Monthly Archives: August 2015

August Light

The outdoor life in and around Albuquerque is exceptional.  One of the great amenities, a natural attractor, is the beautiful open space.  I’m amazed at the places that are within reach by bicycle from our home in Albuquerque.  Here are some cell phone pictures from recent rides.

road and sky

The Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway is a treasure. For sure one of the prettiest roads around.

A look across a sunflower field toward the Sandia Crest from Frost Road

A look across a sunflower field toward the Sandia Crest from Frost Road

NM 337 or "South 14" is like a ladder connecting the Tijeras Canyon corridor up to the high pines

NM 337 or “South 14” is like a ladder connecting the Tijeras Canyon corridor up to the high pines

We should conserve these spaces, nourishing the distinctive rural character with eco minded development.  Bicycling is a good way to enjoy this place in a sustainable, low impact and healthy fashion.  Open space for cycling and walking is essential to human life.

sunflower stance

take this road

Bicycling helps meet the Metropolitan Transportation Plan’s goal of generating more efficient use of the existing road infrastructure.  It’s part of the evolving transformation of a road ethic emphasizing clean, quiet, safe and satisfying transportation.  I see a lot of local residents out walking their dogs and getting exercise on the main roads in the rural East Mountains.   And I also see casual cyclists getting those bikes out of the garage and enjoying a ride on a country road.  These are indicators the ambiance and road ethic is safe and comfy for everyone.

Vallecitos Road

Vallecitos Road with Sandia Crest view, looking north, northwest

humble

S14 on a nice day

There’s an inextricable connection between walking and biking.  The Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference explains:  “Then we evolved because we found common cause with walking: streets that are unsafe for biking are also difficult to cross for pedestrians.”  This linkage is apparent on the roads of the East Mountains.  There are generally no sidewalks, but the walking and biking is good.  I’ve seen mothers pushing strollers and elderly people walking with canes along these roads.   Right now the walking and bicycling in the East Mountains is thriving, and we can enhance it by developing ride share, park and ride and rural transit service.   Traffic is moderate, mostly calm, diverse, and everyone shares space while looking out for one another in the August light.  It’s personable.  When I told my neighbor how much I liked August in New Mexico he said just wait until you see September.  It is even more beautiful, he said.

Here are some traffic counts on the East Mountain roads in rural Bernalillo County.  Many of the roads are quiet.  Quiet is one of the most valuable and rare resources around.

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Blue Horizons with SLO Initiatives

The photo below is Albuquerque’s main street circa 1960 from this article.  The article is a tough read (I don’t necessarily recommend it), but the picture shows where we are coming from.  This is the legacy we inherited and are redesigning to an environment that invites mobility freedom.

ERNST-HAAS-Alberquerque-2716744-1024x641

The San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District — slocleanair.org — is doing some really cool things.  They have this character named Eco Man who draws attention to positive behaviors.  Getting to work and conducting business in an efficient way is good and natural.  Eco Man helps trigger those thought processes and points out the exceptional power in human decision making.  Eco Man is really corny.  I like him.  I could see him working at Esperanza in ABQ.

Another dimension of creating change is putting clues and signals in the landscape, such as  infrastructure for walking and biking, that make for attractive places.  One of the changes in infrastructure we are seeing pop up around Albuquerque is the sharrow.  It is cheap and basically gets more sustainability value out of the existing infrastructure by inviting people to bicycle where they are already should be bicycling.  It is a little “yes we can”.  Yes we can bicycle and walk more beginning today Albuquerque and the American Southwest.   The sharrow and things like “share the road” signs and bike lanes help activate the sustainable transportation potential.  Keep looking for ways to use the natural and built environment in healthy ways.

piñon road

natural probike/walk attributes are abundant.  Tijeras Canyon takes you to a plethora of country roads available to pedal and Tijeras Canyon itself is a wonderful cycle route, part of Adventure Cycling’s Route 66 cross country sojourn

Bear Canyon Arroyo I-25 Bridge

The bear canyon arroyo bridge over I-25 is a delight to ride especially around dawn and dusk

2015.8.27 sunset from Bosque Trail

The Bosque Trail along the Rio Grande green belt through the middle of Albuquerque is always perfect

2015.8.27 sunset from Diversion Trail

The high desert is so very pretty at night. Albuquerque is known for lovely sunsets, beautiful skies, visual splendor

