Category Archives: Albuquerque

Desert Rat in a High Altitude City

“This is paradise.”  –a City employee on living in Albuquerque
“With an average elevation of 5,312 feet, ABQ is the highest U.S. metropolitan city.”
–Albuquerque Change Your Perspective, The Official Visitors Guide 2016 visitabq.org

I expressed concern in my last post, but I feel optimistic about the change we are seeing in Albuquerque and the North American Southwest.  Sometimes we worry about intractable problems but a historical perspective shakes us free of any notion that culture is static.  It’s always changing and the bicycle is a positive change agent in every sector of society.

It’s true that the bicycle is sometimes seen as an outsider on the road and held to a narrower band of acceptable behavior.  We make crazy statements that make no sense, like we could accept bicycles if they would all start following the rules.  I say that is crazy since we don’t reject cars just because some drivers don’t follow the rules.  When we say things about bicycles it really says more about our attitudes toward a minority than it does about the group we are speaking of.  Classic profiling, stigmatizing, stereotyping we see in the pattern of race, class and gender discrimination.  What has really surprised me is how many people who bicycle themselves hold these kinds of judgmental views that divide bicyclists up into categories.  I’ve been working on dissolving my own prejudices (got ’em!) and I gotta say that this is the consolation of middle age and self examination, that you get to relax and enjoy more freely.

People are people and there is no way to tell us apart without getting to know individuals.  Bicycling on the whole recharges my faith in humanity.  The positive interactions I have with citizens, the smiles, the shared knowledge, beauty of a given day, mutual admiration, connect on a bicycle.  You can make it safer.  We are lulled into a complacency enclosed in motor vehicles when in reality the mass of the vehicle plus the speeds make it the most dangerous travel mode.  People make extraordinary efforts to safeguard bicyclists and pedestrians on the roadway.  The more people out walking and biking, the more beautiful our landscape.  Springtime in Albuquerque I can’t think of a better time to ride.  Buen provecho, go get those miles and give yourself and your community the best of everything, ride a bicycle!

sun so yellow

A high desert evening with a glass sky turning westward like a magic carpet trailing a cosmic menagerie it its wake

 

Bike Friendly City

I don’t know if you follow Stephen Clark on Twitter, but you should.  Stephen used to be the bicycle coordinator for Boulder, Colorado, and now he leads the Bicycle Friendly Community program at the League of American Bicyclists.  Stephen visited ABQ last April.  He shared this story via Twitter on Minneapolis’s ascent to bicycle friendly Gold Status.
How Frozen Minneapolis Became a Biking Mecca

SVEDC mural time

I don’t think there’s any one formula for bicycling success in a city, and it has to be an ongoing and authentic process.  But there were a couple key factors in Minneapolis that sparked the journey.  The elected leadership began advocating for bicycling improvements, working with community-based organizations including the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.  Then they earned a 25 million stimulus to support new biking and walking infrastructure that tied the active transportation networks in with their “long-standing heritage of parks, trails and outdoor recreation.”  They started downtown and connected neighborhoods working in sections.  Ridership kept growing and the city’s identity coalesced around bicycling and walking.

Bear Canyon trail

In Albuquerque we have a competitive advantage with our geography.  Even if you’re into snow bikes, just go higher.  Minneapolis has “four full-time city planners dedicated to pedestrian and biking matters”.  That focus, networked with a broad alliance of supporters, committed leadership, dedicated funding, and a creative spirit, weaves together all of the community-wide assets, most importantly by nourishing social connectedness between land and people.

Trek on top

Albuquerque is a great city for bicycling.  I feel very lucky to be here.  Bicycling dovetails into everything else we’re doing from addressing climate change to creating inclusive growth with economic innovation.  From caring for human health and well being, to energy efficiency and wise land use.  Moving bicycling forward is an affordable solution, and quite fun.

