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


Jimbo said...
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Michael Graff said...
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Khal said...
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