Biking Around Albuquerque and Sharing the Road

Winter arrived Saturday night and Sunday morning it was snowing!  But true to form for a sunbelt city in the American Southwest by early afternoon the roads were clear and I was ready for a ride.  It was actually perfect, I worked all morning and since this is when I’m freshest I got some work done.  I had a big ride Saturday so was content to take it easy on Sunday.  Sunday I went down Constitution and connected with the Diversion Trail, to Paseo del Norte Trail, to Bosque Trail, to Mountain Rd., Edith, Indian School, and on home again.  The variety of riding accessible in the city is outstanding and makes a Sunday afternoon spin around town engaging.

Skateboarders using the arroyo channel.  My favorite geographer JB Jackson loved improvisational uses of landscapes.  Vernacular culture

Skateboarders using the arroyo channel. Geographer JB Jackson loved improvisational uses of landscapes. Vernacular culture.  Skateboarders are unfailingly friendly on the paths.  One called me Sir today.  I still feel like a kid at heart.

Like most cities Albuquerque is in the nascent stages of realizing a well connected bikeways system.  There are strands of excellence in the bikeways system and we are in the process of tying them together better.  One part is upgrading and building infrastructure and the other part is education for sharing the road.  Here are some things I noticed on my ride, and thoughts on infrastructure and developing that sharing the road culture.

On Constitution there is a bike lane most of the way but at intersections bikes use destination lane positioning.  I'm going straight here so get in line

On Constitution there is a bike lane most of the way but at intersections bikes use destination lane positioning. I’m going straight here so I get in line behind this red GMC Trailblazer.  Wyoming is a big intersection crossing.  It is kind of a mental barrier to cross as well as a physical one.

Bicyclists, do not pass traffic on the right!  This photo illustrates why.  The suv turns right at the driveway once we clear the intersection.  Sharing the general travel lane rather than being position to the side of traffic can help decrease likelihood of "right hooks"

Bicyclists, do not pass traffic on the right! This photo illustrates why. The suv turns right at the driveway once we clear the intersection. Sharing the general travel lane rather than being positioned to the side of traffic can help decrease likelihood of “right hooks”.  For cars, do not pass bike traffic and then turn right in front of them.  This vehicle was first come and this right turn was first serve.  Worked great.  I’m sure they looked for me to be certain I was still behind them.

One thing I did not capture with my camera was the vehicle looking to turn right on red onto Constitution from Wyoming while I was crossing the intersection.  The driver was holding a cell phone to their head (hands free devices while driving are legal here) and inching forward readying to turn.  Since I was positioned in the middle of the general travel lane they had better visibility to me and I had more time to react if they did not see me and began pulling out into the lane.  Sometimes sharing the road raises questions from drivers such as “why are you riding in the middle of the lane?” and bicyclists are presumed to be discourteous when prioritizing safety.  Here is a great article on courtesy within the context of safe riding practices.  Check out the interactive graphic further down in the article on reasons trained bicyclists ride where they do:
http://iamtraffic.org/education/courteous-cyclist/

Most bicycling education groups would have this sharrow sign moved left.

This is further down on Constitution.  Most bicycling education groups would have this sharrow sign moved left.

Bicyclists passing this parked vehicle want to leave clearance to avoid the "door zone," the possibility of an opening door from a parked or standing vehicle

Bicyclists passing this parked vehicle want to leave clearance to avoid the “door zone,” the possibility of an opening door from a parked or standing vehicle

When bicycles are following safe riding practices by riding in the lane that is too narrow to share, often times safe motorists will see an opportunity pass but are afraid to exercise their judgment if this means crossing the double yellow center line.  Austin TX police put out a public announcement helping motorists understand how to exercise good judgment in a circumstance of a narrow lane with slower traffic ahead and a double yellow centerline.  Other groups, like I Am Traffic, lobby for better laws for passing slower traffic on a double yellow.  The key is making the effort to understand the needs of all road users and working together to build a respectful paradigm of best practices.  The article on courteous cycling (also linked above) discusses how bicyclists may help facilitate a pass if traffic is building up behind or having trouble passing.

On second street heading north to get to the prime 313 North riding we have to share the lane and watch out for vehicles entering from side driveways, making certain we are visible.

On Second street heading north to get to the prime 313 North riding we have to share the lane and watch out for vehicles entering from side driveways, making certain we are visible, and also watching for right edge hazards like gravel

This bent guardrail and the double level pavement on the shoulder on 313 North create right edge hazards

This bent guardrail and the double level pavement on the shoulder on 313 North create right edge hazards

On 165 to Placitas the left hand turn lane reduced the usable shoulder to practically nothing creating a shared lane (these last three photos are from Saturday's ride)

On 165 to Placitas the left hand turn lane reduced the usable shoulder to practically nothing creating a shared lane (these last three photos are from Saturday’s ride)

Even our best cycling routes are fraught with hazards!  Think critically, ride cautiously and look out for one another.  Anticipate conditions that necessitate sharing the road well in advance.  Use a shoulder check and/or your mirror to be sure it is safe to move into the travel lane prior to moving left.  Yield to any traffic in the lane or that is readying to pass you and do not move over until it is clear.  Be predictable and visible so traffic has time to adjust to and react safely to your presence.

What else can we do to help Albuquerque become a platinum level bicycling town, and New Mexico a top State?  Participate in the ABQ Bikeways planning process.  Right now the plan is showing a continuation of the Diversion Trail to meet Roy Road under the “critical links” section in the plan.  That will be a great access point for connecting the city to riding east on Tram and north on 313.  But it is not listed under the “current projects”.  On the “proposed facilities NW quadrant” link Second Street is shown as having a bike lane.  One question is when and how can we secure funds to implement enhancing the infrastructure connectivity.  Another question is how ambitious we’ll be in envisioning the possibilities for empowering bicycles as a tool for smart development.  Right now for free we can all educate ourselves and one another on sharing the road and understanding our rights and responsibilities.  It is also fundamental to understand where we are coming from and the ripple effects of marginalizing bicycle traffic.  Most of all I think we can take positive action by riding safely and being ambassadors to the world that is and acting to help usher in the change we want to see in the world.  It is a good time and season to be a bicyclist in Albuquerque promoting good will.  I thoroughly enjoy these late Fall early Winter rides where I’m free to explore and get to know my city.  It is such a joy to be a human being ranging freely on a bicycle.

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