Monthly Archives: December 2015

Health and Transportation in Cities

“Denser metros where greater shares of residents walked or bike to work were healthier than more sprawling metros where larger shares of people drove to work by themselves.  The way we live — not just what we eat and how much we exercise — appears to play a big role in how healthy we are.”  –Richard Florida in The Gaurdian, The Sickness at the Heart of Modern Cities

“Individuals, communities, and governments around the world have, for decades, sought ways to curb the growing rate of childhood obesity. Some of the most successful efforts have happened at the community level.”  —Getter Our Arms Around Obesity , Santa Fe Institute

Transportation choice is a focal point for empowering public health and wellness, sustainability in cities, and an equitable and connected society.  In Southwest cities like Albuquerque we see the distinctive characteristics of post World War II urban growth oriented around the capabilities of the car.  We are becoming acutely aware of the limitations, costs and drawbacks of car centric development.  The next step seems to involve imagining a transportation ecosystem that moves past car dependence and gives us more balanced and diverse choices.  The new economy is about uniting people and technology to make positive impacts.  People, not goods and machines, are the orientation point.  For instance some of most cutting edge developments such as Facebook are really about growing networks and social connectivity amongst people.  Successful technologies are people-focused enterprises.

Amazingly the physical structures of our cities correlate with social symptoms.  When we spend too much time in cars cut off from the ability to speak to each other we can manifest social symptoms of alienation, loneliness and despair.  Even aggressiveness, frustration, violence.  When can get heart disease and diabetes.  “Social isolation that occurs in cities and vulnerability to disease are closely associated.” (Richard Florida in the Guardian).

The good news is we have purposeful work to do that unites us around common goals and objectives.  Its about an all of the above, inclusive approach.  Cars plus safety plus choices.  Albuquerque has genuinely made progress.  We have city wide initiatives like Innovate ABQ to spur the post-industrial, people centered economy.  And we have a strong welling up of community based organizations such as the projects sponsored by the Río Grande Community Development Corporation.  We don’t have to work alone but can use our passions  to be a part of an emergent way of living that brings us together.  Exploring with open minds helps us realize the potential benefits of simple technologies such as bicycling in our citiy’s ecosystem.  Sustainable transportation is something we can design that mimics the structure of energy flow in natural and biological systems.  Like blood in the body, we have to inhibit “free radicals” in our transportation system, such as irresponsible driving of vehicles, to protect the healthy cells.   Bicycling is part of the community toolkit we are developing to organize around core principles that promote the wellbeing of life on earth.  Health and happiness are indicators.

“Quality of place is important too — numerous surveys have shown that the physical and intangible features of a city are associated with higher levels of happiness and better health.”

“Cities themselves need to become more like teaching hospitals where researchers, policy-makers, urbanists and residents can come together to identify the most effective ways to promote healthier lifestyles.” ( (from Florida’s article in The Gaurdian).

Abundance and growth

engines of life in the South Valley

County Planning Meeting

“The potential exists to greatly reduce transport energy use and GHG emissions by shaping the design of cities, restraining motorization and altering the attributes of vehicles and fuels. Indeed, slowing the growth in vehicle use through land-use planning and through policies that restrain increases in vehicle use would be an important accomplishment. Planning and policy to restrain vehicles and densify land use not only lead to reduced GHG emissions, but also reduced pollution, traffic congestion, oil use, and infrastructure expenditures and are generally consistent with social equity goals.”  –Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

“Each bird while it is part of the flock seems part of something larger than itself.  Another animal.”  Barry H. Lopez, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape

There’s a Comprehensive Plan Update Meeting this evening at the Westside Community Center and I would urge you to go.  It’s a good opportunity to help shape the framework that guides our growth.  The draft Vision statement is up on line and you can submit your comments by email, too.  I’ve been participating as much as I can in this Comp Plan update process.  Good bicycling and good active transportation networks begin with a desire and vision for human powered mobility freedom.  That vision drives the planning and zoning documents, which in turn directs the design of a transportation infrastructure that is inclusive and diverse and considers walking and bicycling as primary choices and fundamental requirements for an equitable and connected community.  We can have a sustainable transportation system that promotes health and wellbeing, local economic development, and improves our quality of life.  We just have to ask for it.  We have an opportunity to create human habitat where we are free to move under our own power.  Let freedom ring through your voice, choice and vision.

“There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares to other expressions.  It is imply your business to keep the channel open.”  –Martha Graham, Making Good

The buffalo are back on the Sandia lands grazing away on the east mesa near Tramway

The Bison are back on the Sandia lands grazing away on the east mesa near Tramway

Buffalo are back


“At the root of the failure to regulate bison hunting was the midcentury belief in economic competition.  Everyone, Indian or Euroamerican included, was engaged in a race to exploit resources for individual gain.” (Andrew C. Isenberg, Destruction of Bison, p.163)
The purpose of our economy is to support human nature.  The transportation ecosystem as a tool for economic development needs to support human movement the way we are intended to move.  We can’t afford to lose our fundamental human powers.