References:
Here’s the article on Minneapolis:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/01/16/frozen-minneapolis-became-biking-mecca/78920880/
Photos: 1 the mural at the South Valley Economic Development Center.  2 Commute home today on the Bear Canyon Arroyo trail just west of Wyoming Blvd.  (fresh snow on the mountains is so pretty).  3  Sunday on top of the Sandia Crest looking South, what a high.
Federal Resources are available, read more here:  http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability/newsletter/january_2016/index.cfm

Land Use Planning and Better Walking and Bicycling

Land use planning and walking, bicycling and transit are intricately connected.  Planning is probably the most significant area for making transportation more sustainable by crafting our communities to the scale of human living.  Basically this means building denser, mixed use spaces that are more accessible to walk, bike and transit and that reduce demand for car travel.

city_sprawl

Good land use planning makes walk, bike and transit better transportation choices.  Good planning makes the city set up for accessibility by the most basic and efficient travel modes.  It is not something that happens automatically but is change we have to shape and work for.  I’ve heard criticisms of the Bus Rapid Transit system development on Central Ave. making the point that Central currently doesn’t have the kind of density and mixed use development that transit-oriented districts typically have.  That is an invaluable point to listen to, because it means that transportation planning and land use have to coincide for both to be successful.  Rapid Transit including bus and light rail will be most effective when we increase density in urban centers.  We have to imagine a revitalization of Central Ave. that invites more businesses and people in.

The chief advantages of living in a city are that more services are closer together and propinquity (the proximity of people) spawns creative and beneficial human interactions.  Good land use planning maximizes returns on these natural elements.  Suburban living and car lifestyles will remain popular choices, but smart growth development will mean that we start shaping our cities to open up an array of alternatives, helping variety flourish.  It means people won’t feel like they have to own a car to live here or to be taken seriously.  For most families it means the best of both worlds.  You can live where you want, drive when you want to, and you can feel safe walking and bicycling too.  For the large population that doesn’t drive or doesn’t want to drive, you can have first class transportation options too, mobility freedom for all.

Albuquerque is currently updating its Comprehensive Plan.  There are upcoming meetings to involve community members in planning.  The draft plan is online along with other documents for public review.  It is OK to ask for good transportation choices, and expect to see new patterns on the land increasing livability, health, and equity.  We are becoming something more.  I try to keep an open mind, stay involved and work for a future where we all flourish.

Resources:
Graphic from:  http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/07/7-proven-principles-designing-safer-city
https://www.planning.org/policy/guides/adopted/smartgrowth.htm
http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/planning/sample_plans.cfm
http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/guides/smart-growth-at-the-state-and-local-level/education/develop-a-land-use-and-development-curriculum-for-k-12-students/
http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/smart-growth-and-transportation
http://www.bikeleague.org/content/5-es
‘The world is run by those who show up’:  http://abc-zone.com/

Freedom Rolls

“El Paso’s streets are meant to be shared.”  –City of El Paso, streets and maintenance dept.

El Paso Bike

Bicycling El Paso and experiencing that desert city and the environs reinvigorated my senses.  El Paso is creating a comprehensive bicycle plan.  It sounds good.  The planning is being coordinated with the City, MPO and State, which owns and operates many roads in El Paso.  There are community meetings the next two months.  El Pasoans, make your voices heard.

El Paso Wyler

El paso camino buena suerte

After we returned to Albuquerque winter arrived.  I walked across the bike/ped bridge to Los Altos Golf Course and took pictures.  I-40 was closed from here clear to Texas.  I have bicycled this bridge from our home over I-40 to the bike/ped trail and back 100’s of times.  The pedaling rhythm is easy to find.  Walking the bridge on a snowy day gave me time to see more.

