a horror show.

Thirdly, and most importantly, if you insist on riding right now, take command of the situation and invest in a good set of studded snows, such as the Schwalbe Marathon Winter or one of the numerous Nokkian ice tires; both brands are described and photographed on Peter White's bicycle shop site. Peter has done an excellent, exhaustive job describing a wide variety of these tires, with recommendations for road, off road, plowed vs. unplowed, etc. I doff my tinfoil hat to Peter's patience and generosity with his knowledge.

You can order studded bike tires through Jim Rickman's Little Jimmy's Wheelhouse , REI, or elsewhere, including, obviously, Peter White. They weigh a psychological ton (close to a kg per tire) but hey, its winter. You need the exercise, right? More importantly, you need to stay upright so spring doesn't find you on the mend from a senseless crash. Actually, some of the studded tires are not that much heavier than my 720 gram per hoop Land Cruisers.

Of course, studded snows don't replace common sense. Be extra conservative out there when riding in icy conditions. While studs can stabilize you on ice, they do so in cooperation with your conservative riding style for such conditions. Besides, as Peter White says, riding aggressively on studded bike tires while on dry pavement will damage or ruin them. That's an expensive hobby.

I made it to work this morning upright but a little rattled from the stress of constant dancing on black ice on a bike not properly equipped for the Los Alamos Ice Follies. I stopped at Hot Rocks for a ceremonial breakfast burrito.  Here, I was cautioned by a fellow bike commuter, who stopped to analyze my bike (yeah, we all do that...) who then told me he had once crashed suddenly on black ice in an intersection in Albuquerque and was temporarily paralyzed from slamming down on his tailbone. He now swears by studded bike tires.

Sheesh. That last one is a scary thought. Lets be careful out there.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Storm drain reconstruction to close portion of West Jemez Road

Construction of a new storm drain will close a portion of NM 501 (West Jemez Road) for about 10 days beginning December 22. The majority of the work is scheduled to be done while Los Alamos National Laboratory is closed for the holidays, which should minimize traffic disruptions. But motorists traveling west on NM 501 will have to take an alternate route of travel to get to the Jemez Mountains, including NM 4 through White Rock and past Bandelier National Monument.

The work area is west of Camp May Road (i.e., in the immediate vicinity of Water Canyon --Khal Spencer addition per a conversation with Mr. Gonzales) so traffic to Pajarito Ski Area shouldn't be affected, said Mark D. Gonzales of the Manager of Functions (MOF) Division, adding, that this stretch of NM 501 also will be closed to bicyclists, runners and other pedestrians. The new storm drain off NM 501 in the Water Canyon area replaces a smaller culvert that was destroyed during a heavy rainstorm in August after the Las Conchas Fire. Workers will remove the existing culvert before installing the new structure that is designed to accommodate larger amounts of storm water flow, said Gonzales.
During the construction period, signs and other traffic control devices will be in place to alert motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to the work. Weather permitting, work is scheduled to be completed by January 2, 2012. The Laboratory's annual winter closure begins at the end of the work day December 23 through January 2, reopening on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

 Note by KJS in addition: Since this will involve serious construction, you will surely meet up with construction vehicles en route to and fro, mud, and grunge. If you ride out there, please be careful and use good judgement. Thanks.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bike to work day? Not...

Quite the snowfall today. I'm not sure I'll brave the commute tomorrow on the MonsterCommuter. Maybe.

Taken at about ten this morning using the Blackberry.
It just kept on coming all day. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Golf Course vs Trails, Thursday Public hearing

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just direct readers to Greg Kendall's post over at LA County Views.  My views are pretty close to Greg's, so I won't elaborate much here.

Please get involved. I'll reiterate what I said at the meeting--in my opinion, the County has not done a good job of including trail users in the stakeholders group.

Here is a very good post on Reid's Blog

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Commuter, winter style

Long Haul Trucker with 26x 2.1
Richey Speedmax Pros

There were some complaints about the snow and ice in the bike lanes over the last few days. Seems to me that one cannot ask for perfection after a storm. On the other hand, one can equip one's bike to deal with some imperfections. I had a set of Richey Speedmax Pro tires in 26 x 2.1 inch size sitting in boxes, since the bike I bought them for has been out on indefinite loan for some time now. They look nice with their blue sidewalls on the blue Long Haul Trucker, and boy, do they look like they will eat up snow. I've always liked Richey cross tires and these, too. They ride smooth and fast. One can get truly gonzo with 1 kg each studded snows but somehow that seems to defeat the purpose of a light, fast bike. Of course, a heavier bike might stay upright...

Lets leave the fast summer tires for better weather, OK? If cycling is about saving energy, including the energy it would take to scoop up every bit of snow, it also means riding on a bike that can handle a certain amount of bad winter road. That doesn't let the County off the hook entirely, but is a reasonable accommodation to reality. Plus, there is no way to scoop up black ice. Lets be careful out there and ride for conditions.

In response to Steve Avery, here is the Adventure Cycling review of the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

Friday, December 2, 2011

And if you haven't had your fill of the golf course...

NOTE: Greg Kendall has an excellent post here, including a very good aerial photo of option B, the potentially troubling one. I cockroached Greg's photo. Go to Greg's web site (link above) for a detailed description of the various options.

Clanging the bell of safety (see below) does not necessarily mean something will pass, as anyone watching T Board issues will attest. The golf course architect needs to be challenged on his own safety assertions, and have those real numbers (assuming there are numbers) balanced against the loss of open space.

As numerous citizens have pointed out on Trinity Drive, we are not carrying people off the road on gurneys every day. I don't think we are carrying people off the golf course and its surroundings on gurneys, either. Yes, I was once hit squarely in the windshield by a golf ball. That doesn't mean we should bulldoze the trails.

