Monday, March 31, 2014

Albuquerque Police Dept and Maslow's Hammer

 "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."  --Abraham Maslow
Justifiable shooting or execution squad? You decide. Journal Photo
On Sunday, there were protests  in Albuquerque, with police lobbing tear gas and angry and increasingly unruly crowds blocking streets and the Interstate near UNM and the Nob Hill area. All the result of festering anger over some 23 fatal shootings of civilians by APD officers over the last few years, culminating in the death of James Boyd, a mentally disturbed and occasionally violent homeless man camping out in the hills above the city.

According to a Journal poll, only 15% of those polled agree that the Boyd shooting was justified. The U.S. DOJ is investigating the constant shootings. Of course, reality is more complex than a yes vs. no poll, as Sunday's Journal article showed in describing the astonishing failures of the mental health laws and criminal justice system as well as the police department in bringing this man to his sad and untimely death.

Albuquerque has some pretty rough people in it and I am sure a lot of these 23 and counting fatal shootings were unavoidable.  We get the Albuquerque Journal and indeed it seems that many of the recipients of police-administered lead poisoning were armed, violent members of the Judicial Revolving Door Society, and often enough strung out on some sort of mind altering substance.  This case seems quite different, and completely unnecessary.

Rather than just heaping blame and scorn on the cops in that picture or on a recently installed police chief who rushed perhaps too soon to defend this outcome on shaky legalistic grounds, one has to ask what drives such outcomes. First, there is our inability to treat mental illness of the indigent short of involuntary confinement, resulting in a "throw them out and let God sort it out" reality.  Then there is the judicial revolving door, oftentimes even for serious crimes. Then there is the reliance on brute force, in part a long term development (see book link below) and at times seen as a requirement to facing the reality of a cop's violence-drenched job in some of our major cities.

Recent reports out of the Santa Fe New Mexican on recently proposed police academy training methods claim the curriculum refers to cops as "warriors" who should treat every traffic stop as a potential firefight with armed, cold-blooded people. This has me worried that we have escalated the use of force, adversarial thinking, and paramilitary tactics to levels not appropriate to a civil society. From the New Mexican, describing draft Police Academy training methods: "Officers involved in even routine traffic stops should “always assume that the violator and all the occupants in the vehicle are armed.”  “Most suspects are mentally prepared to react violently.”

Gee, does that include soccer moms and their kids or just members of minority groups with whom you are festering a prejudice? Think about that next time you are pulled over for a routine moving violation. "Excuse me, officer. I'm just reaching for my paperwork...yes, that's a flashlight in the glove box and a cell phone on my belt. Honest, man, I can't help it if I am young, male, and Hispanic."  I've asked Carol Clark of the Daily Post to get the full copy of the proposed curriculum, released under an Inspection of Public Records request, to see if reality is as grim as the New Mexican reports.

I wonder if there would be fewer police shootings of civilians in Albuquerque if the APD didn't rely on Maslow's Hammer.  Plus, it sure would be nice if we had a successful and legally defensible way to deal with folks like James Boyd short of a fusillade of live rounds from cops and the failure of a revolving door mental health/criminal justice system that routinely fails us all. This whole rotten system needs overhaul. But that includes a serious, unbiased legal investigation of the actions in that photo above. Actions have consequences.

Worth reading: "Rise of the Warrior Cops" by Radley Balco. Plus, let's be careful out there. All of us.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter Turns Sixty

The Cartoonist's Self-Portrait

Patrick O'Grady turned on his sixtieth lap around the sun a few days ago, no more worse for wear.  I broke that little mental barrier myself in January. All this proving once again that the good die young and the rest of us are left on this earth to cause trouble for others. There is quite the collection of old coots who follow the Mad Dog over at his site, proving once again that those self-propelled wheels are an excellent and very cheap health care plan.

I did sixty metric clicks in the wind yesterday in honor of yet another cyclist moving smoothly into late middle age/early geezerhood via the bicycle.

(Slightly Belated) Happy Birthday, Patrick!

Yer perennial pen-pal, Khal

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Where Is Bicycling in NMDOT's "Multimodal" Picture?

I can't find it.

Also, is "highway" a mode, or are we making highways synonymous with a departmental decision that anything other than a car or truck is irrelevant?

Does Secretary Tom Church, recognize that bicycling is transportation, and must be considered both within urban areas (traffic calming, etc) and on the open road (decent shoulders, good designs, no partial paving)? When the NMDOT is involved in highway designs that go through towns and cities, non-motorized modes must be accommodated. Right? The recent dust-up as to whether to build a bike-ped bridge on the I-25/Paseo del Norte construction in Albuquerque comes to mind as an example of where we are being treated as an option rather than a requirement and I don't see strong leadership on non-motorized modes either from the Duke City or State.

From the NMDOT web site:

About the New Mexico Department of Transportation

"Multimodal transportation choices invigorate the economy and connect people in small towns and cities and facilitate transportation of goods and people to other states and nations.