ABQ Los Altos Park bridge

ABQ Los Altos Park Bike-Ped Bridge

ABQ I-40 closing off and on

ABQ berries in snow

ABQ dec. snow

It felt like a blizzard but the next day I was riding outside again.  The power of the intense Southwestern sun.  A different look with mountains draped in snow and chiseled in low angled light.  There’s nothing new on earth, it’s our perceptions that open and attenuate.  Learning is stimulated by seeing distinct and a variety of places, reading, meeting people, being exposed to different ideas and cultures, exercising curiosity, thinking freely, reflecting.  Living.

ABQ La Luz resplendent

ABQ Elena Gallegos road to

Today we visited Los Poblanos, an open space preserve in the North Valley on the eastern bank of the Río Grande.  The air whooshed underneath the feathery wings of Sandhill Cranes.  I remember hearing Richard Nelson on NPR talk about how bird flight is simply extraordinary.  Indeed.  Seeing the evening unfold from Los Poblanos was more magical than staying indoors.

Mai's photo of cranes

Los Poblanos good

Los Poblanos bonsai cottonwood tree

field

I hope in 2016 I can keep bicycling daily.  I like the discipline of riding well, and the symmetry and sense of discovery it brings to life.  Everyone should have access to these freedoms.

Armendaris

depth

laid back

El Paso scenes east

 

References:

El Paso’s Bike Planning including meeting schedule and interactive map!:  http://www.elpasotexas.gov/capital-improvement/project-updates/el-paso-bike-plan

El Paso is also revitalizing a street car line between downtown and University:
http://www.sunmetro.us/streetcar.html

The Federal leadership on bicycle planning is heading in the right direction:
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design.cfm

A Beautiful City to Bicycle

On Sunday I tried a different route.  I took the Gail Ryba bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Río Grande and continued west on the I-40 trail until I reached another bike/ped bridge.  I crossed over I-40 again by Hanover Rd. to the West Mesa High School area. I’ve seen that bridge before but I’ve never used it.  It’s smooth with great views.  Working my way over to West Central I saw parts of town previously hidden to me.  From the bicycle things look and feel different.  I noticed the beautiful art work on the Unser road cut where it descends the volcanic escarpment.  I saw a horserider push the crosswalk button and trot across Alameda.  I noticed the serpentine xeriscaping down the center of I-40.  The neon artwork flickering on West Central.  The textured sands in dry arroyos.  Tumbleweeds blowing above the volcanoes, freed from fences, whipping across the west mesa.  Dust pluming up from the new development  breaking ground.   The stunning light and splash of colors at daybreak and evening time.  On Sunday I rode across five dedicated bicycle/ped. bridges.  From the mountains across the river to the volcanic west mesa and back again, what a beautiful city and State for bicycling.

the beauty of Tramway Road

route 66 sign

west mesa escarpment road cut

cool cat

Bridge over I-40

evening sky

pink sunrise

sunrise

Bicycles, Pedestrians, and Horses

West Mesa Aquatic Center

volcano road

paseo trail

Sand River

New Mexico colors

 

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

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.’
http://krqe.com/2014/06/02/d-c-group-chooses-abq-for-trail-monitoring-project/

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.
http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2014/05/30/albuquerque-s-urban-trail-use-captures-national.html

Here’s the link to the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy’s T-MAP project.
http://www.railstotrails.org/our-work/research-and-information/trail-modeling-and-assessment-platform/

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

Maple Dance

Deep in the canyons of the Manzano Mountains a special event occurs every year.  As the nights turn colder and the Fall equinox rolls by dashes of color appear amidst the green blanket of conifer forest.  Oaks turn rusty brown and maples glow yellow, orange and a fiery crimson red.

Manzano high

Manzano understory

Last year when we viewed the maples it invigorated our enthusiasm for making our home in Albuquerque.  This year my mother was here visiting and it was very enjoyable taking her to the Manzano forest to walk amongst the maples, oaks, and aspens embedded in the pine trees.

