Category Archives: multimodal outlook

Riding for Nathan

Last Saturday Nathan Barkocy’s family, friends, teammates and the community gathered for a bicycle ride on the Bosque Trail.   We rode together to rally for his full recovery.  Nathan was injured just over a week ago when a motor vehicle collided into him.  Nathan is struggling for his life.  The Albuquerque Journal published this news story on the collision and Nathan’s life.

Ride for Nathan long train

Ride for Nathan pacelining

Ride for Nathan bike train























On the ride I moved up along the left side of the group.  I wasn’t sure why as I’m usually content to sit at the back of a group.  I guess I wanted to get a sense of who was on the ride and visit with various people.  There was a place next to one rider and I pulled alongside.  It was Earl.

Ride for Nathan Mr. Gage

Ride for Nathan Earl

I like riding with Earl.  We talked and caught up and worked together to safely pass pedestrians and slower riders.  We glided in each other’s slipstream to close gaps.  What a naturally gifted rider.  We shared stories of how we fell into bicycling.  How it fit us.  It just clicked.  The world speaks in whispers.  We marveled at the excitement and joy bicycling funnels into our lives.

Ride for Nathan all together

Ride for nathan big group

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about 500,000 injuries per year are caused by distracted driving of motor vehicles in the United States.  Every day about 10 people are killed and over 1000 people are injured by distracted drivers.   There are three main types of distraction.  Visual: taking your eyes off the road.  Manual: taking your hands off the wheel. and Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.  Every road user is at risk from distracted driving.

Ride for Nathan the card

Ride for Nathan flag

Nathan’s team did a wonderful job organizing the event.  They had a huge card we all signed and we mixed afterwards and talked.  In this country and world we can’t afford the price on human life and dignity to have random and senseless violence happening to free souls pursuing health and happiness and working toward their dreams.  This problem is worth paying attention to and preventing.  We must band together as a community of drivers and change our driving behaviors so driving responsibly is the norm, and nothing less is accepted.  With power comes more responsibility.  Exercising a responsible freedom gives everyone a chance to thrive.

Nathan’s team:
Nathan’s caringbridge site:
CDC resources on distracted driving:
The USDOT’s distracted driving page:
The NHTSA site on driving safely:
USDOT’s bike-ped safety initiative:
Context Sensitive Driving

Traffic Safety for All People

All men are one and there is no other tale to tell.  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
He said that the way of the road was the rule for all upon it.  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing


Public roads are inclusive of travel by walking and bicycling.  This is common understanding.  Safe passing is the responsibility of the overtaking driver.  Wait until it is safe. Traffic flow is about people, more than just cars.  Look for me.  I will look for you.  We have to look for each other and travel with care.  Every road user has the same expectation for safe travel.

One misconception is that bicycles cannot impede traffic.  That is false.  The traffic impeding law in New Mexico only applies to motor vehicles.  The movement of cyclists on the road at speeds safe and reasonable for bicycles is normal and expected.  Speed differentials are balanced by calming faster vehicular traffic.  When bikes and pedestrians are around please slow down.

A second misunderstanding is that bicycles should always be far right.  That is false.  One of the most effective proactive safety techniques for cycling is traveling where cars generally do, or just to the right.  This is because the movement of bicycles is akin to the movement of cars, and that is where people are looking.  Proper positioning increases visibility, helps avoid right edge hazards, and prevents the most common crash types which includes falls from surface hazards, vehicle turning conflicts, and driveway pullouts.  If the right lane is too narrow to share with a vehicle side by side (generally the minimum width for side by side sharing is 14-15′), bicyclists may use any part of the lane for safety.  Edge riding around the white line can increase the likelihood of a close pass or sideswipe.  Educated cyclists will often center themselves in the lane or ride just right of center to clearly indicate they are using the lane.  This makes bicyclists conspicuous, more visible, and makes their movement more predictable, because they’re clearer of hazards and can hold a line without having to frequently move laterally to avoid debris and pass obstacles.  It also signals to cars that they must changes lanes to pass, and puts bicyclists in a clear field of vision.  Plus good lane positioning gives bicyclists better sight lines through intersections, past driveways, and around corners.  Bike lanes may have the pitfalls of right edge riding depending on their design and conditions.  Safe bicyclists use them with caution and care.  Change lanes to pass cyclists.  Give ample room.  Be sensitive, safe.