The places to ride here are amazing.  SLO has a few programs we could adopt for Albuquerque that would help incentive change here too.  I’m pulling these from their newsletter May 2015:
1) Wood burning device changout program.  They’ll give you $1,000 or $2,000 dollars to change over to a clean burning heating system.
2) Rideshare rewards.  They’ll pay you to choose an option other than driving your car solo to work or school.  It can be the bus, the bicycle, skateboard (kids are smart), telecommute, etc.
They also have a clean school bus program .  They are changing out older dirty diesel engines or adding particulate filters to make them cleaner.  This is critical since young people’s lungs are more vulnerable when developing, and also helps buoy mental attitudes when we see greener buses and heavy machinery operating with care.  I think we’ve got what it takes in Albuquerque and all we have to do is get behind initiatives that help us all and take a course of action to be a part of the positive change.  This is something that would be good to rush after.

Transformation

curves

crow flies

Exercising Sustainability on the Road Less Traveled

Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
–Robert Frost, from The Gift Outright

standing tall

Monday magic.  Monday was a ride up the Crest.  I was taking my time, one of those backpack rides, and I took these pictures.  I was sick all last week and still am, but not riding much is not doing me any good.  Riding is good.  I was reminded on this climb what suffering on a bike is like.  The long slow wilt on relentless grade.  I gave into it and kept on churning.  The journey is rewarding and seeing summer growth is amazing.  Indeed the roads are lined with flowers.

in a mood

wild mixture

seamless

There was smoke in the air from the wildfires in the pacific northwest.  It looked hazy.  All the shades of sky in New Mexico are incredible.  I don’t think we have any bad sky days here.

sunflower cactus

the road less traveled

The poem from Robert Frost, The Gift Outright, travels with me and helps me think about what it means to live here in New Mexico.  Bicycling helps me connect with the land and develop my sense of this place.  It is a great equalizer.  If I wake up high minded it will humble and ground me with earth.  If I am feeling poor or down bicycling helps lift me up and I feel wealthy because I’m healthy and can move with grace and dignity.  When I am anxious about the future bicycling helps me be present in the moment and do what I can to make a difference today.

gold green blue

Gutierrez wind

I am grateful I found bicycling again back in 1997.  It activates potential that is hiding untapped.  I see so much more when I am on my bicycle, and take in all the flavors and sense the world I’m a part of, get a feel for the shape of the day.  It’s interactive and places us in conversation with people and land.  It’s no wonder I’m working on sustainable transportation, developing sense of place and learning everyday I bicycle.  At the conclusion of every ride when all the photos are taken and places are visited, I tell myself to bring it home.  Bring the knowledge home with humility.  How fortunate we are to find something we enjoy, that is also something good for us, and something we need.  I keep on riding, giving myself to this land of living.  Trato Hecho.  There is so much more to discover right here in front of us, underneath us, all around us.

straight shot

Fall Celebrations

‘Tis fruition, and not possession, that renders us happy.  –Michel de Montaigne, On the Inequality Amongst Us

Fall Celebrations Glory

I came home from riding Sunday and this Ikebana arrangement pictured above had been created in our home.  Mai calls it Fall Celebrations.  During this time of culmination we absorb the benefits of the fertile summer season and are subdued by the power of nature.

sunflowers rock seams

“He has a great train, a beautiful palace, so much credit, so many thousand pounds a year;  all these are about him, but not in him.”  –Montaigne
And I’m reminded when I take a bike ride how rich I feel.  How the wealth of these lands, these public places, are here for all of us to share and enjoy.  And the treasure they hold is the same power that flows in and animates me.  I try to emulate the smooth and perpetual force.

tall

Each bike ride is perfect and makes me happy.  It is nothing we can possess but only something to do, a journey.  And if you have good lungs and able feet, the power is all yours.

sweet morning

“Every man frames his own fortune.”  –Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus, quoted in Montainge
The integrity of nature is something we are born into.  All we can do is live wisely and help other people do the same.  Montaigne says “nothing is so distasteful and clogging as abundance.”  This is true when it comes to unnecessary material possessions.  And also true when we regard the world’s material wealth as something inexhaustible and ours for the taking.  Biking and walking helps me harvest the wealth that is free and naturally replenished.  The only development required is that of my own capacity for being, and faith and freedom in becoming.