NMDOT focuses on the following modes of travel: transit, rail, aviation and highways. We've strengthened our commitment to traffic safety, environmental excellence, and complete planning, design and engineering services."

Rosa Kozub, Bicycle Pedestrian Equestrian Coordinator
Office: 505-476-3742505-476-3742
rosa dot kozub at state dot nm dot us

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Canyon Rim Trail As Transportation

Peace, quiet, and great views are definitely reasons 
to ride Canyon Rim Trail
A while ago, I made some comments about the weaknesses of multiuse paths as bicycle transportation resources unless they are designed properly as transportation rather than primarily as a park and recreation resource. Today I rode out to the Los Alamos Food Co-Op on the Canyon Rim Trail to take yet another look as well as to pick up a bag of coffee beans.

I usually ride NM502 out to the Airport Basin at a good speed, but Canyon Rim Trail is definitely a quieter and more peaceful way to get to the Basin rather than riding along 50 mph NM502 with its fast traffic, texting drivers, and uneven shoulders. The trail is also stunningly beautiful.  I sincerely thank the County and those who designed and built this for an excellent resource. Our dogs and the co-op, where we have bought many a breakfast burrito for our weekend dog walks on the trail, thank the County as well.

Some paint on those blind curves??
But its not without its own hazards. A cyclist riding along the path needs to pay attention and keep the speed under control, especially in limited sight areas. There are approximately ten blind curves or limited sight distance curves that I counted today that I would suggest severely limit bicycle speeds in order to avoid a collision, avoidance maneuver crash,  or at minimum, scaring the public silly and making foes of cycling.  Most of these curves are in the Western half of the path. There are also sharp curves where an inexperienced cyclist could lose control and potentially crash badly.  Finally, the wooden barrier posts at each end, which I assume were meant to block motor vehicle access, are not equipped with reflectors or reflective paint. A cyclist riding at dusk or dark without proper illumination could hit one of these head on or clip a handlebar and suffer a diversion crash.

lighted posts would be 
nice features at each end
While one doesn't have to worry about being passed by a procession of 50 mph earth moving trucks on the Canyon Rim Trail, it is incomplete as it does not connect well with our urban roads once one gets into town at its western end, has no marked or otherwise protected crossing of NM 502 at Airport Basin, and finally, the path itself requires attention to numerous blind spots when riding.

I don't suggest we give the beautiful foliage a crew cut, as that was never the intent nor would it be a popular idea. What I do suggest is this: The County should pay attention to transportation details on a path that clearly has transportation as one of its de-facto missions; since it connects East Gate to Airport Basin as a grade separated path and since the highway has few if any cycling amenities (and some nasty shortcomings), the trail certainly does that. Perhaps we need to write a check for some reflectors on its entryway posts, improve the railing by the footbridge, and post some "CAUTION: SLOW DOWN" signs for cyclists, just as we post sharp curves for motorists.

reflectorized bollards can be used
where a post is in the middle of the
travelway. Assuming, of course, one
needs bollards in the middle of the
But the onus of safety is not only on the County. The final, rubber meets the road responsibility for safe riding is on the guy or gal in the saddle, regardless of signs, reflectors, or blinking lights. Let the rider beware of his or her surroundings and use good judgement. Also, when one is evaluating these designs at public hearings, sweat the small stuff too.
One of many limited sight distance curves

A cyclist heading eastbound and approaching the footbridge negotiates a pair of tight S curves and descends quickly towards the low railing to the right of the bridge. The combination of a cyclist's high center of mass and the low wooden fencing would probably do little to keep an errant cyclist from a fast trip to the canyon floor.

Heavy pedestrian use, especially on weekends, requires prudent riding. Many of the curves have very good visibility. A few do not.

Shortly after taking this picture of a downgradient westbound limited sight curve, four pedestrians walked towards me, suddenly appearing on the path after being screened by the trees to the left of the path.

These pillars, sitting in the middle of the path at both ends, should be reflectorized

Discussions with the County have resulted in a quick, but temporary fix

How Calgary, Alberta does it.

I spent a week in Calgary, Alberta in 2005 and wrote up an article for a local outdoors publication. Like Los Alamos, Calgary has plenty of opportunities to install paths in geographically optimal areas. Unlike Los Alamos, Calgary treats them as transportation and regulates their use explicitly with signage.  Some examples.
Many sections of multiuse paths are posted with speed limits
Blind curves on narrow paths are marked for safety

Particularly hazardous or narrow sections have lower speeds posted

Rising From The Ashes to Show in Los Alamos on 12 March


Rising From Ashes, the award-winning feature-length documentary about Team Rwanda, will premiere in Los Alamos on Wednesday, March 12 at 7 p.m. when the cycling film screens at the Reel Deal Movie Theater. The event is co-sponsored by the Tuff Riders Mountain Bike Club and the Los Alamos Singletrack Association.