A third misunderstanding is that bicyclists should not be on the road.  This is false.  Bicyclists are a normal part of multimodal traffic flow.  Bicycle travel is expected and encouraged.  The Federal Highway Administration’s policy is “bicyclists and pedestrians (including people with disabilities) will be fully integrated into the transportation system.”  This integration begins with the conceptual framework of the public travel environment as a shared space we live in.  This includes recreational use of the public infrastructure.  Cars are used for work and recreation.  So are bicycles and walking.  We want to encourage public health and induce more exercise.

In his investigative book Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt makes a comparison between the 9/11 toll and monthly death toll on roads.  The latter exceeds the former.  “We know all this, and act as if we don’t” (p 275 Tom Vanderbilt).  That is changing.  Our civil society depends on safe roads for all.

Ride for Nathan climb up

Tom Vanderbilt Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and What It Says About Us
Cormac McCarthy The Crossing Quotes are from p. 157 and p. 414, The Border Trilogy, 1999, Knopf, Everyman’s Library edition

Walking UNM

I took a walk on the University of New Mexico’s main campus yesterday after a meeting.  I had planned to visit the library but it was a nice day to walk and look at that horizon where the landscape meets the sky.  The wooden trim and decorated beams adorning buildings and the places where adobe brushes celestial blue make for an abstract charm such as music imparts.

UNM blanca

UNM chapel wood

UNM double corners

The integration of the built and natural environment is exceptional in New Mexico.  Cultural traditions intertwine and inspire new creations.  Trees lend a rooted and organic flavor.

UNM colors

UNM Maxwell Adobe Wall

UNM chapel

UNM spikey desert plants

Everything in planning and design is about getting it down to human scale.  And making the big things like buildings approachable and inviting.  The vernacular architecture of UNM makes the mundane seem extraordinary and imbues an everyday walk with a special character.  The upclose environment is warm and stimulating.  Clouds roll and dissolve in the mile high sky against distant mountain drops.  The omnipresent sun.  Time has a way of vanishing here.

UNM opening

UNM turqoise courtyard

UNM spiral

UNM big office

UNM greetings

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.


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.

Graphic from:
‘The world is run by those who show up’:

What Bicycling Can Do

When Lance Armstrong wrote about his comeback from cancer, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back To Life, he struck a universal chord.  The bicycle does so many things for individuals and society.  It’s a vehicle for networking and moving forward.  Here are opportunities to get more involved and learn about what the bike can do for you and your community.

Bike Summits
February 8 -9, 2016 – Colorado Bicycle Summit, Denver, CO
March 7-9, 2016 – National Bike Summit, Washington, D.C.
April 1, 2016 – Arizona Bike Summit, Mesa, AZ
April 5, 2016 – Utah Bike Summit, Salt Lake City, UT
April 23, 2016 – New Mexico Bike Summit, Las Cruces, NM

Interdisciplinary Conferences
June 13-15, 2016, International Conference on Transport & Health, San Jose, CA
August 30 – September 2, 2016 – 5th IENE International Conference on Ecology and Transportation
November 16 – 19, 2016, 6th International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health, Bangkok, Thailand

Check out the latest editions of Centerlines from the National Center for Bicycling and Walking to see more of what’s happening on the national and global stage around bicycling.


Bicycling outdoors immerses us in exquisite places like this, even on a simple commute or lunch ride

ABQ Bike Tramway Trail

ABQ has a great multiuse path system. Here is the Tramway Trail from the Candelaria bike/ped bridge

ABQ bike Paseo del Norte Trail

The Paseo del Norte trail climbing up into Bear Canyon for more close up views of the Sandia Mountains


NM tram

Tramway Boulevard from the Candelaria bike/ped overpass

La Luz trail

Foothill roads such as La Luz can take you right up into the Mountains (watch for snow and ice!)


The Ozark Hill Country of NW Arkansas

While at Grandma’s in Arkansas I took a road ride from her house up in the Ozark Hills.  She lives in Bella Vista, a town with a rural feel set in the hickory and oak highlands above Sugar Creek.  The day before her birthday Grandma made us sloppy joe sandwiches for lunch.  When early afternoon rolled around and people took a siesta or read to relax and rejuvenate, I took a bike ride.  This sweet land could not look any better than it does from the saddle of a bicycle.

ARK Bella Vista road ride

ARK horses

Horses in pastures watched me spool by.  I greeted them and talked to them.  The country roads circle the hills and dive down into the hollows, flowing with the contours of the land.

ark hungry

ARK ride

My bike rides usually start out with a question.  Sometimes it is how am I feeling today?  I find out more about this when I pedal a bicycle.  Other times it is what can I discover today?  This sets the stage for adventure, no matter how small it is.  Daily adventures keep us enlivened.

