Every effort to promote bicycling hinges on a clear understanding of how bicycling works in the context of the overall transportation ecosystem. The guiding principle for bicycling is commonly referred to as vehicular cycling. A more modern term is bicycle driving. It is the basis for safe coexistence with traffic and conforming to the rules of the road. If you’ve ever operated your bicycle on an ordinary residential street, going with traffic, then you’re already doing it. Bicycle driving is what is taught in the Safe Routes To Schools curriculum, and every other bicycling education program. Complete Streets is the design aspect for bringing bicycling into the mainstream by designing streets for bikes. The educational component is bicycle driving, and it instills confidence for people to be fully empowered to use bicycles to travel anywhere.
The Bike League’s curriculum and all bicycling education programs are designed “to create a mindset that bikes are treated as a vehicle” (from becoming an instructor). This mindset instills a sense of proportional responsibility and is the basis of appropriate relationships for bicyclists to all kinds of traffic and traffic control devices. This mindset shared by all sets the tone for great streets and trails. On the multiuse trail this principle guides bicycles to yield to pedestrians and equestrians, gauging travel speeds accordingly. On the road the bicycle driving principle means the most predicable, safe, and visible way to move is with the vehicular traffic flow. Even when there is physical separation between motorized traffic and bicycle traffic, such as with a protected bike lane, the motions of the two traffic streams must always be coordinated and mutually aware. This is especially true at intersections, driveways, and parking zones when traffic mixes and the cooperative environment depends on predictable movements, communication, awareness, negotiation, and common rules to which all traffic adheres. Complete Streets policies support design environments that welcome bicycle traffic and lower traffic stress so that people have a better chance to positively orient to the road with whichever mode they choose. A Complete Street is as an inclusive place and built on the underlying structure of relationships between varying types of traffic. Traffic skills education is a complimentary factor that facilitates pleasant travel by fostering order and raising awareness. Design and education work in tandem to promote good bicycling.
Most people have some reservations about bicycling because they are not clear how bikes fit in. Forward looking solutions include education for drivers to respect all kinds of traffic, and treating bicycles as an equal vehicle, welcoming diversity. Most bicycle traffic occurs on roads without a designated bicycle facility such as a bicycle lane. A regular travel lane needs to be at least 14 feet wide for it to be safely shared side by side by a car and a bicycle. Seeing bicycle traffic using a general travel lane may look different than what we are used to. I trust we are acclimating to bicycles as a normal component of traffic and civic life in the mainstream, just like we are welcoming diverse religions, cultures, and lifestyles. Change takes a new attitude, an open mind, and in the case of roads, traffic calming and the conception of an inclusive space.
Bicycles are good for the transportation ecosystem. As we design and educate better for bicycles, include bicycle traffic in our engineering metrics and traffic flow analysis, and we learn more about what bicycling can do for us and we do it more, things are going to get a lot easier, safer and more attractive. The quicker we can make these changes, the sooner we can move ahead. In the Southwest, Utah and Colorado are already in the bike friendly top ten.
For understanding bicycling, I’ve benefited from the generosity of the creator of azbikelaw.org. For the last two years, Ed has suggested reading related to bicycle law, roadway design, engineering, and traffic behavior. He has a “do it yourself” entrepreneurial attitude and continues his education, applying critical thinking and analytical skills to practical experience to spur progress. Ed responds cordially to questions, and links people to resources. Always there to foster more informed dialogue. Some of the lessons were tough, like the lessons from a cyclist who was killed by a hit from behind on a charity ride in Cornville. Ed’s analysis and documentation is brave and courageous, like the novelist Cormac McCarthy’s willingness to tell the story of violence in Western culture and its continuum past to present. AZ Bike Law is my August 2015 Bike Org of the Month. Thanks for your diligence and enthusiasm Ed.
Please be kind to persons bicycling, walking, rolling, driving autos and commercial vehicles. Drive with care and caution. Forgiveness and understanding. We are all learning. Gracias!