Arc of Light

I live near Grant Park and I like to walk there in the morning and evening.  This morning I opened the front door to a blood red sunrise.  We usually don’t get those in the morning.  There was an oval of clear gray blue enveloped by layers of incandescent redness.  I don’t have any good photos of this morning’s mottled sky but I did take some of this evening’s sunset.

Grant Park sunset 5
Grant Park sunset 12
Grant Park sunset 10

Sunrise opened my mind to the possibilities the sky can take here.  The sunset halted me midstride.  I’ve never seen such a show.  It was like the aurora borealis in New Mexico, slow, shifting, ethereal clouds arcing over the mountains in broad luminous bands stretching to the mesa with the bright yellow sun departing behind a smoky screen of silken fire beyond the western horizon.   Long filaments of cirrus sky flooded with color and dripping with light.

Grant Park sunset

Grant Park sunset 8

Grant Park sunset 9

Sunsets like this remind me we are in this together.  I passed a neighbor walking her dog and I said this is pretty.  She said this is amazing.  She was right.  I like this time of year pivoting around the winter solstice.  I cherish the days more and rest up underneath the swirl of stars and orbiting moon cozy and grateful for shelter during the dark and long wintry nights.

Grant Park sunset goodnight

In the transition between night and day you can sense the dual nature, the elements of the earth, the light of the world, almost grasping what is not a fact but a state of being.  But it slips away again.  Thankfully the light of the world is restored each day, a slate turquoise, a sea green, and then an expansive blush of color rises over the Manzanos.  The sprinkle of stars disappear.

Change is in the Air

“Transportation, which is still 95 percent reliant on petroleum, is the world’s fastest growing energy-based contributor to greenhouse gases.  About three-quarters of the total comes from motor vehicles.  Few disagree that the best solutions include the adoption of electric vehicles and, especially in cities, making it easier for people to forgo cars by using public transportation or riding bicycles.”  –NYTimes, Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits, retrieved 2015/12/7 at in the energy & environment section

The U.S. set out to be and has been a global leader in many things, both scientific and cultural.  Making it easier for people to bicycle is a timely area for us to apply ingenuity, adaptation, creativity and flexibility, American hallmarks.  It can be as simple as repurposing existing infrastructure and making design changes to induce more walking and bicycling.  Sharing knowledge on all the benefits from active transportation including improved health, social stimulation, a growing local economy, a network of safer routes, cleaner air, helps too.  Plus it makes people happier.  Making bicycling easier and using it to enhance our lifestyles is perhaps one of the most valuable areas of leadership we could develop, share and export.  The best example is set by doing it right here at home, and enjoying it, a positive transportation future.

The Senior Center in Corrales makes futuristic look fitting now

The Senior Center in Corrales makes the future look fitting now, at least on the roof.  Parking is still taking lots of room

Yield to crossing active traffic Corrales

Attention to details in the roadscape raises our awareness to people choosing active transportation

Old Alameda bridge at Rio Grande crossing

The old Alameda bridge crossing the Río Grande still works great for low weight and simple conveyances


Freedom Horses

When my mother was here visiting she said Albuquerque has more people bicycling and better walking and bicycling infrastructure than any place she’s seen.  This reminded me it is important to take stock and be grateful for what we have.  She looked at the extensive multiuse trail system, all the bike lanes and the pedestrian/bicycle bridges and figured there were some forward looking people behind this.  Plus tons of people bicycle.  I appreciate the riding here.  The bicycling is good in much of the city and on the edges, and it gets better as you ride out.


These photos are from rides past the Hagan ghost town, the Los Lunas loop, and a walk on the river

Hagens ride

Hagens road sculpture

Hagens wild horses

Las Lunas toward Laguna lands

If you’re looking for clean air, diverse cultures and landscapes and open vistas the Albuquerque area has these resources.  You can go in any direction and experience beautiful country.  There  are wild horses running on the northeast shoulder of the Sandia Mountains.  Freedom horses.

Hagens freedom horses

Las Lunas bend

Bosque bliss

I saw so many people out bicycling today on Tramway Road and all over the city.  Bicyclists are a resilient community.  If you’re willing to mix it up and ride some dirt roads, multi use trails, and paved roads you can ride to the horizon and beyond.  I feel like you can ride forever here.   If we make the bicycling even better we’ll be more sustainable, healthier and freer.

freedom horses

Las Lunas range

I love these words from Cormac McCarthy.  Buy his new book The Passenger coming out soon.

That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised.  From All the Pretty Horses, winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, 1992