Monthly Archives: February 2016

Dances with Cranes

Watching Sandhill Cranes in their favorite habitat always feeds you.  There is a tactile sense of being in touch with the birds.   They are all around you, like great music playing.  When we go to the wildlife reserves south of Albuquerque we find something new every time.  We went down again on February 21st and it was as fresh and convincing as ever.  A world swimming with life.

Mai Cranes

cranes and mountain

Crane Photographer

The first two photos are from Mai at Sansai Studio.  I’m lucky enough to be married to her.  Here she is in the fields photographing Cranes.  Mai also does bicycle photography and has been a strong partner in promoting bicycling.  Her ability to communicate about bicycling through art is a gift.  For February 2016 Sansai Studio is my bike org of the month.

Cranes up high



There is something renewing about getting outside of the human sphere and being amidst the lives of thousands of Cranes.  The peaceful silhouettes of so many Cranes flowing like ink through the sky.  An upsidedown ocean of life.  The vivid afternoon light slowly rolling away.

Mai sunfire

Mai seeing

Mai flying by

The Cranes place us in the landscape.  You don’t feel elevated above a place, such as when you are in tall building downtown, or on google earth taking in a satellite view.  Instead you are immersed in it and the birds are the masters moving between the land, water and air worlds.

Birds of paradise


We watched the moonrise and the sun go down, liquid light slipping away.  The blackening shadows revealing the folded mountains.  A purple sheath of light haloing the horizon.

Mai fly by

Mai in field

Mai shooting under full moon

Every trip we observe things completely new to us.  Reefs of light bouncing off the water, the fading firelight on the Western horizon.  The cranes are dancing.  Cranes are dancing.

sun so yellow

water on sky

Mai Cranes and Moon

Credits and References:
Check out Mai’s art and photography at Sansai Studio
The Natural Capital Project  works to improve human well being by valuing nature, and is led by Gretchen C. Daily’s initiatives including research on harmonizing agriculture and biodiversity.
Check out Alex Shoumatoff’s colorful account, 500 Cranes Are Headed to Nebraska in One of Earth’s Greatest Migrations in Smithsonian Magazine.  The Crane migrations graphic is from here

Seize the Day


I’m pretty sure the slower I ride, the more time I have to absorb what I see.  Plus I have time to chat with people.  This is such an exciting time of year to Spring forward making life anew.  Change happens one conversation and one bike ride at a time.  Carpe diem, walk bike talk.

Trail Miles

Elena Gallegos glow

Seize the day

La Luz in the fold

The confinements of the road are also the conditions of its freedom.  –Kenneth Burke, 1966

Experience the World by Bicycle

La Luz layers

looking at the Sandia Mountains from the La Luz Trail Road, Forest Road 333, Albuquerque, NM

Bicycling empowers us to use our bodies in the environment to serve our well being and meet practical needs.  Through bicycling we learn about the interdependence of social and natural systems, and we create virtuous cycles between people and nature within those integrated systems.  We do this by seeing biodiversity–the variety of life surrounding us–in greater detail and by developing appreciation for cultural ecosystem services, which are “non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment).

We produce material benefits when we bicycle such as carbon reduction and maintaining the integrity of landscapes (by practicing quiet, clean, low impact transport) but we also build value with the kind of conversation we are making with the places we ride in.   We receive inspiration, make social relations (bike culture), we experience beauty up close, enhance our sense of place, and build knowledge.  We overlay the physical place with cognition and imagination, which helps us be creative and feel more at home.   There are a broader range of reasons to bicycle than we have been promoting.  The satisfaction bicycling delivers can be translated in economic success, since tourism is the world’s biggest business.  By setting up our infrastructure and culture for bicycling, we get everything we want, everything we need.

Think ahead.  Collaborate.  Mobilize the change you want to see in the world.  Enjoy the ride.

References:  The ideas of cultural ecosystem services (CES) are explored in the journal Ecological Complexity in an article called Cultural ecosystem services in the context of offshore wind farming:  A case study from the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein by Kira Gee, Benjamin Burkhard
published online 24 March 2010

ABQ purple door explore

Pikes Peak Hill Climb Challenge

The inaugural USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships are taking place on America’s Mountain in Colorado Springs Saturday, August 13.  There is also a Gran Fondo fun ride on the same course, which begins at 9,390 feet and ends at 14,115 feet while traveling 12.42 miles.  That’s about 7% gradient average at altitude in thin air under Rocky Mountain splendor.   The Gran Fondo also has two shorter options with less climbing for the more reasonable set.

noncompetitive Gran Fondo Fun Ride with a link to a nice video of the ride by Col Collective
Hill Climb National Championship
Schedule of Events August 13 for both rides, the championship races and Grand Fondo

This event is my top goal for 2016.  I’ve done the Pikes Peak climb before back in 2013.  That year, the Mt. Evans Hill Climb was July 20 and Pikes Peak was July 21.  My teammate and I drove from Flagstaff and did both races.  Climbing to over 14,000′ on back to back days was challenging for sure, but the stimulus kick started the second half of my season.  I didn’t get good results but the experience was extraordinary.  The next month I had more grueling racing at the Everest Challenge, once again without the results I had been expecting.  But I kept working and by September the form rolled around, and we won the State Team Time Trial.  The next weekend I won the Individual Time Trial.  And two weeks after that I we won the State Hill Climb up Mt. Graham.  What ended up being my best season started out with checking in and getting some good feedback so I knew what kind of work I had to do to reach my objectives.