Walking Keeps You Healthy

Above photo from the New Mexico Safe Routes to School Handbook at the excellent Active Transportation Tookit designed by Tim Rogers at the Santa Fe Conservation Trust.  Thank you for scaling up the sustainability excellence in New Mexico.

Paradigm Shift in Transportation Systems

“In today already walks tomorrow.”  –Rachel Carson, Of Man and the Stream of Time

The US Department of Transportation is walking out some good direction and detail in their recommended approach to accommodating bicycling and walking.  We are in the midst of a fundamental system-level shift in transportation, a major adaptation to our circumstances and times.   Bicycling and walking are being thought of as mainstream rather than as something different or alternative.  “USDOT hopes that public agencies, professional associations, advocacy groups, and others adopt this approach as a way of committing themselves to integrating bicycling and walking into the transportation mainstream.”  This inclusive approach leads the way for equal choice, access and treatment.  It promotes respect and more mobility freedom.

Instead of being used for escaping our problems and even compounding them, transportation is increasingly functioning for bringing people together, strengthening our social fabric and getting us moving towards solutions.   The changing attitudes in transportation are part of an expanding social awareness, akin to movements in social justice, environmental sustainability, and universal human rights.  Although Dickens’ paradoxical phrase continually rings true, that we are living in “the best of times, the worst of times”, I am very excited about the emerging changes that are reshaping the physical environment in which we move.

In my life when I make changes that show physical results, these are always preceded by a mental choice, a shift in attitude.  It works the same way on a larger scale.  Our US department of transportation has been making huge advances in public policy on bicycling and walking, and these policies and assumptions are slowly becoming more visible in our transportation systems.  These changes are as big as the changes we’ve seen in the Judicial branch supporting marriage choice.   These kinds of changes eliminate common reasons and justifications for discrimination, reduce unnecessary suffering, and free up the potential of choice and diversity to be fully expressed and for people to thrive and be included as part of the whole.  These adjustments are a natural part of the quest for a more perfect union and happiness.  They take time to manifest and it is hard work to activate principles and live by them.

I’m writing this this morning because these developments are promising although the evidence the change is happening is not always visible and apparent.  These changes are something every person should know about since they guide our public lives together.  With today’s policies tomorrow’s bicycling and walking culture is gathering up energy, being charged.  This is something we can all embrace.  Like all the social changes and advances that have happened before, the benefits are full spectrum and universal.  All human beings are winners.

Some of the things the USDOT is saying on accommodating bicycling and pedestrian travel:
In a recent memorandum transmitting Program Guidance on bicycle and pedestrian issues to FHWA Division Offices, the Federal Highway Administrator wrote that “We expect every transportation agency to make accommodation for bicycling and walking a routine part of their planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance activities.”  The Program Guidance itself makes a number of clear statements of intent:

  • Congress clearly intends for bicyclists and pedestrians to have safe, convenient access to the transportation system and sees every transportation improvement as an opportunity to enhance the safety and convenience of the two modes.
  • “Due consideration” of bicycle and pedestrian needs should include, at a minimum, a presumption that bicyclists and pedestrians will be accommodated in the design of new and improved transportation facilities.
  • To varying extents, bicyclists and pedestrians will be present on all highways and transportation facilities where they are permitted and it is clearly the intent of TEA-21 that all new and improved transportation facilities be planned, designed and constructed with this fact in mind.

In rural areas, paved shoulders should be included in all new construction and reconstruction projects on roadways used by more than 1,000 vehicles per day.

Full text here: Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel: A Recommended Approach

Here’s the USDOT home on bicycling and walking

This is a good start.

How Clean is The Air

The Santa Fe Institute has an upcoming seminar on Quantifying Air Pollution Exposure in Cities  Through Large-Scale Data on Human Activities.  They are using mobile phone data to track human movements to better quantify exposure to ambient air pollutants.  “The power of big data for activity tracking in air pollution exposure assignments has yet to be unleashed”.   Science is cool.

When I’m cycling I’m super attenuated to the quality of the air I’m breathing.  I can smell if a person is smoking a cigarette in the car in front of me.  Our sense of smell is amazing and our lungs are sensitive organs.  So when a pre-particulate filter diesel powered vehicle goes by I try not to breathe too hard.  But when I’m cycling and walking this is almost impossible to do.