The photos from the last Chaco Canyon post were from my cell phone. The photos in this post are from Mai’s Nikon camera. The Nikon images are better, but the landscape essence always comes through. Chaco is a sensuous yet austere location. The sky is so deep and the land is elevated right up into it. The atmosphere is thin, bright and lucid. Chaco feels centered in the Universe. There are very few humans there yet it is not lonely. The built environment is a book written on the land. The only legacy we left at Chaco Canyon were footprints in the sand, and ash in the fire ring. Our time there was quiet, a whisper to eternity, like a light breeze.
I appreciate more the way time spent in a landscape can work on you. It was a subtle thrill being in Chaco Canyon for three days and two nights. Living outdoors in the vivid morning light, long summer day, and under evening skies soothed us. Magnificence is out in the open at Chaco Canyon, on every surface. Cherishing being present and paying attention sharpens life.
One of the mysteries harkening forth at Chaco is what is means to develop a sustainable society. It is apparent at Chaco that we are a part of nature and the forms and monuments we make are made up of this raw material and return to it, just like we do. If we combine the analytical tools we have with history, writing, science, and add multicultural perspectives with the values of thinking seven generations ahead and beyond, you realize we can accomplish a lot now that future generations will be grateful for. We have explored to the ends of the earth and we solidly understand this is our one and only home. At Chaco home feels good.
Chaco speaks to universal human values beyond short term economic boom and bust cycles. The oil and gas industry in the San Juan Basin has created a sprawling industrial infrastructure web across the plateau landscape. This energy won’t last long, but the remediation legacy will, and permanent changes are happening in the atmosphere, on the surface, and below ground. The precious fossil energy fuels our journey. But what is our vision for where we are going with this development. The lesson of taking care of the landscape that takes care of us is a principle that guides us. Sustainable development is a creative, forward looking, purposeful work.
With the Antiquities Act of 1906 we increased our valuation of this Chacoan heritage. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes Chaco as a world heritage site. One notable aspect is much of the building and infrastructure such as roads appear to have aesthetic values above all else. Their major function was to serve as a cultural center and to express and direct a world view. These sophisticated elements of society imbue our lives with meaning and gratification beyond basic necessities. Chaco tells stories of human beings reaching out to make sense of our works on this earth. Chaco is a great place to ride your bike, walk around, look, think and listen. Absorb the place. Stay awhile.
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.
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.
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.
‘Tis fruition, and not possession, that renders us happy. –Michel de Montaigne, On the Inequality Amongst Us
I came home from riding Sunday and this Ikebana arrangement pictured above had been created in our home. Mai calls it Fall Celebrations. During this time of culmination we absorb the benefits of the fertile summer season and are subdued by the power of nature.
“He has a great train, a beautiful palace, so much credit, so many thousand pounds a year; all these are about him, but not in him.” –Montaigne
And I’m reminded when I take a bike ride how rich I feel. How the wealth of these lands, these public places, are here for all of us to share and enjoy. And the treasure they hold is the same power that flows in and animates me. I try to emulate the smooth and perpetual force.
Each bike ride is perfect and makes me happy. It is nothing we can possess but only something to do, a journey. And if you have good lungs and able feet, the power is all yours.
“Every man frames his own fortune.” –Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus, quoted in Montainge
The integrity of nature is something we are born into. All we can do is live wisely and help other people do the same. Montaigne says “nothing is so distasteful and clogging as abundance.” This is true when it comes to unnecessary material possessions. And also true when we regard the world’s material wealth as something inexhaustible and ours for the taking. Biking and walking helps me harvest the wealth that is free and naturally replenished. The only development required is that of my own capacity for being, and faith and freedom in becoming.
Above photo from the New Mexico Safe Routes to School Handbook at the excellent Active Transportation Tookit designed by Tim Rogers at the Santa Fe Conservation Trust. Thank you for scaling up the sustainability excellence in New Mexico.
There are so many places to bike in and around Albuquerque. Early Monday morning before sunrise I pedaled up the Paseo de las Montañas toward the Sandia Mountains and watched sunrise near Elena Gallegos park. And this morning I rode west crossing the Río Grande and warmed up underneath the basalt rock Volcano Cliffs. Still using my cell phone for photos.