Rising From Ashes is a joyous and uplifting independent film about the development of a national cycling team in Rwanda, a country still affected deeply by the genocide that tore the East African nation apart in 1994.

Two worlds collide when cycling legend Jacques “Jock” Boyer moves to Rwanda in 2006 to help a group of struggling survivors of the genocide to pursue their dream of creating a national cycling team. Members of the fledgling team were children left orphaned by the genocide a decade earlier. Their pasts are painful. As they set out against impossible odds, both Boyer – fighting his own past demons – and the team find new purpose as they rise from the ashes of their pasts through remarkable achievements, both big and small.

The documentary tells a story of redemption, hope and second chances. It is not about the bike; however, the bicycle becomes a tool that has helped change a nation.

Team Rwanda began as a cycling organization, but became so much more once organizers realized the greater needs of the athletes. Many of the riders could not read or write, lived in homes without water and electricity, were malnourished and had never received healthcare. But there was still a greater issue, the issue of the heart. These riders were all recovering from the traumatic psychological effects of the 1994 genocide, which claimed the lives of more than half a million Rwandans, or roughly one-fifth of the nation’s population. Most of the riders were left orphaned by the massacres that claimed their parents’ lives.

While Team Rwanda has taken care of the physical and mental issues of the riders, it has also provided something greater – hope for a nation. Rwanda is a country still recovering from one of the world’s most devastating genocides and the country has longed for heroes. The riders of Team Rwanda have become more than just a cycling team; they have become ambassadors for a country rising from its ashes. They have given the small nation a vision of something greater than itself and renewed a sense of purpose.

But Rising From Ashes is more than a movie. It’s a story that relates to each and every person. It’s a gateway of hope. However, this is just the beginning. Since 2005, Team Rwanda has developed a model for caring for passionate athletes and it has gone on to expand that vision. In 2012, Team Rwanda began its next phase, the development of Africa’s first all-black, all-African team to attempt the greatest cycling event in the world, the Tour de France, after having qualified its first rider for the Olympic Games in London.
Daphne Howland of The Village Voice called Rising From Ashes “a remarkable documentary. It’s not just about a cycling team; it’s a testament to what happens when human beings care for one another.” “The film is crisp and economical,” said Frank Schneck of The Hollywood Reporter. “The film … avoids extraneous melodramatics, which, after all, are hardly necessary in a tale that already contains such inherently powerful drama.”
The film is also about redemption for Boyer, who was the first American rider to ever compete in the Tour de France back in 1983. One of America’s most fabled riders, Boyer grew up in Northern California battling long-time rival Tom Ritchey for national supremacy. Boyer left the U.S. as a 17-year-old to compete in the Tour de France, but upon his return to the United States after a prolific racing career in Europe, he lost it all. In this period of darkness, in which Boyer was incarcerated for an improper relationship with a minor, he reconnected with Ritchey, who had toured Rwanda – known as the “land of a thousand hills” – on a cycling trip in 2005.

Ritchey approached Boyer with an unlikely proposition – an offer to become coach of Rwanda’s first national cycling team. The success of the team came down to Boyer’s decision to move to Rwanda and invest himself completely in the project, gaining the trust of the riders he coached.
Over six years in the making, Rising From Ashes was produced by two partnering non-profit organizations, Gratis 7 Media Group and Project Rwanda. Narrated by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, the film has been completely donor-funded and was produced through more than $800,000 in donated funds. Since its release in 2012, the film has won awards at more than a dozen film festivals worldwide.

Advance tickets are $11 and can be purchased online at Tickets at the door will be $15. The Reel Deal Movie Theater is located at 2551 Central Ave. in Los Alamos.

The Tuff Riders Mountain Bike Club cares for and maintains the trails of the Pajarito Plateau and actively works to maintain and ensure access to trails in the Los Alamos area. The Los Alamos Singletrack Association is the local chapter of the International Mountain Bike Assocation (IMBA). The two groups are in the process of merging into one entity.

For more information about the film, or to view the trailer, go to, or on Facebook at Rising From Ashes The Movie.
Media contact: Garry Harrington  603-209-5010603-209-5010  gharrington3165 at hotmail dot com

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

God Bless You, Dorothy Hoard

Looking skyward among the big trees, 
June, 2011 on the Canon de Valle Trail
"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone..."  --Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"

So it is, although in this case I think it was hard to not know what we had. Dorothy Hoard, a retired colleague of mine in Analytical Chemistry and more importantly, a human giant of knowledge of the natural and archeological world around Los Alamos, checked out today for that land of giant trees in the sky.

A great obit is over at Carol Clark's Daily Post. An updated obit is there too. The update indicates a public celebration of Dorothy's life will be held on 25 March, and suggests that donations be made, in lieu of flowers, to a fund set up in her name at PEEC or to Friends of Bandelier

May our lives be as rich and giving as Dorothy's was.

Dorothy Hoard teaches us about giant, old trees along the Canon de Valle Trail
June 2011, just days before they were destroyed by the Las Conchas Fire.