Monthly Archives: November 2015

Bike Infrastructure 2.0

Since I’ve moved to Albuquerque I’ve really brushed up on my traffic skills.  In Flagstaff we had a few busy intersections, a few tricky places to navigate.  Albuquerque is much more complex.  Figuring out the safest way to proceed through town is not always clear.   I work hard at it.

Albuquerque has more linear miles of bicycle facilities than almost any city I know.  Many of the bike lanes in place are first generation bike lanes, and almost all of them are too narrow.  They guide bicyclists into a riskier position over at the far right edge of the road.  The good news is we are learning how to design better bike facilities.  Time for bicycle infrastructure 2.0 .

bike lane preferred safe design iamtraffic

I like the ‘best practice preferential use lane’ in the graphic above.  It guides bicycles to a position that is more advantageous and reduces conflict with motorists and pedestrian traffic.  The six foot bike lane integrated with a narrower general use lane and buffered from the edge makes bicyclists more visible, which is the number one concern for comfort and safety.  It makes bicyclist more predictable because they won’t have to maneuver as often to avoid debris, bad pavement, or a car pulling out from a driveway or side street, and bicyclists will have a better field of vision and improved sight lines.  Crash risks from cars turning right in front of bicyclists, or crossing left in front of bicyclists from the oncoming direction, will also be reduced.  With an integrated bike lane (integrated meaning flush with the pavement of the general travel lane, with a simple white stripe between them) bicyclists have maximum options and can change lanes to pass slower traffic, to turn left, or to avoid a hazard such as a dog on a long leash along the side of the road, or to give extra room to people walking or to protect playing children.

A six foot lane encourages bicyclists to ride two abreast.  Two abreast means bicyclists double their vision and are poised to communicate.  Riding two abreast makes bicyclists more visible.  Riding with a partner is the safest and most encouraging way to bicycle.  And yes it is fun!

Narrow, rough, edge bike lanes have caused a lot of undesirable outcomes.  Bicyclists are less visible, and motorists and bicyclists sometimes interpret this road configuration as meaning bicycles have less priority and are supposed to be out of the way.  That is the wrong orientation for safety, and quite frankly it can be very discouraging to ride in that environment.  The good news is we have knowledge and tools to make things better, and we know how to use them.   We know that increasing bike and pedestrian safety increases road safety for everyone.  We know that encouraging more people to feel they have the choice to ride when they want to is empowering, and can be a gateway to habits of lifelong health and positive social relationships.

The best infrastructure makes traffic principles intuitive and the rules of the road clear.  The Bike League’s Quick Guide has the basic rules of the road and principles of traffic law on p. 14, 15.  I see a lot of bike guides and maps that quote local traffic code, but that is not always easy to digest.  The Quick Guide distills the practices of safe cycling to essential components. The pathway to growing bicycle ridership is easier than we sometimes think.  If we simply focus on supporting the people already bicycling and treating them with respect and dignity, then it will be easy to see that this way of travel is something our society embraces and promotes.

Why Speed Matters


Why Speed Matters

graphic from

Further Resources:
If you like to read about cycling try a free subscription to Bike Bits by Adventure Cycling

Rio Rancho, Bike Culture, and Bicycling Economy

It was one of those mornings that opened into a long ride.  The air is so clear the day after the storm.  I ended up exploring Rio Rancho some.  On their Convention and Visitor’s Bureau page, they advertise “high-altitude training and racing on miles of paved roads and mountain terrain.”  It’s true.  Set up in rolling grasslands Rio has spectacular vistas of the mountains all around.

Sandia glory

to the mountains off 550

distant mountains

Bicycling is wonderful way to build a sense of place.  I passed the Green Jeans Farmery on the way through Albuquerque.  It is made from shipping containers, and is right on a spur off the North Diversion Channel Trail.  Having a destination like this drives bike culture.  It’s happening.

Santa Fe Brewing complex on Diversion Trail spur

Green Jeans

A little further down on the Paseo Del Norte Trail I passed the Rail Runner while it was picking up.  There were two city buses as well.  Multimodal connections.  A group was taking a photograph together prior to boarding the train.  Then they were whisked off in a flash.

