Category Archives: civil rights

The beautiful necessity of cycling

…human inventions are magical in that they give life to what heretofore had no existence. Our good working ideas have the capacity to direct our lives in a manner indistinguishable from any other reality.  —Cormac McCarthy, “Cormac McCarthy Returns to the Kekulé Problem” in Nautilus

The invention of cycling is a remarkable achievement.  Along with walking, cycling epitomizes sustainable transportation.  Human beings are designed to move under our own power. Walking is the most basic transportation.  A bicycle is the most basic vehicle.  By designing our cities and streets around the concept of serving walking and cycling well, we improve all types of human mobility. It is the long-term solution to our current transportation challenges.

This song by Rush, Subdivisions, reminds me of the world I grew up in.  It sometimes felt alien, partitioned, and anonymous spending so much time in automobiles.  A new degree of culture is emerging that commands our respect for the inalienable freedoms of human movement.  The culture that embraces an array of transportation opportunities dramatically improves our travel safety, and revs up our lives and economy.  Multimodal transportation–serving all travel modes–is the new helm.  This framework brings health, sustainability, and builds community.  It’s a saner world, one where we are not incessantly rushing, but spending time doing things that truly bring us joy, and listening more to what our bodies have to tell us.

An article in The Guardian today mentions “vehicles are now America’s biggest CO2 source”.  It discusses reducing emissions and improving efficiency, but not increasing walking and cycling.  It’s not an either/or proposition, it is about viewing walking and cycling as priorities, absolute necessities, basic public goods.  Without serving those choices, we are left with a conundrum.  We’ve learned structuring cities and streets around cars reduces choices.  Walking and cycling make healthier, happier people, and better places.  They’re good choices.  Everyone yearns for health, happiness and freedom.  Elevating the idea that streets are for people makes many transportation problems disappear, and creates a system that matches our human potential.


We need to get more people experiencing cycling to open minds.  It is a key technology for sustainable development.  Cycling aligns with the beautiful necessity of our human nature.  We are an animal designed to move with our legs.  The bicycle unites that reality with an ingenious tool.  Cycling is magical, like having wings or discovering new superpowers.  It changes the way we experience and perceive the world. Cycling joins the power of wheeled locomotion with the sensitivities and keen pleasures of being human.  By designing our streets to serve walking and cycling first, we’ll give rise to a new form of built-environment that connects us through our activities and makes our spirits soar higher.  Once we obey the concept of designing cities for wellness, our culture can expand in new directions, giving our dreams real leg power.

Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu


Happy New Year!

People shining in the streets

There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.  —Thomas Merton on an ordinary day in Louisville, KY

Freedom in a free society is supposed to be for all. Therefore, freedom rules out imposing on the freedom of others. You are free to walk down the street, but not to keep others from doing so. –George Lakoff, “Why Hate Speech is Not Free Speech

One of the most beautiful experiences in any city is the street scene, with all kinds of people moving around.  When we are missing that, we lose a certain sense of community.  That’s why it is so essential to design our streets around a social operating concept.  Streets can imbue human beings with a sense of dignity.  They are one of our most interactive spaces.

When UNM President Chaouki Abdallah first visited Albuquerque, he thought “it looked like a Third World Country”.  Then he woke up the second day, saw the mountains, and thought “this could work”.  As we reimagine our city, remember the environment we build is human habit, natural habitat, we live here.  And our streetscapes are a product of our collective imagination.

When people are walking and cycling about, shining in our streets, a sense of buoyancy abounds.  It’s uplifting to all of us, our common humanity.  Let’s encourage more of that with planning and designs.  And make sure we integrate everything we need to live with conviviality, including all of nature.  Our streets help us become native to place.  We can feel at home here. Imagine living happily and healthily on safe and peaceful streets, for us, and for our children.

