“Architecture is a background to life…not life itself.” –J.B. Jackson
For September 2015 the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are my “bike organization of the month”. Together they have embarked on a two year process of updating the Comprehensive Plan. This ambitious project is crafting a framework for better integrating bicycling and walking into our everyday living environment. This planning framework guides the way our region grows. Bicycling, walking and transit fit into the context of strengthening our community and function as mechanisms for achieving broader goals such as having more mobility choices, an ecologically sustainable economy, better public health, a city built to human scale. A practical approach is exactly how bicycling made its way into my life. Biking worked for low cost and agile commuting, but also made me feel good. I gradually developed more uses for biking including weekend travel, social rides, taking on challenges such as racing, and it became a kind a complete instrument around which my life would grow. It has helped me develop discipline, meet life’s challenges, and focus on health and well being every day.
As municipalities look forward for solutions to stay in business for the long term, deliver better services to their residents, and attract newcomers and sustainable tourism, it is clear that planning for robust walking and bicycling networks is the way to go. I was reading an article on downtown Ciudad Juárez in the Official 2014 El Paso Visitors Guide. “The nightlife infrastructure built in the twenties and thirties buoyed Juarez’s entertainment industry well into the seventies.” But the anything goes perception had negative consequences and did not draw visitation that had positive lasting impacts. We have a chance to leave a legacy of health and also sway advantageous economic development by attracting a workforce seeking a healthy life centered on personal growth, education, innovation, advancing connections with society and the natural world, while respecting & highlighting the assets that make us grateful to live here.
I’ve heard good questions being asked at community planning events. How do we help people feel more comfortable outside of our cars? What makes a good street? How can we make places where people want to stay and spend time, not feel like they want to rush through? How can we make living arrangements where our time is spent efficiently, and our travel time is pleasant & useful for exercise, doing work, talking to friends? Good bicycling, walking and transit networks help with all of these factors for improving quality of life and livability. We have work to do to make it easy, safe and efficient to move freely around the city without a car.
“It is always that which strikes us as commonplace or absurd which indicates that we are not open to one of the mysteries, for such sentiments are the protective mechanisms which prevent our framework from being shaken.” (Bloom xxii, The Republic of Plato). Is it commonplace to drive a car everywhere, absurd to travel by bike, take transit and walk? What does the way we are building our city and city streets say about our mobility choices? There are plenty of people bicycling and walking now but we need to do more to make these modes viable choices for everyone, so people feel at ease, secure, and free to move around.
“To experience the landscape in terms of its inhabitants”, J.B. Jackson encouraged us to ask questions about opportunities the landscape offers for making a living, for freedom of choice of action, for meaningful relationships with other people and the landscape itself, for individual fulfillment and for social change (from Teachers by D.W. Meinig). When we ask questions that involve and engage our senses, empathy and vision, we have a better chance of directing our powers for shaping our own environments. An exceptional vision for the whole city is made up of unique individual perspectives. We are an unfinished authentic city shaping a new legacy.
Albuquerque + Bernalillo County’s two year long Comprehensive Planning and Zoning Code update process is detailed here at http://abc-zone.com/ . Feel free to get involved.
Quotes from The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays by Donald Meinig and The Republic of Plato introductory essay by Allan Bloom
Check out the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy blog to see more on how building Active Transportation infrastructure is leaving a healthy legacy in communities and rural places:
When calculating how to place persons walking and bicycling into the roadway width, this information resource is helpful for engineers and all the departments working together to make great streets in Albuquerque: http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/library/details.cfm?id=4348
All photos mine except the photo of bicyclists from Arizona and New Mexico, which is from this story: Arizona Gets Approval for US Bicycle Route 90