Walking back from 1millioncups this Wednesday I encountered this group walking on Central Avenue

Walking back from 1millioncups at FatPipe ABQ Wednesday I encountered this youth group walking on Central Avenue

Manufacturers for pick ups and passenger vehicles now include particulate filters on vehicles to clean up the exhaust stream.  And the fuel refineries began delivering ultra low sulfur diesel to 100% of the US on road market in 2010.  Between 2007-2010 heavy duty trucks and buses were phased in with diesel engines that are 90% cleaner. California has a safer standard and aggressive implementation program.  “By January 1, 2023, nearly all trucks and buses will need to have 2010 model year engines or equivalent” in the State of California.  California has 9 out of the 10 most polluted cities for particulate according to the America Lung Association.

Of course the main legacy issue are older vehicles still on the road, and also unmaintained vehicles.  I would love to see financing from all sectors–philanthropic, business, public–combine to facilitate faster change over to quicken the transition to cleaner air for everyone.  Studies like the Santa Fe Institute’s give people better information to manage the proactive changes.  There is no amount of pollution that is good for us.  The USA stands up for human dignity.

I would like to visit Sequoia National Park without emerging from a polluted central valley, seeing produce growing in smog, and worrying about the smog affecting human health and the ancient trees.  I would like to ride my bicycle and walk without worrying about damaging my lungs.  I would like all people to be free to live where they want without being discouraged or impacted by air pollution.  This is possible.  By directing science to benefit human health and by taking action we can determine a better present and shape a brighter future.

Resources:

The World Health Organization has statistics on deaths and illness related to ambient air pollution.  Fine particulate matter from internal combustion engines has serious impacts on human health. http://www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/en/

http://www.epa.gov/otaq/highway-diesel/

http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onrdiesel/onrdiesel.htm

http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

Sandia Zen in Early Morning

“Great Road.  Elevation’s a killer…almost there…almost there…almost…”  –pjammcycling.com

i-live-here.jpg

The Sandia Crest road carries the melody through the heart of the Wilderness enveloped by this forested mountain range tilting upwards towards the sky.  With this ride within reach from my home in Albuquerque staying home is almost always better.  I love riding from home.

I started a ride before 5am last Wednesday with all my lights (two front, two rear) to get over to the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains for the long climb up the Crest.  So worth it.  I took the preferred approach through Gutierrez Canyon.  The landscape is changing rapidly from repeating monsoon showers and August’s dazzling sun.  Every day is looking better.

illumination

early in the morning

character

Pedaling a bicycling in the early morning restores that youthful feeling.  The measured breathing.  The rhythmic cadence of circling pedals.  Any extemporaneous thought is quickly grounded and dissolved in the moment.  I’ve climbed the Crest 41 times this year.  Sometimes I go really slowly or stop to look and listen.  It is surprising how much more you hear and see when you have the mind and time for watchfulness and ample oxygen to process thoughts.

chaos disorder

morning light

happy

Going up a climb has a way of quieting the mind and dissipating tension.  Sometimes at the top there is a feeling of peace and resolution.  The suffering is not so bad as long as you are eating, drinking and prepare sufficiently.  It is purifying.  The Crest is a beautiful climb for many reasons, one of them being the road takes you all the way to the top.  Might as well take a breather and go up to the observation platform.  Persistent effort pays off.  Look at this beautiful day.

twist two

sunflower on film

On one ride with an ecologist friend I listened to all his skills and words to recognize and describe the life on the mountain.  The bird songs he knew.  The landscape is teaming with plants and animals.  Understanding little we watch to learn more.  We don’t even know how many bears live here.  A bicycle ride is a window to a fuller sense of this place perched atop the eastern shield of the grand circle of the American Southwest.  This poem comes to mind:

Stay Home by Wendell Berry

I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.
In the labor of the fields
longer than a man’s life
I am at home.  Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.
In the stillness of the trees
I am at home.  Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.

roots down

reach

I feel at home on the mountain.  I share this property with over 300,000,000 Americans and many foreign guests and I realize it is not property at all but my growing knowledge of it, and respect for it, is all that matters as I cycle onward.  Through movement I am still.

Resources:
The Crest is ranked the 65th toughest climb in the U.S. by pjammcycling.com http://www.pjammcycling.com/65.–sandia-crest-hwy–nm.html

Wendell Berry’s poem appears in Literature and the Environment by Anderson, Slovic, O’Grady