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  — H.G. Wells

UNM President on an unlikely journey

Walking for Health and Designing for People

“We started with a hundred idealistic cyclists…then we evolved because we found common cause with walking: streets that are unsafe for biking are also difficult to cross for pedestrians.”  —Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place  meets next in Vancouver, BC, September 12-15, 2016

“Transportation engineers are spending millions on developing automated people-mover systems.  But the best, by far, is a person.”
–William H. Whyte, City: Rediscovering the Center

Walking is the universal and essential means for human mobility.  America Walks is an advocacy organization working to improve walking.  They are accepting applications for Walking College 2016 to train community advocates.  This is a winning strategy for implementing policies linking health and transportation together.  Social change occurs through community networks at the local and grass roots levels.  Walking College helps graduates to cross pollinate dialogue in public health, planning, transportation, and education, based on community needs, and reach across scales to achieve local, national and global coordination.  Here are particular skills one may acquire at Walking College, according to their website.

The curriculum has been designed to nurture the development of the “hard” and “soft” skills that are necessary to become effective change agents.

“Hard” skills include: 
The science behind the benefits of walking
Ability to evaluate the built environment, master the public policy process, and understand how projects can be funded with local, state, and federal dollars
Knowledge in specific campaign areas, such as access to transit and “Vision Zero”

“Soft” skills include:
Communications, relationships, and building trust
Fostering a local advocacy movement with diverse stakeholders
Engaging effectively with decision-makers

See more at America Walks

America Walks Federal Policy Position Paper

At the Margin of Safety

“The only problem with the law is that nobody but cyclists know it.”  –Steve Tilford

One of the more discouraging aspects of bicycling is the too-close pass.  Unsafe passing is always physically scary but it can be especially tough mentally when it’s intentional.  I saw this comment on Steve Tilford’s blog:  “I don’t know how many times in my lifetime I’ve had people yell single file to me.  Probably 1000’s.”  For people to flourish on public roads, to make them healthier roads, we have to target threatening, intimidating and irresponsible behaviors.   We are advancing civil rights in many social areas, why not transport?  We all know that mobility is fundamental to American identity, we are a people on the move.  This song reminds me of these bicycling times, “not the best of times but they’re the only times I’ve ever known”.

kimo tickets

The hardest part of the violence I’ve witnessed (first hand and through story) is the damage it does to people and communities.  Perfectly healthy well adjusted people saying I’m not sure if it is worth it if I can’t stay safe out here cycling.  Tilford has another post about the upsurge in gravel road riding, in part driven by the desire to avoid motorized traffic.  I would say the majority of bicyclists prefer mountain biking simply because it feels safer.  There are positive drivers for off road cycling–the beauty and solitude backcountry affords, the intimate contact with the textures of raw earth felt through your tires, the technical challenges–but much of it is driven by avoidance, people who just don’t want to deal with the chaotic behavior on roads.  People want to support bicycling for all good reasons, begin by enforcing safety on the road.

Sunset last evening

The best address I’ve read for this was produced by the American Psychological Association’s “Task Force on Reducing and Preventing Discrimination Against and Enhancing Benefits of Inclusion of People Whose Social Identities Are Marginalized in U.S. Society”.   They did this report called Dual Pathways to a Better America  that is really succinct and universal.  The premise basically is that promoting diversity is the proper anecdote.  The bicycling community is well aware that acculturation to bicycling–when it is naturalized and people become accustomed to it, and most people do it at one time or another–disarms that “otherness” and creates a normalcy, helping us connect as humans.  “Discrimination, stereotyping and bias generate exclusion and marginalization for certain groups and wrap a blanket of inclusion, security and opportunity around others…Irrefutable psychological evidence supports the understanding that everyone is affected by systems of discrimination, and when these systems are challenged, the eventual acceptance of and support for social diversity is exponentially healthier for everyone” (APA report, introduction).  The intolerable part about biases in transportation (including the conception of privilege) is that human life is in the balance.

I’ll be writing a lot about this, but for now, there’s an important quote here from the FHWA approach for accommodating active transport:

“There is no question that conditions for bicycling and walking need to be improved in every community in the United States; it is no longer acceptable that 6,000 bicyclists and pedestrians are killed in traffic every year, that people with disabilities cannot travel without encountering barriers, and that two desirable and efficient modes of travel have been made difficult and uncomfortable.”