ABQ Paseo and Rail Runner Station

ABQ multimodal connections

ABQ multimodal

In case anyone is wondering, that is green tea (with honey and sea salt) in my second water bottle.  Yummy, antioxidant goodness.  Through Corrales I saw a horseperson riding.  And I found a beautiful bike trail on the West Side along an arroyo.  And up by Unser, there is an intersection with three bicycle trails stacked on top of each other.  I always take the wrong one when trying to navigate on the trail to Boca Negra that goes underneath Unser.


West side trail

three trails

Amazing all the sights I saw today.  More amazing that I came away with these photos on my silly cell phone.  But was it easy?  Well, the exercise part is not necessarily easy, but I thoroughly enjoy the workout.  The navigation part can be made easier, and should be.  Although there are excellent segments of infrastructure, the transportation system for bicycling is a fragmented and disjointed.  Try for instance riding Unser across Rio Rancho and the West Side.  It is a mixed bag. The most intelligent comment I’ve ever heard is one from a planner in Albuquerque.  She said we should plan for bicycles like we do for cars.  That is pretty much it.  Where ever there is car traffic, there is demand for bicycles.  If we center the lay of our communities around walking, biking, transit, and yes cars too (I love driving, what luxury), I think we’ll be better positioned to take off economically, and certainly we’ll all get on the right track integrating healthy activity into our daily routines.  What a world class place for bicycling.  Love it here.

Unser north

Unser south

I rode some six foot bike lanes in the Mariposa development off Unser Northwest.  Want to encourage more bicycling?  Build six foot bike lanes!  That is a good design width for two riders together, which is preferable, with two pairs of eyes on the road, greater visibility, positioned for clear communication, and socially conscious.  For one rider six feet of bike lane feels comfortable.  Yes.  Through all the road and lane configurations I rode today, drivers were graceful and patient.  That is the most important thing.  We are growing into bicycling.

Mariposa six foot bike lanes

Southwest grasslands roll

NW landscape




Just What the World Needs

When I got the call from mom yesterday that they had arrived in Florida for the winter, it was snowing outside here.  We had the heater on full blast and when I opened the front door a juniper fragrance from the neighbor’s wood stove trickled past my nose.  In Florida my mom had to turn the air conditioner on, it was so hot, they said.  I felt jealous for a fleeting moment, but mostly I felt the sting of sleet on my face from the pelting I took on my ride home.  Maybe we had jinxed ourselves this weekend by joking about not having to pull out the indoor trainers to ride during winters here.  But nah, today the sun clawed out from behind the vanishing clouds and the pavement was dry by mid morning.  I could ride but I think it is a good day to rest.  Instead I ran some errands by foot on the lunch hour.  Got my 30 minutes of activity in.

I saw Klaus Schwab on the Charlie Rose show discussing the World Economic Forum’s agenda for their upcoming meeting, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”  When we work on bicycling advocacy we often focus on government, but businesses are an able partner in forward looking solutions.  Klaus told Charlie they are “looking at global issues in an integrated way”.  This integration of disciplines blends in social, economic and physical science perspectives, but the ultimate shaper of “contextual intelligence” has to be history, philosophy, and the humanities as the main integer of understanding.  I think in this age of science, tech, biology and ecology, a shout out to the humanities lends guidance and frames the story.  Story puts us in the stream of wisdom and power.  History helps us digest it.  After all Klaus himself is using story to communicate, such is the power.  The business perspective on issues of our times is crucial for harnessing resources and addressing challenges.  Listening to Klaus I thought bicycling is certainly part of this revolution.  It fits principles Klaus referenced, like this:

  1. Asymmetry–small means for achieving great ends.  The bicycle is positively asymmetric.
  2. Networked World–change requires collaboration, partnerships and support of other components of society.  Changes are combinations of variables.  Bicycling and walking rise together, and depend on speeding up and increasing transit, and better managing cars.
  3. Systems Revolution–we are beginning to shift transportation from being almost entirely focused on one mode to balancing healthy choices with a focus on mobility for people.

