“Americans are increasingly walking and riding bicycles to commute, run errands, get exercise, access public transportation, and save money…We believe that everyone should have the choice to safely take advantage of these healthy and economical transportation options.”
— from the US DOT Action Plan on Bike & Pedestrian Safety
On May 21 I participated in a bike and pedestrian safety assessment as part of the US DOT action plan to better support bicycling and walking choices. We focused on NM 313 which runs along the Rio Grande’s fertile farmlands through the Sandia Nation to the town of Bernalillo. It is a popular bicycling route because of the level terrain and smooth flow. The road has moderate traffic, a rural feel, and open vistas of the mountains. Fields of corn, Sandhill Cranes and birdlife, and pastures with livestock and horses speak to the ecological bounty here.
“Americans are increasingly embracing a new approach to work and school commutes that includes less time behind the wheel and more time walking or cycling.” –David Friedman
Because of initiatives such as Complete Streets and this safety assessment that focus on including viable bicycling and pedestrian transportation choices, planners and engineers are starting to advance the integration of these modes by using bicycles as a design vehicle for roadways, and including better places for people to walk. Using the bicycle as a design vehicle means the road is planned, designed and built to specifically accommodate bicycles, just as roads are crafted for commercial vehicles and private automobile traffic. Seeing pedestrians and bicyclists as regular and expected traffic shifts thinking and approaches. The goal is to design travel environments that encourage and empower people to make healthier choices. Education coupled with inclusive design strategies help guide safer user behaviors.
Transportation engineers see cyclists and pedestrians as important customers. During the safety audit we focused on improving the travel environment and better supporting people already taking the initiative to walk and bike. We brainstormed new standards and processes to accommodate the demand for more walking and biking as we reinvest in infrastructure during this critical time when interest rates are low and the need for improvements and putting our workforce to use to solve the problems of our times is high. We are one united team.
We had a lot of great insights from the team of US and New Mexican engineers, Sandia Pueblo people, health and wellness practitioners, safety experts, and transportation planners. We all put walking and bicycling hats on and worked together to get ideas out. We realized people are walking and biking now for the same reason people are driving, to get somewhere, to go about business, to naturally live daily life. And young people especially are doing things differently including exercising choices to add more bicycling, walking and transit into daily routines. We have a lot of work to do to build a framework more hospitable and supportive for every person choosing walking and bicycling. This process ensures the public sector works in the public interest. This is the test of a generation to establish a vision of what we really can be.
New Mexico is a focus State for bike and ped safety due to an unusual rise in collisions resulting in injury or death to people walking and biking. One of the most vital parts of the action plan is the network of alliances we are creating to support active transportation options. The US DOT is bolstering resources for all involved. They have a guide for citizens to increase livability in their communities and neighborhoods, innovative design guides for engineers, and education programs for safe routes to schools and community activity centers to empower residents to walk and bike with confidence. Instead of moving in a manner as if we are just passing through, people are locating themselves in distinct places and putting roots down. Building roads better fosters stronger connections and has universal benefits for everyone. I am looking forward to applying this knowledge we are developing for making roads safer for kids and helping everyone feel comfortable in choosing to walk or ride a bike to get wherever people may want to go. Thank you for your help and focus on this important effort.
Here are some rides I’ve blogged about that include New Mexico Highway 313:
Around the Mountain
Northern Training Circuit (this is the group ride route every Saturday and Sunday morning, also the route for the “Day of the Tread” community bike event in October
Around and Up the Mountain
The New Mexico Touring Society has a route called the Bernalillo Blast .
…More rides that can include 313, the traffic circle, or “Roy Road” past the Sandia Police Station.
Tramway Plus La Luz
Here are resources we might use to improve safety on NM 313 and similar highways:
The League of American Bicyclists 5 E’s (Education–traffic skills, Engineering-safety, Encouragement–welcome & celebrate, Evaluation and Planning, Enforcement of Laws).
Safety Edge, a proven countermeasure to help vehicles maintain control when operating near the edge of the roadway. “Vertical pavement edges are a recognized detriment to safety.” (FHA) Coupled with flush, level, gap free, smooth transitions from travel lanes to shoulders and bike lanes, the safety edge improves road design even further for all vehicles.
Maintenance Strategy–Maintain shoulders and bike lanes and keep them clear of hazards.