Category Archives: Southwest Cycling Times

Quiet energy

The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, the totality of nature…nothing is quite beautiful alone…but beautiful in the whole.  A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

On Saturday Mai and I headed south to two beautiful places–Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and Quebradas backcountry byway.  The roads at Bosque del Apache are open to cycling this time of year, when the Sandhill Cranes are in their Arctic habitat.  The Bosque’s wetlands–engineered in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to mimic naturally occurring flood plains, and incorporated in 1939 by Roosevelt as part of the national system of lands dedicated to wildlife–nurture wildlife year round, and are surging with Spring runoff.  We saw Snowy egrets, Great egrets, a wild turkey, ducks, and many smaller birds.  With the new greens leafing out and wildflowers shooting up, it is serene and spectacular this time of year.

Bicycles are a perfect vehicle for exploring the refuge.  We stopped often to get a closer look and listen.  Details of the landscape appear and register with us the more time we spend there.  Gliding by bicycle, wide open to the world, with the warm sun caressing our skin, is sensational.

We came home through Quebradas, and stopped often to walk.  Flowers are opening, intricately timed for pollinators.  The Ocotillos are not quite out, still waiting for hummingbirds.  But the Creosote, Scarlet Beehive Cactus, yuccas, agaves, Indigobush, Lechuguillas and more are setting the desert afire in color this Spring, a time of quiet anticipation and emerging possibilities.

It’s amazing to be outside and see how it all fits together, and experience nature flowing into our lives.  These places are so healing.  Our civilization’s future depends on better including nature when designing places for people.  Each is a part of each, and our species requires great habitat too, like all forms of life on earth.  If our civilization–the things we do, build and make– invests more in ecosystem services, natural capital, and wildlife, that’s an indicator of progress.

Pedaler in Chief

“Bicycles will save the world.”  –Susan Handy, UC Davis Environmental Science & Policy

How poignant this Rush song is today.  It was written in 1985 when greed was being institutionalized in America.  I grew up a confused child in a troubled world.

After high school I worked as a roofer.  I started college.  At 21, I drove an 18 wheeler around America the beautiful, and epic Canada too.  But it was the bicycle–rediscovered at the age of 22 when I realized the car could not save me and was too expensive for me to operate anymore–that changed me.  It was a tool that helped me learn Emerson’s Self-Reliance from the inside by living it.  It’s not easy, and I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but it is a fun ride.

mais-scene

What if our next President charged the country with cycling more?  Make a difference, bike more.  We don’t need everyone to ride, we simply need to support people that are out there cycling right now and encourage people that will.  Especially our youth, and young at heart.

If you’re feeling cynical during this election cycle I recommend cycling more.  It builds us up and connects us to the greater world.  I would also recommend voting.  We have to make our effort and let go of factors beyond our control.  We can only dictate our own effort.  And it works.

2012 was a pivotal moment on my cycling journey when Joe Shannon, Flagstaff Cycling’s Pedaler in Chief, gave me an opportunity to race again, build a team and smooth out my pedal stroke.  We keep growing the movement and spreading the word.  What if the next President of the U.S.A. embraced this new title, Pedaler in Chief, and built a team with all Americans and World Leaders?   Who knows, maybe big money can help more too.  Let’s ask.

References–
Check out Dr. Handy’s research here:  http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/
Joe’s team is linked here–
https://flagstaffcycling.squarespace.com/
Cycling joins together disciplines:  UC Davis’s Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior

Building Lasting Partnerships

A big thank you to my friends at Conservation Science Partners and the Landscape Conservation Initiative for supporting the Southwest Bike Initiative.  They also brought their friends at Live Oak Associates, Inc., an ecological consulting firm, to strengthen our network.  Because of the team CSP put together, they are my bike org. of the month for May 2016.  Check out the article here announcing our collaboration promoting the role of cycling in conservation.

magenta Sandia

When I was choosing “categories” for this blog post, I started clicking every one.  This partnerships embodies all that I’ve been doing up to this point, and connects a series of journeys that began long ago.  I’m enthused to be working with such classy organizations and bright people.  LCI’s philosophy of mobilizing science through collaborative planning, education and practical experiences has been influential in instigating new approaches for solving environmental challenges.  CSP’s innovative structure and novel science applications has created a paradigm shift in how we do conservation.  LOA’s ecological expertise delivers practical solutions fostering environmental sustainability throughout California and the Western United States.  Together their collaboration is raising the bar for conservation science.

Truchas

Cycling is a great practical exercise for improving health, the environment, and building lasting partnerships.   Our cycling team builds grassroots coalitions, and increases collaboration between diverse communities around common objectives to achieve new vistas on what is possible.  Please follow SBI’s website and media to keep in touch with our development.