This year I am putting my work in in advance.  I know one thing for sure, I am looking forward to going to the races and Gran Fondos and seeing everyone.  At Pikes Peak no matter who you are at some point in the ride your goal is going to be singular and the same, to get to the top.  A big thanks to the promoters and USA Cycling and Colorado Springs for giving us this challenge.

flat lake reflection

About this photo:  Mai and I were south of Albuquerque yesterday observing Sandhill Cranes and we caught this sunset.  To our surprise there are still thousands of Cranes here but soon they’ll be leaving for the Platte River to fatten up on Nebraska corn.  A bicycle ride through a beautiful landscape, especially on a mountain road or trail, will give you a glimpse of the light in your heart, just like this lake shows the sky reflected atop a sheet of water on the broad earth.


Changing Perceptions of Our Streets

I found a good example of model language for a community wide vision for complete streets from Change Lab Solutions, “law and policy innovation for the common good”.   We are in the public comment phase now for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Comprehensive Planning and Zoning update process.  Now is a good time to chime in.  Here’s an example of what kinds of changes citizens can ask for pertaining to the way we structure our city going forward:

Transportation Vision Statement: The community of Albuquerque envisions a transportation system that encourages healthy, active living, promotes transportation options and independent mobility, increases community safety and access to healthy food, reduces environmental impact, mitigates climate change, and supports greater social interaction and community identity by providing safe and convenient travel along and across streets through a comprehensive, integrated transportation network for pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and drivers, push scooters and skateboarders, and people of all ages and abilities, including children, youth, families, older adults, and individuals with disabilities.

The technical know how for designing complete streets is here.  We know how to empower the movement of people beyond private automobiles.  Here’s a good example of how we do that at a detailed level, from intersection design to lane widths and signal timing:

We do that, we might be able to improve healthspan, a concept that combines longevity with quality of life.  Doug Seals is doing a talk at CU, Boulder on healthspan.   My work focuses on this intersection of health, transportation, and the opportunities to make improvements.  Supporting health in the environment and people is a mutual goal that takes care of our greatest economic assets, a healthy planet and a healthy happy empowered humankind.

piñon stand

Bicycles Bring People to Nature

The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world.  –Richard Louv

A father of a young bicyclist told me “bicycling cures my son’s Attention Deficit Disorder.”  Yes, that and much more.  Bicycling fosters appreciation for the life we have outside.  And increases our sense of value and investment in the natural landscape, while making us more a part of it.   Check out this upcoming event in Santa Fe, and also Richard Louv’s provocative books.

Richard Louv at Lensic

“Louv makes a convincing case that we are entering the most creative period in history, that in fact the twenty-first century will be the era of human restoration in the natural world. This encouraging and influential work offers renewed optimism while challenging us to rethink the way we live.”


Cultures of Responsibility

This article by Robert M. Shanteau, Ph.D., P.E., Registered Traffic Engineer, is an excellent resource.  It is a long one but one you can go back and reference time again.  It is pretty cutting edge so it has taken my mind a while to catch where he is going with this history lesson:

Shanteau’s educational piece is good background for this story.   A cyclist was pulled over and ticketed for impeding traffic.  The video clip from the patrol dash cam shows how it unfolds.

Basically the Officer thinks the bicyclists should be riding at the edge of the road, not on it.  He says repeatedly to “stay out of the road”.   This fundamental confusion has a lot to do with the way the traffic laws are written.  In all 50 States bicyclists are required to follow the same laws as other drivers.  This includes the right to use the travel lanes, and associated duties (signaling turns, yielding before moving laterally to change lanes, respecting first come first served).  That’s all good.  The general law for slower moving traffic applies, slower traffic stays to the right.  The confusion comes from the “Far to the Right” law added to control bikes.  It creates a rule that designates bicycles as a second class user.  This creates conflict and confusion, and puts bicyclists at risk for the convenience of motorists.  The Far to the Right law is detrimental to road safety because it confuses the principles of traffic law and creates uneven treatment.  Dropping Far to the Right would let the regular rules of the road prevail and the sharing concept would be clear and explicit.  Bicyclists have a right to the road just like the drivers of other vehicles.  It is not an exception, or a special case.  It is the rule.  Start there and ride to the right as safe.  When moving slower than other traffic, drivers keep right as they judge safe and appropriate.  Bicyclists have to position themselves for safety.  Respecting bicycle traffic is a precondition for guiding safe traffic behaviors.  A good sign for this stretch of road would be:

bikes may use full lane

That makes everyone’s responsibility clearer.  It is safer that way.   Easier on everyone.

