Kentucy and Cowboys Dream
The Village of Corrales was founded in 1712 along the Rio Grande on the sandy soils and a way of life was built around agriculture. Taking a bike ride there is an interesting view into a community that is trying hard to preserve its traditions and character including a way of life that is close to the soil. Ways of moving such as horse riding, walking and bicycling are part of the heritage the village is carrying forward. The citizens of Corrales have done careful work to promote a respectful culture across different transportation types and provide an infrastructure design to balance and accommodate the needs of everyone while integrating the new ways of living, including vehicles into the mix. Let’s take a look at how it’s working.
Corrales is set back on the western flood plain of the Río Abajo, or lower river. It’s beautiful
You can see the Sandia Mtns directly east, and to the north here the snow capped Sangre de Cristo are shimmering
Acequias or canals lace the land. With water plenty of crops grow. Most of the new houses pay homage to traditional styles and ways including this one here made of adobe w/ parking space for their horse trailer. Authentic but changing
Roadside signs signal the inclusive culture and care for the landscape. Expect bikes!, equestrians!, walkers! Care!
The main road, Corrales Road, has no shoulder and has moderate to heavy traffic. Intel’s mega computer chip plant is right on the bluff behind Corrales, and the fastest growing city in New Mexico, Rio Rancho, borders the village. Corrales has made specific designs to limit the through commuter traffic to preserve some of the clean, quiet and openness. The road I’m riding is Loma Larga, and it has less traffic (light to moderate) and a bike lane. So this is the one I ride as it is the most welcoming road for bicyclists and less stressful to navigate.
This is a narrow bike lane. I fit into it but passing traffic still needed to move over some to give me clearance. Some bicyclists may judge this lane too narrow to share side by side with a vehicle and choose to ride in the general travel lane as a defensive position to discourage traffic from passing without ensuring the oncoming lane is clear.
symbolic messaging, like the human figures we see etched on school children signs, this horse sign, and bicycle figures on pavement markings send subtle reminders to impress alertness to life and affirm the presence of diverse traffic sharing the road
poop in the road definitely verifies the presence of horses. If bikes did this we’d have a harder time promoting them. But this here is good poop, adds to the soils!
OK, so we know very well bikers, walkers, and horses are part of the culture here. The other part of the magic to make it all work together is giving people the tools to exercise good judgment on how to share. On my short little excursion I had a couple learning opportunities. Bicycling is not as simple as putting your wheels in a bike lane and pedaling. You have to think!
There’s a runner in the bike lane up ahead. I did a check over my shoulder and the general travel lane was clear of traffic. I signaled and moved left into it well in advance of needing to. I gave the runner plenty of room. When I was driving tractor trailer I learned to always look as far ahead up the road as I could (since trucks can’t stop as quickly) and anticipate safest positioning needs as far ahead as I could. Handy skill, look ahead, think, adjust.
Here cross traffic has a stop sign and I have the right of way through the intersection. Although the vehicle stopped on the shoulder did not block my path I moved into the general travel lane (first yielding to any traffic already present or readying to pass me) to increase my visibility to the perpendicular traffic at the intersection. The Honda CRV on the picture left still didn’t see me and began to pull out. That is always so scary! He stopped his progress and made eye contact with me in time to allow me to proceed through, but I was ready to brake and stop if need be. This is defensive bicycling, and courteous bicycling, to make it easier for folks to see you through intersections, and avoid collisions.
And there are many horses in Corrales! Traditions are alive and well.
A good infrastructure design coupled with a strong and diverse transportation culture creates a win for everybody. Corrales is safer to drive through because everyone is on heightened alert looking out for one another. Engaged drivers with elevated awareness are the key to increasing safety on the roads. Corrales is certainly a much more interesting place to be since it is not dominated by a monotypic transportation or lifestyle. It is more vibrant and alive and has a little bit more of what we all are seeking, peace, beauty, diversity, communion with each other and the landscape.
I love the thank you for biking signs. We all need to hear a simple thank you for being you sometimes. Thank you people of Corrales! I dig your style.