Albuquerque is built on gravel and sand in the Río Grande rift valley, which is one of the youngest and largest continental rift valleys on earth, geologically similar to the East African rift valley. The river has followed the rift valley south from Colorado. It is no wonder this place is so ecologically diverse and interesting, with these geological processes at work. The Sandia Mountains are the oldest rock around Albuquerque and make up the eastern edge of the rift valley. They are fault block mountains and 1.4 billion years old. The trails in the High Desert and Elena Gallegos areas are so well maintained I can get up there with my trusty Trek bike.
The volcanic fields on the west side in the following pictures are relatively young. The volcanoes erupted 140,000-220,000 years ago. The magma worked its way up through a fissure crack and spattered through a series of cones. The three main cones–Vulcan, Black, and JA–are subtle yet beautiful imprints on the western horizon, clearly visible from almost anywhere in town. The Río Grande channel erodes the lowest area between the Sandia and Volcanoes and the edge of the river’s erosion is the volcanic escarpment on the west mesa, or Volcano Cliffs.
I was amazed encountering these flowers today. We have Broom Dalea (purple sage), Jimson Weed, Sand Sage, and abundant sunflowers. This is my first August here in Albuquerque and the landscape’s variation through the season is remarkable. The volcanoes didn’t look like this earlier this year. The diversity between the east side of the valley and the west side is stunning. It makes for a quite a special place to live and ride, and makes it difficult to pick the better side. Both incredible. I’m building posts covering the bike infrastructure on both sides.
Check out the New Mexico Natural History museum’s page on ABQ’s volcanic field: http://nmnaturalhistory.org/albuquerque-volcanic-field
West Side Ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/366589747/embed/38af43a2617e9ce7c937129439cbc28f3f5aaa8c East Side Ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/365771025/embed/d06dde695373b3504de545740822933db6e3093f
Albuquerque City Council unanimously adopted the Bikeways and Trails Facility Plan on May 18, 2015. This plan builds on many years of hard work and specifies next steps in the progression for increasing bicycling friendliness. The plan’s champion Councilor Isaac Benton said this was a long time coming and took a multi department effort that was boosted by advocacy from the entire community. Bicycling is generating an atmosphere of excitement in Albuquerque, NM.
I’m including a link to the actual City Council proceedings because it tells a tremendous story. This was a community moment where the long struggle to realize a vision of better bicycling was recognized. The prevailing sense is that bicycling connects people together, and better bicycling advances all of humanity. People really want this, and are doing the work to make it happen. There was a pause to take stock and celebrate all the hard work it has taken to get the plan this far. It hasn’t been easy, but challenges increase rewards, and people were feeling the joy in that. There is also a sense of focused excitement and obligation of duty–a sense of purpose–that there is more to come as we look toward the horizon. We can apply what we’ve learned and use the innovations happening in cycling transportation to carry momentum forward into the implementation process. We want to keep everyone involved and engage more people in sharing the enthusiasm for bicycling.
Four speakers provided public comment prior to the vote. Mike Trujillo recounted how safety has improved and new facilities have opened up access for bicycling. He uses the Gail Ryba bridge to reach the west side and the Coal, Lead, and MLK Blvd. improvements help connect downtown and the river to the university, the community college, Nob Hill, and the southeast neighborhoods. Stephen Verchinski urged everyone to keep pushing for elevating Albuquerque’s bicycle friendly status. Stephen advocated for ongoing leadership from Council. Channeling our care and energy, we can aim for silver, then gold level status for bicycling friendliness, and beyond. John Thomas provided community perspective on the importance of access for all kinds of users. John emphasized connectivity, and building up the engineering practices for bicycling and walking transportation. Julie Luna discussed achievements in consistency and coordination with long range planning efforts at the regional level, and the cooperative spirit developing between different agencies. Everyone sees our understanding of how to better accommodate people bicycling and walking is evolving.
The Council’s reflections on their own bicycling activites produced smiles. Councilor Sanchez recognized the effectiveness of Councilor Benton’s engagement with stewarding bicycling. The pay off is huge. We see what we’ve learned on this journey and channel our efforts to galvanize community and unite us as one team working for a common goal. The Council recognizes the affinity of Albuquerque’s relationship with health, wellness, and vibrant outdoor life. Council President Rey Garduño spoke of Albuquerque as a place that is mentioned in the same breath as world class bicycling. That is a vision worth working towards.