ARK country

ARK Bella Vista ride

ark curve

Though I liked the rides I took on the multiuse trails of Oklahoma City and Fayetteville during this trip, my favorite ride was this one on these country roads of NW Arkansas.  I love being in the working landscape and seeing the way human activity fits together with the fabric of the countryside.  The horses, the farms, the active living born from the habits of daily routine.  I am grateful my grandparents decided to retire here from North Dakota.  Over the last 30 years, they have introduced several generations of their family to the beauties of Northwest Arkansas.

ARK slow rollin

ARK Bella Vista country lane

ARK all the pretty horses

I admire the dramatic landscapes of the West, the oceanic high altitude skies, incredible mountains and vast open spaces.  But this trip to Arkansas cured me of any doubt.  This whole country is absolutely gorgeous.  The variety and diversity tucked into this small corner of Arkansas is enormous.  Travel experiences release us from convention, including our own tendencies to think that love is exclusive and small.  Love is expansive and love conquers all.
ARK crosshatched landscape

ARK bike the natural state

Learning from Trails

“It is sometimes assumed, explicitly or unconsciously, that an individual’s tendencies are naturally purely individualistic or egoistic, and thus antisocial…But there is no ground for any such view. Individuals are certainly interested, at times, in having their own way, and their own way may go contrary to the way of others.  But they are also interested, and chiefly interested upon the whole, in entering into the activities of others and taking part in conjoint and cooperative doings.  Otherwise, no such thing as a community would be possible.”
Democracy and Education by John Dewey, p. 23, The Echo Library 2007

“Boulder’s multi-use paths work just like our roads.”  —The Way of the Path, Boulder, Colorado

Bicycling on trails and shareduse paths is great fun.  I used to take the beautiful path along the Truckee River in Reno as part of my commute.  Listening to the water flowing from Lake Tahoe gushing through town was a perfect way to start and end my work day.  Here in Albuquerque I try to incorporate the Rio Grande Bosque Trail into many of my rides, even if it means adding some extra distance.  These paths create ready access for citizens to high quality experiences.

When I talk to people there is a strong sense that the calmness of the trail is one of the key elements making for an attractive journey.  The first concern is always regulating the fastest vehicles, bicycles, to make sure they don’t take away from others’ experiences.  That makes sense to me because the level of service a road, trail or pathway provides is not about top speed, but comes from an inclusive sense of the whole experience of all users.

Applying this perspective to roads is helpful.  The FHWA says, “For most of the second half of the 20th Century, the transportation, traffic engineering and highway professions in the United States were synonymous. They shared a singular purpose: building a transportation system that promoted the safety, convenience and comfort of motor vehicles.”  Because of the way the built environment was constructed, many people have dropped the notion that walking and bicycling matters.  But evidence has shown that walking and bicycling does matter, and must be taken seriously.  We’ll have better roads when we take into account the experiences of people who are walking and bicycling there, and by promoting safety, comfort and dignity for all.


Deer along the trail at Bandelier National Monument

Red Earth and Blue Sky

Grandma’s 100th birthday on January 6th gave us special occasion to travel this winter.  Grandma and Grandpa retired 30 years ago from Dickinson, North Dakota and chose Bella Vista, Arkansas to make their new home.  And make a new home they did.  We had good weather for our drive across the Southwest to the Great Plains and on to the Ozark Mountains.  The unfolding American Experience becomes visible during a road trip crossing the country.

I bicycled in Oklahoma City, Fayetteville AR, and Bella Vista AR during the trip.  Oklahoma City has a Trails Master Plan envisioning a 208 mile multipurpose trails system.  In 1997 the City Council approved the plan, voicing the citizens’ desire for “a Beautiful City, a Healthy City, a Friendly City known for its Community Spirit” (quoting the Trails Plan, from the introductory section entitled Imagine).  We stayed at a hotel on Meridian Ave. and I rode the river trail.

OKC action sports

OKC river trail

The hardest part was riding from the hotel a couple of blocks through a busy business district.    I took my time and followed my instincts and the rules and made it fine, quite easily actually.  So maybe the hardest part was the anxiety about crossing those busy streets.  Once on the south river trail I had seven miles of uninterrupted pedaling heading east toward downtown.