Manzano presentation

Manzano color

Manzano blue light

Manzano bloom

It rained the night before our visit.  Clouds peeled away as we arrived.  We heard water drops splashing on leaf canopies and grasses as we ambled up the forest road and trails.  Sunlight made the leaves glow.  It was like being in a 360 degree theatre except everything was live.  The light shifted as clouds washed past, momentarily eclipsing the sun.  We breathed in the aroma of wet leaves and essence of pine.  The sun warmed us even at its October angle.

Manzano coalesce sky

Manzano floor

Manzano trees

The diversity of the landscapes here creates rich habitat and environment.  It was startling to see the beauty of the maple forest up close.  The Taos Pueblo people have the sacred Blue Lakes up in their mountains as the pure source of wild water.  Albuquerque is enveloped in a wild world too, even if we are unaware or cannot always see it.  Sometimes you have to close your eyes and use your imagination to see the beauty that’s real and all around us.

Manzano bright on light

Manzano color blend

Manzano growth

The sky, the colored canopies, the evergreen boughs, the wildlife, people aloft on foot with the circling earth, magic happens when these elements come together in the high elevation sunlight of a Southwest pine forest.   Seeing the leaves changing and being there in a moment of morning glory with loved ones was an experience to remember.  I change too like the leaves, deepening my gratitude as life unfolds, growing more connected to the life that sustains us.

Manzano opening

Manzano introdcution

Manzano crooked light

Manzano soil starter

The Mystery of Albuquerque’s Development

“Nobody would teach me anything!”
–Edward Van Halen on the impetus for developing his original guitar playing style

I saw some press in the Daily Lobo and ABQ Journal on the rapid transit project this morning.  This discussion is a leap for Albuquerque.  Though we can cite other city’s projects, we truly are learning how to do great transit in Albuquerque as we go along.  The Daily Lobo article shared this photo (below) of a rendering of a transit station.  And mentioned that the Federal funds would provide 80% of the project costs.  ABQ’s investment of 20 million could return about 2-3 billion in private investment along the Central Ave. corridor.  Private investors come to where the public sector is building a strong foundation for long term community improvement.

ABQ Rapit Transit station rendering 2015.9.18

It looks like a comfortable and relaxing streetscape.  I’ve heard different arguments based on fears about the shift in modes this change offers.  Because transit, walking and biking are many times more efficient than private motor coaches, the overall capacity for helping people enjoy Central Avenue will be enhanced with improved rapid transit service.  That’s why all world class cities have invested in superb transit.  A transportation CEO would see this is as easy executive decision to make.  It’s more efficient, safer and creates better options for everyone.  Rapid transit service spans the economic continuum and includes people that can’t afford spending $10,000/year on auto travel, or who want to invest their funds in education, family travel, or other enterprises.  It helps people save money, improves the environment, and it may come in handy for all of us to let a professional do the driving from time to time.

Competitive transit creates paradigm shifts in the transportation system.  With quicker, more user friendly and reliable transit service, it becomes possible for residents off of Coors on the West Mesa, and Tramway on the East, to ride bikes, walk, or take transit to the express line and commute in to their jobs, school, or for cultural activities throughout central Albuquerque using multi mode travel.   Since this type of project planning is new to Albuquerque I think it is natural there is a learning curve, and it is a process and investment to build up the public trust.  The framework should continually be refined and strengthened by public and private partnerships working together.  The re-creation of the heart of Albuquerque is an ongoing development.  Transportation is a powerful tool to align and structure cities and attract people.

This transit is a good opportunity for spreading the goodness of Nob Hill’s stimulating and vibrant action with new iterations driven by the local themes in diverse neighborhoods.  Same great service throughout the corridor, with variations in flavor and style.  This is the core ingredient for urban vitality.  Albuquerque has it.  If anything the new rapid transit proposal is not ambitious enough, but extending service or doing light rail is considerably more expensive.  And the transit authority is already talking about the next steps in expanding service and connectivity in the system along the airport hub and Paseo del Norte corridor, which is good.