Safety is a relative term and is often, these days, used to justify the most outrageous of offenses to liberty and decency. Challenging the process is a good thing. I'm not saying safety is not important. What I am saying is that like any other decision, safety is part of the decision making process and like any other process, safety has to be in balance with other interests.

The concerns for the driving range being short and golf balls bouncing down Diamond Drive (and occasionally into windshields or face shields) are real. But these have to be balanced with the negative quality of life issues that would be imposed by eliminating the trails. I suspect there is plenty of room to dance together on this and end up with a better golf course and still have decent trails, even if some are moved. Some of us actually went towards the edge of the canyon during the Tuesday meeting and were impressed with the possibilities for trails closer to the edge.

As Rod McCrady said on the Tuff Riders listserv, we need to have a win-win on this one if for no other reason than some day we will need a win-win on something we want. I think that is quite possible. To be honest, I think it is better to have a golf course there than urban development; the golf course provides a green space buffer around the trails and having a great course definitely adds to the quality of life of living in Bomb Town. Lets just make sure we keep some room for the trails.

Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 12:12 PM
To: gerry merkey
Subject: RE: [Tuffriders] Woodland Trail & Golf Course Project

I just learned (from a reliable source) that the architect and project people are going to play the ‘safety card’ bigtime at next Thursdays’ meeting at 5:30....(which got moved to Fuller Lodge). So…basically I was told that we need to try and come up with options for a win win on this golf course thing. We do need numbers bigtime at the meeting, but we need to do more than just show up and whine that they cannot take the trail away from us, that we’ve already lost too much, yadi yadi. We need to come up with safety issues of our own. A huge one for me is that if they push us into the canyon trail, now I cannot see if golfers hit a stray ball, nor can golfers warn people because they cannot see them. Another issue could be with animals….getting rid of that greenspace will force all people and animals alike into that narrow canyon, increasing the potential for unpleasant encounters..both for people and animals. A third is that pushing the golf course to the edge or to the edge along woodland disrupts all the dogs on Walnut and woodland, not to mention even more disruption from all the traffic in the bottom of the canyon on walnut, affecting all of walnut street. Think of other things, and put the word out. I have a call into Craig Martin, but we need to be prepared to do more than just complain. I was also told it was of utmost importance to really pack that meeting. Please feel free to distribute......

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Walnut Canyon Trails vs. Golf Course, continued saga

I went to the small community "stakeholders" meeting regarding the proposed Golf Course Expansion at the golf course on Tuesday.  There was a good turnout of trail folks. I'd like to thank Craig Martin for inviting me.

Several options were discussed, including making improvements to the golf course within its existing bounds, a moderate expansion, and one option mapped in by the consulting architect that appeared to push the golf course right to the canyon edge in several locations, possibly wiping out key trails. That is the troubling one.  I'm not sure how that last one passed the county's laugh test, but then again, I once saw eight roundabouts mapped in on Trinity. Someone has put up pink flags back behind the golf course along the trail. Not sure what that means. I'll try to ride it this weekend if its not deep snow.

Clearly, some community discussion that includes trail users needs to happen to ensure the trails are preserved in recognizable form and to ensure a sense of fairness of process. The County needs to hear from trail users loud and clear (and sooner the better). The County needs to do a better job of reaching out to trail stakeholders, or we will end up with yet another set of angry citizens feeling snookered and petitioning Council to kill a potentially valuable project. But its not all the county's work. Citizens are obliged to engage early and often, too, rather than wait till decisions are made and then get mad.

I think the golf course is a very valuable community resource even though I don't play a single hole of golf. I support the golf course and the aquatic center for the same reason I expect golfers and swimmers who don't bike to support bike lanes, bike riders, and Tour de Los Alamos bike race--for the greater good. Further, the course needs to and should be making some important safety improvements such as to its driving range and realigning some of the tee off areas that occasionally drive balls across Diamond Drive.

But ultimately, what makes Los Alamos special isn't a golf course. Many communities have those. Its really our wonderful geography and isolation from the urban madness: our lovely trails, mountains, mesas, and canyons. And, we lost a lot of National Forest trails to the Las Conchas Fire, so our county trails are even more critical to maintain since so much of the surrounding Forest Service land was burned and trails destroyed by the fire and subsequent flash flooding. Lets not lose any more trail resource, but instead find a way to make this all work together in some sense of harmony. Just like we should deal with other civic issues--harmoniously.

This topic will be covered early at the Parks and Rec Board meeting next Thursday.  I am not sure where it will be covered in the agenda, or how the P and R Board runs its show. It will probably be discussed under B or I or both, as I have highlighted below. Be there if you care.

Los Alamos County Parks & Recreation Board
Aquatic Center - Training Room
December 08, 2011
5:30 p.m.

A. Approval of Minutes – (A1)
B. Golf Course Phase 1 Study – Exhibits at the meeting
C. Overlook Park
D. Communication/Linkage Between Council and Boards
E. FY2013 Work Plan – (A2)
A. Chairman Report
B. Council Liaison Report (Mike Wismer)
C. Recreation Division Report – (B1)
D. Parks Division Report (B2)
E. Capital Improvement Projects Progress
F. Open Space & Parks Advisory Subcommittee
G. Ice Rink & Recreation Advisory Subcommittee
H. Aquatic Center Advisory Subcommittee
I. Golf Course Advisory Subcommittee
J. Environmental Sustainability Board
A. Parks & Recreation Board List (C1)
B. Subcommittee List (C2)
C. Action Items Log Sheet (C3)
D. Action Items for Next Month
VIII. NEXT PRB Meeting – January 12, 2012