Crest arrow

This FHWA document is insightful and thorough in its evaluation and disruption of the status quo, and recommends good changes.   This is a call to action that takes responsibility and changes attitudes.   The Vision Zero framework, one that approaches every traffic injury as preventable, is helpful moving forward.  “Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority” is principle number one.  If we change our attitudes and make people the priority we win, and the world and the roads connecting it will be a better place, good times to come.  Then the stories we write about the road, our hopes and dreams, will help to move us forward.

Telling It Like It Is

‘Courage is like a muscle.  Keep on using it and the stronger it gets’.  –The Daily Word,

The Southwest Bike Initiative’s bike org. of the month for October 2015 is US Military Endurance Sports.  They’re a non-profit supporting endurance athletes, sports education and activities for current, retired, and veteran members of the United States Uniformed Services.  I raced with one of their members during the Everest Challenge bicycling event in September 2014.  It was inspiring to ride up those mountains with him.  Their motto is Fit for Duty, Fit for Life.

US Military Team

Endurance sports such as cycling are perfect  avenues for training the mental and physical fitness one needs to perform in challenging situations.  The kind of muscle suppleness and fluidity bicycling develops makes everything else flow more smoothly in life.  I think endurance cycling especially helps with mental resilience and prepares the athlete in us  to bounce back and recover.  Most of all the teamwork in road cycling is a great platform to foster cooperation and unspoken bonds between people.  In cycling we learn how to intuitively know how our teammates are doing, and we also learn to assess our selves and test our judgments in adverse conditions.  It is difficult to say exactly what the most rewarding part of cycling is, but certainly being able to sacrifice myself during races for the betterment of my team, and to see my team achieve an objective, is something that has stayed with me and strengthened with time.

I was privileged to recently hear a member of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s department speak to a gathering of cyclists.  He was deployed twice in the US Army and after four years of service, became a law enforcement officer.  Then he joined the bike unit and performs much of his patrol on the bike.  He said the most difficult part of bicycling safely is using the general travel lane when you need to, for instance to avoid debris, to elevate your visibility, and avoid right edge hazards such as cars pulling out from driveways, or cars turning right and left in front of you.  It takes courage to ride a bike in a safe manner and I am grateful to be part of a very large, diverse and wholesome bunch of people that finds benefits in doing it.  I’m ready for duty.

These photos are from the US Military Endurance Sports website:



US Military Endurance Sports - Fit to Fight, Fit for Life

US Military Endurance Sports - Fit to Fight, Fit for Life

Ethics in Driving

“Too often, bicyclists are treated as scapegoats for the consequences of negligent motoring behaviors.”  –BikeWalk NC on developing a culture of driving at a safe speed

The article the leading quote is from reminded me of a main barrier for promoting bicycling.  The State Traffic Engineer is quoted as indicating bicyclists should ride on the right edge of a narrow rural lane road.  The engineer’s guidance is opposite of what we know to be safe.  The League of American Bicyclists smart cycling guide advises “when a lane is too narrow to share safely, ride in the middle of the lane”.   What can we do about this discrepancy?

We begin with taking responsibility for making bicycling safety common knowledge.  Part of this process is releasing any prejudices that prevent us from acting on right knowledge even when we know it to be true.  Often times when people say conditions are unsafe for bicycling or walking, the unspoken part is that it is unsafe because of the way people are driving.  If we are driving and our braking distance exceeds the sight distance, we are driving too fast for conditions.  Driving too fast for conditions is a behavior that makes roads unsafe for all users.  BikeWalk NC concludes that developing a culture of safer speeds involves shifting the focus away from blaming vulnerable people using the road to raising the expectations for drivers.

This mindset for universal road safety is essential for those in leadership positions.  We can not afford for State Engineers to be aloof on safety.  When I first started talking to people about bike safety, I was shocked with how many people either had the wrong idea or denied the safety of bicyclists.  I spoke to a county supervisor and a board member of a bicycling advocacy organization that expressed the exact sentiment as this State Engineer.  Rather than blaming, we can simply begin by cultivating appropriate attitudes based on responsibility and safety.  Individuals changing can inspire confidence.  We have to change the way we think about driving cars by envisioning driving in a way that is compatible with bicycling, walking, and safety for all.