Morning Ride Together

Play is the highest form of research.  –Albert Einstein

We all want to have healthier communities.  The question for us was how to integrate health in a meaningful way into our outdoor recreation planning process.  –Alex Stone, RTCA planner

The morning bicycle ride together is a cool solution for the hot topic of improving public health.  It creates an opportunity to breathe fresh air, get the body and mind flowing, and spend time with friends.  It stokes that virtuous circle of enjoying outdoor amenities while conserving them.

dry-farmed-quionoa-in-sebastopol-ca-photo-credit-michelle-davidoff_handout

Dry farmed quinoa, Sebastopol, CA.  theguardian.com  photo credit:  Michelle Davidoff

Saturday morning I biked the Sandia Crest.  Beautiful to see so many cyclists out.  This time of year cyclists are training for the Ironhorse Bicycle Classic in Durango and summer events to come.  The weather was breezy, but that makes you dig deeper and builds up your strength and character.  The challenge of adapting to the natural elements enriches the bike life, just like the fluctuations in weather helps crops like the quinoa pictured above become more vibrant.

ground cover

I met a group of cyclists on the observation platform at the top overlooking Albuquerque.  They were having their picture taken.  What a unifying accomplishment, getting to the summit of the mountain together.  We talked about the progress of bicycle friendliness in New Mexico.  It makes it easier to get outdoors, leave the car in the driveway, and get some healthy exercise.

flowers I saw walking with Mai

We exchanged names and now we’re connected on Strava.  Strava is great for connecting with people, getting ideas for rides, and keeping a log of your routes and rides.  It is also good for referencing your times on local climbs.  It is not really for competition though, except competing with yourself, trying to improve.  Racing your bicycle in a sanctioned event is true competition.

Cholla flower sun

After the ride I recovered with some nice music.  Cycling up the Crest is a healthy high, and a great way to make indelible memories with friends and build a sense of place.  Then it is time to rest and recover, let the miles sink in.  On Monday morning you’ll feel like you did something extraordinary on the weekend, and you’ll come back stronger, ready for the next ride together.

La Luz trail

Resources–
Opening quote from Breaking Down Barriers–Parks and Recreation Connecting with Public Health
Strava is free.  All you need is a device with GPS (cell phone).  Meet new friends & play.

Great Cyclists from the Southwest

‘Cycling is freedom for me.  I can use the same thing I use as a mode of transportation as a form of exercise and as a form of competition.’  –Kyle Murphy, Professional Cyclist, Team Jamis

It amazes me how many great cyclists come from the U.S. Southwest.  Not all of them were born here, but the riding and lifestyle afforded by the Southwest is perfect for developing cycling potential.  Here are three notables with recent successes.

Brandon McNulty, 18 years of age, is having a stellar year winning top races.  In March he broke his own record on the South Mountain hillclimb above Phoenix by almost a minute.  Brandon said ‘the local race is special to him because he rode up South Mountain with his father when he was younger on Silent Sundays when the summit road is closed to traffic.’

Brandon-McNulty-South-Mountain-Time-Trial-2016

Brandon McNulty breaking his own record up South Mountain in Phoenix, May 2016. Photo from http://clippedin.bike/

Travis McCabe improves every year.  After nearly winning the overall at the Redlands Classic two years ago, he’s focused his training on maximizing sprint victories, playing to his strengths.  Travis has won stages at the Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of the Gila, and Redlands this year.

Travis Mcabe wins the Sunset Roadrace at Redlands 2016. Photo Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

Travis McCabe wins the Sunset Road Race at Redlands 2016. Photo from Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

At age 36 when many pro athletes are retired and golfing, Eric Marcotte keeps winning and getting better.  He won the downtown criterium race at this year’s Tour of the Gila, and also won the road race in February at the Valley of the Sun stage race in Phoenix.  Eric’s determination continues after winning U.S. National Championships in 2014 (road race) and 2015 (criterium).

Marcotte soars to victory at the Tour of Gila criterium, http://velonews.competitor.com/

Eric Marcotte soars to victory at the Tour of Gila downtown criterium.  Photo from http://velonews.competitor.com/

I received an email from USA Cycling with a few inspirational quotes on why we race .  Here are a few of my favorites.  For me, racing is a way of riding into health.
“The sense of community keeps me coming back.”
“I have found incredible friendships through bike racing and these friendships have endured.”
“It’s a rigorous mental exercise.”

Resources/Credits–
http://www.jamissutterhome.com/roster.html
https://ice.usacycling.org/why-do-you-race-tell-us-and-you-could-be-a-winner.htm
McNulty Sets New South Mountain TT Record from AZclippedin

UNM Health and Wellness Fair

Check out the University of New Mexico’s Health and Wellness Fair, Wednesday, March 30, if you can!  Daily activity such as bicycling and walking sets the rhythm for the body’s metabolism and builds an appetite for delicious and nutritious fresh food.  Active movement creates a positive feedback loop that teaches us what foods work well for us and how much we need.  Activity and nutrition go together like dance partners and are part of the matrix of good health.