Thanks to continuous work on refining the bike and trails plan, we have a good roadmap for taking the next steps. It takes a whole team and the entire city staff should be commended. Planner Carrie Barkhurst and city council staff Andrew Webb were both recognized by City Council for providing a high level of leadership and keeping the different elements–elected officials, professional staff, community advisors and advocates–involved and moving forward. A particular note of accomplishment is the emphasis on user friendliness in the bikeways and trails system. The user experience is always placed at the center, and Carrie and Andrew led the way for keeping everyone in touch with that and working together.
In the video you can scroll down to the index and select the bike plan agenda item:
Video of City Council discussing and passing Albuquerque Bike Plan
Finally some photos I took yesterday on my lunch ride. Give the desert some rain and it blooms to purple. What a place to live, work, and bicycle. I love bicycling in Albuquerque.
Today’s ride went longer than expected. I wanted to do something new and Sensei Drew had told me about this great ride to San Ysidro that Kent Bostick’s group used to do from his Corrales perch. It was a gorgeous sunny day with temperatures not reaching much above 50.
It was a new route for me going through Rio Rancho and it was intimidating being on 528 with fast traffic and sometimes five lanes in my direction! But the engineers either had a bike lane or a big shoulder (with bike symbol stenciled signs). The hardest part is getting through intersections and navigating the straight path through while negotiating with right turning traffic. The merge zone, where the bike lane is dotted, is an incredibly vulnerable place for bicyclists. I always do shoulder checks to be sure I’m synchronizing well with traffic.
Highway 550 has a smooth shoulder with rumble strips separating it from the travel lanes. The speed limit is 70mph once you clear Rio Rancho so good thing the shoulder is nice and wide. The only complaint I had was the diesel traffic fumes from the heavy trucks and domestic pick ups. It kind of reminds me of when I went to truck driving school and walked into the classroom and smelled the heavy soot that was hovering about the yard from the idling trucks that had drifted in the door with us. Would love to see diesels retro fit with particulate filters. The American Lung Society would too. That we haul “energy star” products around and build LEED certified buildings with dirty heavy equipment signals we are in a transition phase to truly clean.
Once clear of Rio Rancho, which has to be the least dense and most sprawling of cities anywhere, you pass a series of small Pueblos, the Santa Ana Pueblo, the Zia Pueblo, the Jemez Pueblo. The views are wide open and country magnificent. People very friendly. I can’t believe how many smiles come across faces here when people greet each other or are just passing by.
Soundtrack: The Nearness of You
I was lucky to be shown the long way around the Sandia Mountains today. First we headed north along the Rio Grande to the San Felipe Pueblo. Then east on a dirt road past the ghost town of Hagen. We emerged on La Madera road and reconnected with the Turquoise Trail and continued around back to town. Here’s a map.
Today I felt no inclination to ride quickly. I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it all. Sometimes I tend to rush through things but today I was happy in the here and now.
The road bike builds intimate connections between riders and places. There are not many barriers or screens between us and the world when we are riding a bike. Being in the open air is simply exhilarating.
It seems paradoxical to be so at ease on a bicycle in a far away and remote place but that’s how I feel when I give myself up to the adventure. The self reliance and freedom bicycling involves brings a relaxed sense of security. To know the shape of the day and the landscape so intimately are gifts indeed.
We rode down by the river yesterday to keep it simple. We took a meander across Montano to Rio Grand Blvd and then on some back roads. We saw llama, ostrich, geese, horses and more throughout this luxurious green belt space flowing through the center of Albuquerque.
The nights are getting cold here to near freezing. The days warm up under the Southwest sun. The low angles of the light and cooler air combine for sharpness and clarity.
Mai mentioned her body metabolism was lifted all day by this lunchtime ride. Bicycling as I understand it is the best aerobic activity for your heart second to only cross country skiing. I’ve met people in their 60’s taking bicycling up as a regular part of their life because of the manifold benefits both physical and mental.
Bicycle travel to me seems to have a lot in common with traveling by horse. You warm up to the world and feel a part of the “ocean of existence”. With the busy city swirling all around us we entered the realm of river time and had a nice ride immersed in this colorbanded world.