There is a direct analogy to the World Economic Forum in the bicycling world.  The World Bicycling Forum met in Columbia last year.  From Nine Lessons from the World Bicycle Forum in Medellín, Colombia regarding bicycling as a catalyst for sustainable development:

“The transformative power of the bicycle for creating equitable, healthy and clean cities is well known by many advocates, activists and policy makers alike. We now need to work together globally to scale up the bicycle’s transformative power to encounter the worldwide mobility and liveability challenge in a rapidly urbanizing world.”

We do have some pretty big challenges ahead of us, and I think better including bicycling will pay dividends.  Here are some photos I’ve gathered as I peck away at our local cycling stories.

I saw wild turkeys on the 313 on the Sandia Reservation south of Bernalillo on the ride Saturday

I saw wild turkeys on 313 on the Sandia lands south of Bernalillo on the ride Saturday.  It’s easy to stop on a bike

foothills wedding

On Saturday evening we saw this wedding party in the Sandia foothills, trying to not catch the dress on cactus

I try to keep riding this trail to ward off the desert from reclaiming it, but the desert keeps making progress. Help!

I try to ride this trail often to ward off the desert from reclaiming it, but the desert keeps making progress. Help!

most mornings and evenings I walk to Grant Park where there's a big field and track. The light and clouds show improbable forms

most mornings I walk to the park where there’s a big field and track. The light and clouds show improbable forms

some people say there is nothing here but open space is the quarry for everything, and everything seems more precious

some people say there is nothing here but open space is the quarry for everything, and everything seems more precious

looks like you can ride all the way to Santa Fe with the Sangre de Cristos in the distance. Paseo de la Mesa trail

looks like you can ride all the way to Santa Fe with the Sangre de Cristos in the distance. Paseo de la Mesa trail

When the shaw of clouds comes off, those mountains are going to have a lot more snow

When the shawl of clouds comes off the Sandias tomorrow, those mountains are going to have a lot more snow


Sandhill Cranes in the City

It was a stellar weekend in Albuquerque.  I got a couple good rides in with friends, and then on Sunday afternoon Mai and I headed to the South Valley and the Valle de Oro wildlife refuge.  When the wintry weather arrives so do the Sandhill Cranes.  I’ve been seeing them for the last couple weeks on my bicycle rides when I’m near the river, but Mai hadn’t seen any this year.  We changed that Sunday at Valle de Oro.  Here’s one of her best shots from last year.


This urban wildlife refuge is part of an interagency transportation, land use, and climate change planning initiative.  And also is being managed by a new standards of excellence framework to model sustainability, connect the local community with nature, and engage people with the refuge as a community asset.  It is kind of a nucleus of innovation for evolving ideas about cities, sustainability and nature.  It makes connecting with nature easy.  It’s right here.

Valle de Oro cranes aloft

Valle de Oro cranes in sight

Valle de Oro cranes in flight

It was a magical evening.  The cranes are family birds and they mingle in the fields until sunset.  Then they fly back to the river for the night.  The voices of cranes carrying across the fields and echoing back from the flyway above the Bosque and water filled us up with all the talk we needed.  These are the sounds that place the seasons, that speak to our primordial senses.

Valle de Oro photographing cranes

Valle de Oro string of cranes

Valle de Oro the woods edge

It’s a unique city and embracing wildlife as a seamless part of our urban character gives us a fuller presence here.  Valle de Oro helps us realize the value of natural ecosystem services, such as the relief from impervious surfaces (like blacktop and concrete) these fields provide and the functions they fulfill, such as allowing storm water to slowly infiltrate the aquifer and riverine systems, while being naturally filtered on the way.  It helps us slow down, take stock and tune in to elemental processes.  We understand life in a reflective and broader context in places like this.  The graceful stroke of a feathery wing and a crane gliding through the sky is an inspiring sight.   The freshwater wetlands of the Río Grande teem with diverse life.