OKC river trail downtown view

OKC boathouse

OKC downtown

It’s a pretty skyline across the river.  The trail’s eastern terminus is the Boathouse District, which is decked out with glassy architecture for spectators and gatherings.  The Oklahoma river is an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site for rowing, canoeing and kayaking.  There’s another trail on the northern shore and dedicated bridges for human powered transportation are in the works to link the trails.  Then there will be a nice 16 or so mile loop that people can use for a powerful dose of the best medicine there is, liberating free-flowing movement.

OKC Boathouse finish

OKC boathouse infrastructure

OKC oil donkey

OKC Stockyards

OKC under the train

Oklahoma’s traditional industries are visible from the river trail, too.  A set of oil pumpjacks bobbing like donkey heads worked away on a Monday morning.  The Stockyards district is right there, now more easily accessible by bicycle.  You see mining, industrial rail, and development spanning the continuum of time that people have been active in this great Midwestern city.

OKC tree shadow

OKC red berries

OKC habitat

On the western shores natural habitat abounds.  There are many hotels that literally back up to the river trail.  It would be a great place for bike share.  Some of the clients working locally and staying at the extended stays could easily unwind with a relaxing bicycle cruise along the river.  It’s soothing for the mind and rejuvenating.  OKC already has eight bicycle share stations downtown.  I’m sure the original Okies could not have imagined their offspring would be developing all these fun, practical and healthy things to do in the city, but the dream keeps expanding, and we pursue the truths becoming more evident, seeking a good and satisfying life.

Texas the breaks

Oklahoma loves

OKC windpower

The strong El Niño brought huge snows and drifts and the white snowfields made the landscape vivid.  We saw new wind power installations spinning all across the Texas panhandle.  We stopped at Love’s travel stores and filled up with fuel and coffee and we sang “all you need is Love’s”.   Love’s is headquarted in Oklahoma City.  I like driving long distances.  You see a lot, the driving focuses you, and there’s plenty of time to contemplate things. See the work in progress on this unfinished Nation.  Take time to enjoy it.  Wonderful we have this land to love.

Summary References:

Oklahoma City Trails Master Plan
Oklahoma River Trail
Oklahoma City Bikeshare
OKC Boathouse District
The Red Earth museum and festival
Panhandle Wind Project

Bicycling El Paso

We stayed in El Paso for two days and each morning I bicycled for about two hours.  The Southwest is my querencia, the place where I feel at home, but I still get nervous bicycling in cities when I don’t know my way around.  Bicycling is the best way to learn about your location.  So I did a little research and then headed out and immediately got lost.  I guess that’s exploring.


These sculptures along I-10 near where we stayed generate electricity from wind power

Walking over from the hotel with morning coffee I saw the Franklin Mountains aglow

Walking over from the hotel with morning coffee I saw the Franklin Mountains aglow.  El Paso art feels good

Dawn in the Southwest is simply electric.  My destination on day one was Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, about 25 miles mostly east.  I couldn’t find a dedicated bike map so I used the Strava Heat Map to see where people are riding.  The darker the blue lines, the more bicycling.

El Paso Strava Heat map 2015.12.27

I used google earth some too to see the roadways beforehand and scout out big intersections.  I decided to use Edgemere Boulevard but that requires about 10 turns to get there unless you use the main arterials.  You can ride all roads abiding by the rules for drivers of vehicles, but I look for streets that are lower stress and attractive while also being direct and efficient.  Smooth and steady bicycle traffic flow, a complete street inclusive of all modes, a nice ambiance and an active and engaged culture are all key components of a good bicycling route.  I studied the maps best I could but once I started riding I went by feel and discovered a beautiful city.  I took Edgemere to Zaragosa Road and then east on Highway 62/180 out into open country.

El Paso open road

El Paso east of town

El Paso curve

El Paso kindle

The shoulder of hwy 62 is wide and smooth from the outskirts of town out into the open desert.  It would be perfect for fast group rides, touring cyclists, and anybody wanting to spin their legs and get their heart pumping underneath the vibrant desert sky in fresh air.  I noticed this is the route the Oryx Challenge Bike Tour takes to raise money for the USO.  It’s a good ride.  Near the Hueco Mountains I turned north on the quiet back road and met Mai for hiking.
On day two I went the other direction to check out Scenic Drive and a few other short climbs up into the Franklin Mountains.  I enjoyed getting lost again but I kept heading west towards the gigantic Franklin Mountains skylighted against a deep Chihuahuan blue, and found Scenic Dr.