BikeWalkNC is a cutting edge advocacy group.  I’m really impressed by the way they are leading the way through persistent challenges by fostering clear and constructive dialogue.  Thank you!

Designing and Educating for Bicycling

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  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!

long Crest road

NM Law Enforcement Memorial Ride

“I would say do something local.  Do something real, however, small…We need to embrace the idea that we are the leaders we’ve been looking for.”  –Grace Lee Boggs, from Bill Moyers Journal

If you’re not going to the Tour of the Gila bicycle events this weekend in Silver City, NM, consider doing something even more local.  On May 2 there is fundraising bicycle ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe that pays tribute to law enforcement officers in New Mexico that died in the line of duty.  The classic route follows Central Avenue through the heart of Albuquerque, then braids through Tijeras Canyon before turning north where it follows the Turquoise Trail past small villages set in the finest high desert landscape in America on the way to Santa Fe.


The journey begins downtown on Central Ave. following old route 66 east.  Albuquerque is remaking this corridor into a multimodal transit way with a sleeker bus service called Bus Rapid Transit that brings benefits of light rail.   This shift combined with mixed use development can transform neighborhoods, enabling residents and visitors to explore and meet daily needs  with greater ease and more good travel choices.  What would you like to see as you pedal your way down Central Avenue?  Central Ave’s iconic resonance plays a big roll in the regional and American imagination, making it a natural magnet for attracting our talents.  With strong transit available people have quality time freed up.  Propinquity, the nearness to one another, is one of the advantages of cities.  Transit puts this to use.  People interacting directly–including incidental and spontaneous meetings while biking, walking, and taking transit–can be productive.  Face to face interactions spur innovation and creative economic development.   Making it better for people bicycling, walking and riding transit is a positive factor for creating a sustainable sense of place that is healthy and alluring.  Welcoming people to enjoy life in an attractive and inviting streetscape makes it exciting and safer for everyone.  A new era is beginning to take shape on Central.

Leaving New Mexico’s largest city, the transition from the open plains of the middle Río Grande into winding Tijeras Canyon immerses the riders in a geologic wonderland folded between the areas two largest mountain ranges, the Sandias and Manzanos.  Six miles later riders emerge on the other side in a piñon juniper forestland and the Village of Tijeras.  As you go north this charming desert landscape opens up with enormous vistas across the Río Grande valley to the Jemez Mountains.  The small towns you pass through along the way such as Madrid and Golden display unique character.  The pine speckled hills of the Ortiz Mountains lend stunning intimacy and great depth.  This is a one good way to pay tribute to the sacrifice and service of New Mexico’s finest and open up our hearts to celebrate our way of life, and to say thank you.

Here’s the website to register:

Some of this route is used by the Santa Fe Century on May 17.  If you love the high desert and community spirit of New Mexico, you’ll like this:

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

There is nothing that makes my heart’s yearning for liberty beat stronger than a bicycle ride through the Sunday Morning Aire

The biggest challenge of our times is keeping a healthy environment that will last and help human beings flourish for a long time to come.  If America is going to get serious about being a world leader in this respect then we have to make a full commitment to addressing transportation sustainability.  Our current transportation environment puts a serious chill on the free and safe movement of people by basic modes such as bicycling and walking.  Bicycling and walking are obvious assets for our physical needs and our economic ones, plus hugely significant for the uplift they provide in our spiritual, emotional and intellectual well being.  What are the barriers prohibiting people to move as freely on a bicycle and by feet as we get around in our automobiles?  What can we do to better support and encourage citizens to feel confident and strong making strides and taking rides?  How can we better realize mobility freedom and treat people with dignity now matter how they choose to get around?