Text to the video is here:

The League of American Bicyclists Smart Cycling Quick Guide is an excellent resource

Resources Focused on Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

Here are a trio of resources for improving roads.  These are good tools for connecting communities together around caring for safer roads.  Now’s the time for responsible action.

Safer People, Safer Streets: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative  by the USDOT
Everyday Counts
initiative by the FHWA Center for Innovation
FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act), America’s five year transportation bill

In December 2015 Congress passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), a five year bill that increases funding for bicycle and pedestrian safety education, awareness, and enforcement. The FAST Act allocates additional funding for the purpose of decreasing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries that result from crashes involving a motor vehicle to States where the annual combined pedestrian and bicycle fatalities exceed 15 percent of the total annual crash fatalities in the State.  Of 20 States eligible for this additional funding, 6 are in the Southwest U.S., AZ, CA, UT, NV, NM, and TX.  Funding may be used for “training of law enforcement officials on State laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety; enforcement mobilizations and campaigns designed to enforce State traffic laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety; and public education and awareness programs designed to inform motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists of State traffic laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

The road diet program in Everyday Counts helps reconfigure roadways to encourage or accommodate a wider array of transportation modes.  It simplifies operation and helps to calm traffic, making it a more inviting place for everyone.  Crashes are reduced by 19 to 47 percent.

The Safer People, Safer Streets initiative has a family of programs including the Mayors’ Challenge, Road Safety Assessments, and Road Safety for Transit Patrons.  I’ve participated in two Road Safety Assessments in New Mexico and hope to do more and apply our knowledge.

There is also a Focused Approach To Safety program where eligible States may receive “technical assistance such as data analysis and action plan development from initiation to implementation; training and associated materials in a variety of formats, including classroom-based workshops or online webinars; support for a wide range of analysis tools and countermeasures”.  New Mexico is a focus State for pedestrian and bicycle safety.


Looking forward to keeping you updated as we work with these programs.

Delicious Piñon Day

Saturday’s ride turned out to be an absolute gem.  I started out late and missed the group ride, but that turned out to work in my favor.  I took it slow and instead of feeling rushed I was enjoying being in the flow.  I was in a timefree zone all day.  Coming down Tramway I saw this balloon land.  And then on 313 north to Bernalillo I passed about 35-40 riders, a meet up group called the “cycling peeps.”  Mai discovered them online the other day.  They are an all women group with about 300 members.  No website, no complicated clubs, just an online meet up network dedicated to connecting for a common interest, bicycling beautiful New Mexico.

early morning shadow

E Mtn Sign

ABQ peeps

The day was glorious.  High sixties, light breezes, and a crystalline sky.  The warming air coupled with moist soil draws out the fragrances of the biosphere.  Normally a day this warm would be alarming for the evaporation rate but the USDA says the snowpack is above normal.   Just a good day to relax and enjoy.  I decided to take the long route to San Felipe, then east.

crazy road

Cliff hugger

La Madera long view

Days like this epitomize why I love cycling in the Southwest.  I saw a youth soccer game on a field in San Felipe.  I looked for the herd of wild horses on the Hagan road but they must have been higher in the mountains today.  And after doing the nice loop around the Sandia mountains I climbed the Crest highway a little.  I went to mile nine.  When I turned around I could see clear to the snow covered mountains that rise above the sagebrush plains of Taos.  Great day.

dip in the road

William's road


Here’s the map from Strava:

Late Winter Skies

I’ve been riding a lot this week taking advantage of an ease in weather, passing through Tijeras canyon between the Sandia and Manzano ranges, and breaking out into the open country of the piñon and juniper sprinkled east mountains.  At its best, Albuquerque has a feel of being a small community, but also a rural city, enmeshed in a perimeter made of open spaces and mountain vistas, and interlinked with agriculture, pueblos, and country living via green corridors.  To bicycle out into these unique spaces of the American West is simply wonderful.

San Pedro long view

piñon tree round

San Pedro lone Ponderosa tree

Yesterday I took a route through Cedar Grove, breathing in the cleansing scent of pine, admiring the long view north toward the white capped Pecos Wilderness, the Jemez, and the Sangre de Cristos.  Country manners prevail on the road as hands go up to extend greetings between passersby.  The spaces draw my imagination out and I become all breathing and legs.

lookng to Pecos near Cedar Grove

Gutierrez edge lines

Sandia range from the eastside


These landscapes at the wild, rural and urban interface are an important part of urban sustainability.  The open country of the east mountains, the agriculture in the south and north valleys, the pueblos, are all integral in a healthy culture that recognizes value in diversity.  Out here I am at a lose for words but my mind opens to an intelligence beyond human making, one that endures in the land itself.  My heart beats to the rhythm of a continuous renewal of life.