Albuquerque Rapid Tranist represents a renewal of our whole city.  A big part of our identity and how we see things stems from how we move.  Being able to sit back and relax, talk to neighbors, and make travel time productive time whether for work, reading, or resting makes a huge difference in our capacity to enjoy the amenities living in this great city offers.  We don’t have to worry about being able to enjoy our driving.  We’ll always be able to do that.  Expanding mobility freedoms and welcoming diversity in America has been key to our success.  I would dare to say that leading edge transit is an integral aspect of the new American dream.

Resources:

Vancouver’s Greenest City Plan is forward thinking, inclusive and smart.  We still have more sun.  And we have genuine, great, diverse people who deserve improvements.
http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/greenest-city-action-plan.aspx

The Daily Lobo’s article Central Rapid Transit Improves Commuter Flow
http://www.dailylobo.com/article/2015/09/plans-for-new-rapid-transit-system

The Albuquerque Journal also had an article this morning that searches for a cohesive narrative on modern transit and how it supports economic and social mobility, and makes our transportation system more robust, flexible and accessible.

Blue Horizons with SLO Initiatives

The photo below is Albuquerque’s main street circa 1960 from this article.  The article is a tough read (I don’t necessarily recommend it), but the picture shows where we are coming from.  This is the legacy we inherited and are redesigning to an environment that invites mobility freedom.

ERNST-HAAS-Alberquerque-2716744-1024x641

The San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District — slocleanair.org — is doing some really cool things.  They have this character named Eco Man who draws attention to positive behaviors.  Getting to work and conducting business in an efficient way is good and natural.  Eco Man helps trigger those thought processes and points out the exceptional power in human decision making.  Eco Man is really corny.  I like him.  I could see him working at Esperanza in ABQ.

Another dimension of creating change is putting clues and signals in the landscape, such as  infrastructure for walking and biking, that make for attractive places.  One of the changes in infrastructure we are seeing pop up around Albuquerque is the sharrow.  It is cheap and basically gets more sustainability value out of the existing infrastructure by inviting people to bicycle where they are already should be bicycling.  It is a little “yes we can”.  Yes we can bicycle and walk more beginning today Albuquerque and the American Southwest.   The sharrow and things like “share the road” signs and bike lanes help activate the sustainable transportation potential.  Keep looking for ways to use the natural and built environment in healthy ways.

piñon road

natural probike/walk attributes are abundant.  Tijeras Canyon takes you to a plethora of country roads available to pedal and Tijeras Canyon itself is a wonderful cycle route, part of Adventure Cycling’s Route 66 cross country sojourn

Bear Canyon Arroyo I-25 Bridge

The bear canyon arroyo bridge over I-25 is a delight to ride especially around dawn and dusk

2015.8.27 sunset from Bosque Trail

The Bosque Trail along the Rio Grande green belt through the middle of Albuquerque is always perfect

2015.8.27 sunset from Diversion Trail

The high desert is so very pretty at night. Albuquerque is known for lovely sunsets, beautiful skies, visual splendor

The places to ride here are amazing.  SLO has a few programs we could adopt for Albuquerque that would help incentive change here too.  I’m pulling these from their newsletter May 2015:
1) Wood burning device changout program.  They’ll give you $1,000 or $2,000 dollars to change over to a clean burning heating system.
2) Rideshare rewards.  They’ll pay you to choose an option other than driving your car solo to work or school.  It can be the bus, the bicycle, skateboard (kids are smart), telecommute, etc.
They also have a clean school bus program .  They are changing out older dirty diesel engines or adding particulate filters to make them cleaner.  This is critical since young people’s lungs are more vulnerable when developing, and also helps buoy mental attitudes when we see greener buses and heavy machinery operating with care.  I think we’ve got what it takes in Albuquerque and all we have to do is get behind initiatives that help us all and take a course of action to be a part of the positive change.  This is something that would be good to rush after.

Transformation

curves

crow flies