Standards of Excellence for Urban Wildlife Refuges, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Check out Valle de Oro on Facebook for announcements, pics, news, media, and events.
Friends of Valle de Oro They have a survey on the Paseo Del Bosque trail extension
Central New Mexico Climate Change Scenario Planning Project is an interagency initiative addressing regional land use and transportation planning, sustainability, climate change adaptation, greenhouse emissions mitigation, transit-oriented development, travel demand management, open space preservation, green infrastructure, stormwater management.

Moving with Dignity in Traffic

Don’t take the bait.  Don’t let the bad behavior of others determine your own.  Restraint is the better part of dignity.  Don’t justify getting even.  Do not do unto others as they do unto you if it will cause harm.  –Donna Hicks, Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict

One of the hardest things is keeping our composure and conducting ourselves with dignity in the midst of thick traffic.  During busy times roads fill up with vehicles weighing thousands of pounds, moving at speeds unimaginable until about 150 years ago when trains emerged to help us leap across America.  And in the middle of it all there is the human factor.  Someone is driving an unmaintained car pumping out a devilish mist shrouding our breathing space in a dark, poisonous cloud, or someone is distracted, impatient, or uncooperative.  It is remarkable how well we do in persevering a peaceful atmosphere in spite of these humungous challenges.

Sansai Studios White Sands splendor

“Being vulnerable takes strength and others are touched when they see our openness.”
–(Hicks, Dignity, p. 104)
Riding my bicycle I have to work a little harder to be safer.  Being more vulnerable has been a tremendous advantage.  It has awakened in me the capacity to be empathetic to those with less power.  When I’m bicycling I especially look out for pedestrians and yield to their situation.  Riding on the multi use path is a perfect analogy to driving a car on the road.  Ideally I could ride as fast I wanted on the Bosque Trail but sometimes there is congestion, or people walking across the trail, or small children or beginning bicyclists that require me to slow down.  The thing I’ve realized is slow is the rule.  Sometimes we are taught that we must yield to speed, but that doesn’t create a safe environment.  Slow is the rule.  If someone is going slower or people are in the vicinity we have to slow down accordingly.  Pressure’s off, let dignity be our guide.

Sansai Studios close up paintbrush

“Don’t blame and shame others to deflect your own guilt.  Control the urge to defend  yourself by making others look bad.”  (Hicks, Dignity, p. 164)

When I walked into commercial driving school the first lesson I got was from Jim, a veteran of truck driving who had driven over a million miles.  He said “you are heavier than anyone else on the road,  and you could really hurt someone.  Therefore it is your responsibility to take good care of everyone.”  That message embedded in my driving soul, and has stayed with me ever since.  It’s a message of proactive safety, that we are looking out for one another.  I think this is key.  So what can you do to help make our streets even more dignified.  Join the National Complete Streets Coalition.  They work to make sure we design streets, and refurbish our existing ones, so that all transportation modes are included.  People come first.  And when we see a street that doesn’t seem to adequately encourage and dignify walking and bicycling, or include the elderly, young, or differently abled, we have to work harder to be on the look out for diverse people out there walking and rolling  Write your City Councilperson and say eh, there are people walking and bicycling on this stretch of road, and it could be made safer.  I support that, please.  When we look out for dignity, we protect life and our power is greater.

“We know the full value when we see our own dignity reflected back in the eyes of others.”
(Hicks, Dignity, p. xv)

Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict by Donna Hicks

Triple Bottom Line Profits from Better Bicycling

“It is important for us to create streets that are safe and a bicycle economy that is diverse and inclusive to help support young pedalers into the future.”
–Mychal Tetteh, CEO of the Community Cycling Center

One of the nicest people I know in Albuquerque is leaving for Portland, so I had to take a closer look at the talent magnet Portland has become.  I found this City of Portland Planning and Sustainability video on climate action compelling because it prominently features bicycles.  “People want to live their values,” and bicycling is an affordable and simple way to be your best and love your neighbors.   Albuquerque cyclists, contribute to the Albuquerque planning update process.  There’s a transportation meeting Nov. 30, or take a minute to write your City Councilor to let them what you care about.  Find your councilor here.  We need your unique voice.