UNM Nutrition Club March 25 UNM's 6th annual Health and Wellness Fair

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
–John Muir

CenterLines, the Active Transportation Digest

CenterLines, the National Center for Bicycling and Walking’s biweekly news bulletin, covers current developments in the world of active transportation in North America.  It’s a one stop source for all things bicycling and walking and more.  If you’re just beginning to investigate active transportation, an experienced professional, or somewhere in between, CenterLines is a smorgasbord of opportunities, ideas, and ways to make new connections.  It covers research, policies, events, conferences, job listings, trainings, news and ways to get involved.  Here are a couple content examples from the most recent CenterLines issue published on March 23.

* Health Impacts of Active Transportation in Europe
This study measured the health impact of increased bicycling and walking in six European cities.  Increases in cycling to 35% of all trips improved health the most of all the scenarios analyzed in the study.  The research team concluded that “Increased collaboration between health practitioners, transport specialists and urban planners will help to introduce the health perspective in transport policies and promote active transportation” for substantial benefits.

* The International Mtn. Biking Assocation (IMBA) World Summit is in Bentonville, AR
November 10-12, 2016 Arkansas welcomes the IMBA summit, which gathers together mountain bikers, public land stewards, the business community and advocates of all kinds.  I was just in Arkansas visiting my grandmother and it is an incredible place to bicycle (blog posts here).  When IMBA came to Santa Fe in 2012 the local scene “got discovered.”  Certainly Northwest Arkansas will experience a similar recognition for their beautiful countryside and the way local communities have wholeheartedly embraced cycling as a way to explore the Natural State.

*CenterLines has a Quotes R Us section.  “Our ultimate goal is to improve the economic and environmental health of American communities and the personal health of the people who live there.  To achieve this, we will reconnect America with trails in the same way that railroads once connected people and places.”  –Keith Laughlin, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy President

CenterLines is free, published online and open to the general public.  It is a good place to start and come back to when you want to grow your understanding of the quickly expanding frontiers of the active transportation world.  The presentation is not flashy, but the content is deep, diverse, and leading edge.  The National Center for Bicycling and Walking is my Bike Org. of the Month for March 2016.  Keep up the important work that you are doing.  Arigato.

benches

Spring bloom outside of Mesa Vista Hall on the main campus of UNM in central Albuquerque

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

Resources:
America Walks Federal Policy Position Paper
http://americawalks.org/federal-policy-position-paper/

Loving Land from the City

“This is our world, where our health is woven together with biotic communities in a shared environment, and it is so clearly evident at Tahoe.”
–Peter Goin, Using Lake Tahoe photographs to blend art and science, UNR Nevada Today news

Living in the American West makes noticing the unique characteristics of place inescapable.  There are usually mountains rimming town and in most places piercing sun and deep blue sky.  The air is dry and water is rare and valuable.  In Phoenix, Arizona there is a bicycle club with a long tradition of sewing together people’s health with the lay of the Sonoran Desert lands.  They’re putting on a great race next weekend called the Valley of the Sun (VOS) stage race.

It is amazing how deep racing goes.  Included in the festivities is a Hand Cycling race.  “VOS has  been chosen by the United States Olympic Committee, U.S. Paralympics Cycling as one of six events in the US to complete a U.S. Paralympics Cycling Series. The goal of this series is to provide public awareness of health benefits and sport opportunities for those with spinal cord injury.”  VOS also has a kids bike race, rodeo, and safety clinic.  More information here:

Kids Bike Race, Rodeo, and Safety Clinic
Hand Cycle Race and Learn to Ride Clinic
All the events can be viewed at wmrc.org/

Every year volunteers from the White Mtn. Road Club put on the VOS series and it draws racers and spectators from all over the country.  The level of community involvement and deep knowledge of the growth of bicycling in the Phoenix metro region in that organization is phenomenal.  I was a fortunate enough to be a member for a couple of years and now I stay interlinked through strong bonds even from 500 miles away.  Bicycling makes one big family.

The White Mountain Road Club is my bike org of the month for January 2016.  Thanks for the work that you do!
____________

Here are a few photos from rides in the Sandia and Manzano ranges this weekend.  The strong El Niño is ebbing for now and the sun is out and the high country is becoming more accessible.  I start and end all my ABQ rides from home.   I am looking forward to the season.

rock cut

woven road S14

Bighorn

S14 tree

double pine on Sandia Road

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

Respect

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

Resources:

http://iamtraffic.org/resources/infographics
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
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/get-educated-on-cycling/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/how-to-pass-bicyclists-safely-how-to-enforce-this/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/side-path-bicycling/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/learning-from-trails/