Monday, April 25, 2016

Living inside the motorist bubble

Sent two letters before work this morning. Will reprint here.

Editor, Santa Fe New Mexican

Patrick Walker, in his 24 April letter, correctly points out that the Cerrillos Road/St. Francis Drive intersection is not only in serious need of pavement maintenance, but its very design is dangerous. Indeed, its not the only arterial in Santa Fe whose design is inappropriate for mixed use city transportation.

Where Mr. Walker missed the target is in blaming city government for this situation. Cerrillos, St. Francis, and the Railrunner that crosses it are State Dept. of Transportation facilities. The correct targets of criticism are the Governor, her Transportation Secretary, the District 5 engineering and design staff, and the City Different state legislative delegation.

Santa Fe may be striving for sustainability, but if it is to reduce its carbon footprint due to over-reliance on motor vehicles, it is important to design transportation infrastructure that encourages something else. The city government may be on board, but it is absolutely critical to change the mentality of the NMDOT, which puts motor vehicular level of service on a pedestal far above all other considerations. Or, simply transfer all roads within city limits to city jurisdiction.

Dear Ms. Westphal, Albuquerque Journal "Road Warrior"

I found it rather interesting that you would note that bicyclists have the right to take a lane on Albuquerque's busy, fast arterials without noting that the very design of these roads makes such an activity a high risk endeavor. As Chuck Marohn has often pointed out, when you design urban roads like highways (i.e., "stroads"), people behave as though they are on a highway. Albuquerque's high arterial speeds, coupled with their multilane design, ensures that a bicyclist will be hard to spot in traffic and if hit, will be hit at high speed. Hence Albuquerque's profligate use of Ghost Bikes and the city and state's reputation for being an unsafe place for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Aside from that, I suspect a planner would note that for a bicycle to be anything other than a toy, ie., if it is to be used as real transportation, distances in an urban area have to be conducive to bicycling. Albuquerque's sheer girth, including the planned Santolina development, means that someone depending on a bicycle will have a hard time getting to all destinations. Indeed, when we briefly thought of relocating to the SE Heights, my first thought was whether I could get to food, medical care, and the UNM campus efficiently and safely, i.e., without having to bicycle on Central or other fast, wide arterials.

Finally, does anyone know how many miles of regular travel lanes exist in the city? 170 miles of paths and 540 miles of bike lanes may sound like a large number, but could be lost in a city that currently spans 190 square miles.

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