The old order of car-centered destinies is being balanced by an emergent desire to have complete streets and roadways that include bicyclists and pedestrians with both infrastructure accommodations and a culture of egalitarian sharing.  Self propelled travelers are building a dimension in sustainable transportation based on John F. Kennedy’s articulation of American values–whether or not “we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated”–raising expectations that walkers and bikers travel with first class priority just as motorists experience.   This new shared road paradigm diffuses power across transportation modes and incentivizes responsible freedom.  Why would we expect anything less than for people to want viable options to utilize the transportation system as walkers and bikers and have full access to all the benefits the pursuit of happiness entails?  The yearnings we feel in car culture for security, self expression, mobility, and connection are expressed through biking and walking with equal zest and exuberance.  Seeking fulfillment by moving freely is a fundamental liberty with deep roots, and we must evolve and rebalance our transportation system to respect the opportunity to engage in beneficial bicycling and walking.  Transportation freedom involves us.

Full equality in transportation planning doctrine and equal protection under the law, a Constitutional right, have not yet been realized.  Bicycles are given full status as vehicles on the road but most States have “far to the right” clauses that create confusing dualities.  Discriminatory legal codes sap oxygen from a secure riding environment by articulating rights in the negative, placing bicyclist legal status on defensive ground and empowering those who see cyclists as a subordinate class.  Even with clarified laws, driving educators and the public have a long challenge ahead building an inclusive culture that accounts for the after waves of long practiced bias and neglect that left walkers and bikers out and ignored basic needs and legalized prejudice.  We can overcome this inheritance and make transportation sustainability and equality a central matter of everyday life by looking forward and upwards and making policy and law centered on our common understanding of human dignity and what it means to be human wanting to move freely under one’s own power.

Folks advocating for a multifaceted and holistic view of the transportation system are not promoting a cause but are everyday people who’ve encountered significant impediments going about a regular life that includes substantial walking and biking.  Bicycling and walking clearly call for across the aisle support as quality of life issues.   We can see that they are integrated into our conceptions of building a stronger and more sustainable America going forward.  Using our ingenuity we can create a lifestyle that makes us early adopters of transportation principles that define our values and help liberty shine beyond the status quo, making our claims to leadership in being generators of attractive lifestyles easier to support.   Integrating good opportunities for biking and walking into our street life is important for our self esteem and world image for defending rights and dignity and promoting freedom, health and happiness.

What can we do now?  Raise expectations for those people in power to implement change.  Hold elected officials accountable for establishing better safeguards to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, and for overseeing the allocation of resources for planning measures that distribute investment throughout all transportation modes, not favoring the stronger establishment of one mode over another, but empowering everyone.  Invest law enforcement protection equally to all human beings regardless of transportation status.  Work together to promote a balanced transportation environment that promotes self determination and equal opportunity rather than limiting us to one default choice, whether or not we want to do it.  We must work the democratic process to lift the expectations of how bicyclists and walkers are treated, and ensure demeaning and bigoted treatments are no longer within the boundaries of acceptable human relations.  We insist on accepting that the human spirit’s motivation to move should be freely expressed in diverse ways.  The transportation environments we build are reflective of this diversity, and expand the human spirit, not diminish it.  Our mobility is important physically but just as much symbolically of what it means to be free.  Ring your bicycle bell and let’s get moving.  Walkers and bikers are not beyond anybody’s comprehension.  We are everybody.  The need to move and associate freely by your chosen means is a basic human right and cannot be segregated away, and deserves to be undifferentiated and dignified by the State and people.  Let’s live it daily.

downtown Santa Fe is a pretty good place to explore on foot

downtown Santa Fe is fun to explore on foot with its compact density, surprising charms and delicious food

the natural environment is a stimulating and uplifting place to walk

the natural environment is a stimulating and uplifting place to walk.  let’s embellish these elements with our buildings

Being out in the open air makes me feel good and its carbon neutral

Being out in the open air makes me feel good and its cheaper than a movie theatre, and with much better light

letter to the editor published

The local newspaper the AZ Daily Sun published a letter I wrote.  Thank you!  We have such a beautiful cross section of citizens riding bicycles and it is important to care for one another and work together to make our roads healthy and safe for all.  We are the fabric of community.