Key themes in this video:  The idea that economic growth and opportunity is in conflict with taking action on climate change is outdated.   Living within our energy and resource means are powerful values.  Investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, ecological resiliency, and sustainable transportation infrastructure serve us well, even during times of economic hardships.  Residents stay safe and save $.  Underserved communities are assets because they are under-tapped resources.  Creating an inclusive economy is exciting.  Right policies that encourage right practices networked with the right innovations bring forward thinking solutions to the forefront of economies.  Acting early puts cities in a position to prosper.  Climate is a global issue so Portland can’t do it alone.  Sustainability takes teamwork.  To reach goals like carbon reduction, we all have a part.  These sound like great values, family, purpose, hard work.

“I think that one of the things that makes Portland so great is that everybody wants to work together to make the best place for everyone in our community.  And this is really a chance where we can have business, individuals and government all working together.”
–Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Chair

“That’s our opportunity…we do have practices, habits and understanding that can lead us to be a global competitor in exactly what the world wants and needs.”  –Charlie Hales, Portland Mayor

Sansai Studios sunset fly out

Small Movements Add Up to Big Data

We received a map at the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee meeting Monday afternoon that shows bicycling activity across Greater Albuquerque.  The data is from Strava and uses Global Positioning Systems in smartphones or bicycle computers to track activities of people who have downloaded the application.  It’s part of the information era that is changing the way we perceive, study and understand our lives in relation to the places we live in.

Strava heat map New Mexico Greater ABQ

Above is a screen shot of Strava’s heat map (free online) for Albuquerque and Santa Fe.  You can zoom in and see anywhere activity was recorded in great detail down to the street and trail level.  You can also zoom out and look at activity across the U.S.A. and around the world.  Making bicycling visible like this is a bicycling geographer’s dream.  Check out the squiggly line in the image below flowing west-east across Iowa.  Any guesses as to what that is?

Strava RAGBRAI signature

It’s a signature from the ride across Iowa, also known as RAGBRAI.  Over 10,000 people participate.  A rolling city on two wheels.  This data coincides with the 2014 RAGBRAI route map.

RAGBRAI 2014 signature

Our Metropolitan Planning Organization has purchased spatial data through the Strava Metro program to analyze and better understand active transportation in our region.  This information on where and how people are using travel modes besides motorized vehicles is a key component in the planning toolkit.  It will be a valuable data set to use along with traditional traffic surveys being newly adapted to capture information on walking and biking activities.

NBC 2015 Challenge

The National Bike Challenge uses Strava and similar Apps to hold a competition to see who can ride the most.  In 2015 New Mexico came out # 23 in the Nation (see image above) during the challenge period (May-Sept.)  It is good to use technology to incite some healthy competition.

NBC November NM # 14

For November New Mexico is currently 14th in the Nation (see above).  Finding beneficial ways for applying Strava and similar active transportation trackers like Human has just begun.  We have yet another way to make bicycling more visible, raise awareness and make it even more fun.  It is heartening to be harnessing technology for healthy and sustainable development.

Sign up for Strava
Register for the National Bike Challenge
Just Ride

Further Reading:

Southwest Cycling Times

I don’t know if bicycling and walking are especially hot topics or if I am just tuning in more, but I’ve found a plethora of good stories in the news.  Here’s a brief summary of individual articles with a link for further reading if a topic strikes your interest.   Though the literature surveyed here always has national and global implications, my approach is looking at issues from a regional perspective based on issues that are of particular interest in the Southwestern U.S.

The League of American Bicyclists released their report on Bicycle Friendly Universities.  University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University remain at Bronze status.  Lots of room for improvement here to move up to Silver, Gold, all the way to Platinum.  Campuses are always a locus for walking and bicycling culture.  Places to build up from!  Both ASU and UofA register at the Gold level, and Utah’s largest two State universities come in at Silver.  Colorado and New Mexico both have some room for improvement.  My alma mater Univ. of Nevada at Reno made it to Bronze.  Look for UNLV to step up.  Bicycling and learning go together.