El Paso Scenic Drive skyway

El Paso road over city

El Paso Scenic Drive twist

El Paso downtown

Scenic Drive is unique.  You can get a close up view of downtown from the southern tip of the Franklin Mountains, and see clear into Mexico and the surging mountains beyond.  There are many great roads climbing the eastern flanks of the Franklins.  One is stupendously steep.  I was standing in my lowest gear going way to hard for wintertime, though temperatures were in the 60’s.  McKelligon Canyon road was used in a bicycle race and it’s a longer climb, similar to our La Luz climb in Albuquerque, but not as consistently steep.  It has a nice bike lane and many people were jogging and walking on road, way more pedestrians than cars, always nice.

El Paso McKelligon uphill

El Paso descending Wyler

El Paso in the Mountains

El Paso Bicycling the Franklins

I like bicycling El Paso.  It’s a great city, with farmland up and down the Río Grande valley and mountains prominent above town.  So much character, very diverse.  The emergent bicycling community received honorable mention when Steve Clark of the League of American Bicyclists visited town in 2014.  The Paso Del Norte region shares air, water, and culture between Ciudad Juarez, New Mexico and Texas.  Bicycling culture is a point of convergence.   Velopaso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition is working to make the walking and bicycling economy part of the backbone of the region’s sustainable development strategy.  It’s a beautiful thing to witness a movement that moves humans with dignity and protects fragile desert ecologies and resources.

El Paso Franklin Mtns splendor

El Paso Sun Land

When people want to get moving, the bicycle is there.  We saw six bike share stations by the university and downtown.  It’s a bright morning in the Great Southwest.  Go El Paso!  íVaya!

El Paso B Cycle

El Paso desert morning

gran suroeste

Creating Sustainable Streets

There are complex factors underlying good walking and bicycling environments.  The layout of streets and cities is fundamentally important.   The basic structure of cities changed with the advent of mass travel by automobiles.  By the 1950’s cities were sprawling outwards and people were being encouraged to drive longer distances to work and to meet other necessities.  Streets were designed in longer blocks and for higher speeds and maximized for throughput.   This graph shows one of the undesirable consequences of this. (from Bad Street Design Kills People)


Districts built before 1950  “display triple the walking, four times the transit use, six times the bicycling, and immeasurably more charm” (A. Schmidt, Street Design).  But most of the land in Albuquerque and in all Southwestern cities was developed after 1950.  Albuquerque went form 35,000 people in 1940 to 97,000 in 1950, and grew to 200,000 by 1960.  We have upwards of half a million residents today.  Phoenix went from 100,000 in 1950 to 1.5 million today.  A sprawling network of arterial streets and urban space has been prioritized for fast driving.

The Comprehensive Plan and Rezoning process in Albuquerque is a big opportunity to shift the structure and direct the growth of our city.  Making a city that is safe for bicycling begins here.  This means focusing on quality and building places that endure.  Denser, mixed use development locates more destinations within easy reach of bicycle travel, and utilizes the bicycle’s agility, maneuverability and compact footprint to best advantage.  Incentivizing stronger transit systems through transit oriented development makes cars optional and delivers people within walking and bicycling distance (1-3 miles) from every destination.  Enabling people to move via high speed transit all over the city would help build a more connected and livable city.  Citizens can spend more time and allocate more resources for doing what they want to do, and spend less time and money on driving.  This frees us up to generate economic power.

Part of this sustainable urban revolution involves incorporating ecosystem vitality into social spaces.  “The interest in complete streets is part of a growing demand for retooling the rights-of-way in cities to reflect changing values that citizens have now,” says Clark Wilson, senior urban designer, with EPA’s Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation. “Federal departments and agencies are responding by, for instance, including criteria related to livability and sustainability. This approach not only addresses community values, but also is more fiscally sound because of multiple objectives being met with limited funding.” (quoted from Sustainable Streets)

Although the challenge of delivering broader benefits through the design of public spaces is daunting, the expansion in value and the benefit for the public generated by such efforts is worth it.  If we invest now we’ll get eightfold benefits down the road.  This is an economic development opportunity we can be ambitious about, something we can incentivize, a common challenge that unites people and restores nature.  The building blocks for sustainable cities are sustainable streets.  We’ll get better results if we change our view of streets and redesign them  to include all forms of human movement beginning with the indispensible ones, walking and bicycling.  We can create streets that intentionally deliver ecosystem services.  When can create streets to serve a robust economy that matures with connected, equitable, and safe communities.  We’ll spend more time being here rather than passing through.  We have an opportunity to accomplish something great as a generation, and embark on a path of discovery.


The Centerlines newsletter from the National Center for Bicycling and Walking ( is here:

Sustainable Streets