The most direct way to incentive bicycling is to make it easier and more convenient by building in advantages to encourage folks to ride. Just as the freeway revolutionized how we live based on extending the advantages of using cars, an expressway designed for bicycles would optimize the power of the human powered vehicle and naturally create a stronger rationale for people to make active transportation choices. Most of America’s cities are big enough to benefit from some form of bicycle expressway to get people where they want to go more smoothly, safer and faster.
Albuquerque is certainly large enough to merit looking into the impact a bicycle expressway system could have on how we live. The current east-west and north-south bike routes are convoluted, indirect, and incomplete, so much so the New Mexico Touring Society has a detailed webpage devoted to “Crossing Albuquerque, or how to traverse ABQ w/out getting lost” here. It is not easy to get across Albuquerque on a bicycle. Mayor Berry’s excellent 50-mile activity loop plan does a lot to encourage fitness and active tourism and recreation but does not provide much relief for laying out more direct routes across town. The best thing we can do is build on the immensely successful examples of the Diversion Channel and Bosque Trails which have designed out the most dangerous part of bicycle travel, at grade intersections with motorized traffic, increasing safety, efficiency, and the pleasure of the bicycling experience by providing a more continuous flow of bicycle traffic, just like the freeway does for cars.
A Bicycle Expressway may look different from the excellent Diversion and Bosque Trails by being engineered for higher speeds and designed to better accommodate group bicycle travel. The common ground is all are free of motorized traffic. An expressway for bikes would be wider with better sight lines and visibility, in a fashion similar to the way interstates are modified from regular roads. Racing wheelchairs, inline skaters, hand cycles and other non-motorized wheeled travel might have more room to maneuver on the bike express. Can you imagine if you lived above Tramway in the Northeast Heights or in Four Hills, and entering a bicycle expressway and latched onto the UNM bound morning peloton (group of bicyclists) to glide into town? With the drafting benefits of working together bicyclists can increase speed while decreasing energy expenditures, not to mention group rides are tremendously effective activities for community interaction and mixing. I’ve forged so many strong friendships with people I’ve met through mixing in with a diverse group riding bicycles together. With bike express, commuting could double as a community building exercise, not to mention an awesome workout built into an otherwise very functional and practical task, getting from point a to point b. That’s smart.
We need to do more to make bicycling more attractive and safer. Why not be known as the best and catapult our quality of life forward, increase our national rankings for bike friendliness, and create a legacy of healthy living generations to come can enjoy? If we get serious about treating bicycling as a first class transportation device by incentivizing this mode with facility designs that unleash bikes from stoplight gridlock and jampacked and sometimes crazy streets , we’ll increase ridership many times over, and make the riders we have very happy. The accident data indicates major streets like Central Avenue that offer the highest efficiency for bicycles and most direct route across town are also the most dangerous. We owe it to bicyclists to design better facilities to help them get to where they need to go, just like everybody else. In the process, we may find ourselves minting many new bicyclists, and increasing access to freedom of movement for everybody. If we want to experience the full charge of everyone’s enthusiasm for active transportation including bicycling we must be brave and act as visionary leaders in our planning efforts to embrace the whole breadth and scope of possibilities the bicycle offers as a transportation device.