Dallas lost its bike coordinator to a private firm in Denver, Colorado.  This story covering that transition looks into Dallas’s history integrating bicycling transportation and touches on the process of opening up more choices for active transportation in a city built with cars in mind.  Texas’s motto is “Drive Friendly The Texas Way.”  Very important to put this in context with everyone we encounter on the road, not just the folks traveling in the same way we are, that look like us.  I can see a photo shop opportunity for including bicycles in this sign.

drive friendly

Building bicycle friendliness is an incremental process.  The work that Dallas’s bike coordinator put in carves the way for the next steps and gives us something to build on.  I see a lot of cars with Texas plates in New Mexico and Texans love to come here for our mountains and cultural roots.  So bicycle friendliness there matters here too, bicycles matter everywhere.  We are definitely one nation interconnected and interdependent.  I also think interchange of people–people switching jobs, etc.–can be a good thing.  That is what keeps NY City vibrant and relevant, the influx of new ideas and culture, and the migration of influential people.  Mix it up.

People ask a good question.   How are we going to pay for better bicycling infrastructure?  This article The True Costs of Driving  shifts the way we think about paying for roads and puts it in terms of how much our transportation choices cost.  Clearly bicycles add value with no risk to our future, and with direct improvements to health.  Bicycling is a good choice by any metric.  We can’t afford not to invest in bicycling infrastructure, especially for the benefits to our health.

We’ve all heard about Colorado’s commitment to bicycle infrastructure.  Well how about Oslo’s.  They’ve got it right, that bicycling is in the interest of everyone in the city, not just the traffic department.  A new holistic forward looking framework is developing that sees bikability and walkability as being issues that go way beyond transportation.  They are central to sustainable urban development.   Making every city a place where ordinary people can bicycle is the future.

River Fall splendor

The Fall colors on the Bosque Trail along the Río Grande light it up


Trail Survey Placing Albuquerque’s Trails on the National Map

“We’re really excited to be in Albuquerque because you have an incredible trail system.”
–Dr. Tracy Hadden Loh, RTC’s director of research.  (Quote from ABQ Business First)

The last couple weeks I’ve been out working on a trail survey as part of the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy’s nationwide T-MAP project.  It has been incredible to be working outside and talking to the public using Albuquerque’s wonderful trails.  The project is helping measure the beneficial impacts that trails and active transportation networks are making in communities, including improving transportation, health, and spurring local and regional economies.

T-MAP (Trail Modeling and Assessment Platform) is designed to lead to more trail construction and give local agencies a better idea on where to focus improvements.   T-MAP creates ways to quantify and explain how investments in trail systems pay off in terms of health and transportation savings, and increases understanding of the economic stimulation greenways instigate.  Aside from savings in health and gains in transportation efficiency, trails lift quality of life and open up transportation choices, making Albuquerque and Bernalillo County stand out as attractive places to invest, work and live, raise a family, retire, and vacation.

This project was in the news last year when Albuquerque was selected as one of 12 cities nationwide that would participate in this survey.  Check out the links to those stories below.  KRQE has some excellent video.  I am looking forward to the next phases of this multi year project, including seeing how the modeling and assessment tools develop, and then are deployed to create the next generation of trail building.  See you out on the trails, Albuquerque.

D.C. group chooses ABQ for trail monitoring project on KRQE News
This story includes video of people using the trail past our survey site at Erna Ferguson Library on the Paseo del Nordeste Trail.  ‘The data collection will give us a better understanding of how important our trail system is for commuting, errands, quality of life and exercise.’

Albuquerque’s urban trail use captures national focus from Albuquerque Business First
More coverage of the T-MAP survey putting us in the national spotlight for cutting edge research fueling trail and active transportation network research and development.

Here’s the link to the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy’s T-MAP project.

It has been quite a week for me with changing weather and lots of work

It has been quite a week in Albuquerque with changing weather. Takes time to adjust to the chill!

the funky weather did have some nice side effects. This was actually a double rainbow

the funky weather did have some nice side effects. This was actually a double rainbow

My evening ride up La Luz gave me a peak at the snow adorning the Sandia Crest

My evening ride up La Luz gave me a peak at the snow adorning the Sandia Crest