Monthly Archives: December 2015

Freedom Rolls

“El Paso’s streets are meant to be shared.”  –City of El Paso, streets and maintenance dept.

El Paso Bike

Bicycling El Paso and experiencing that desert city and the environs reinvigorated my senses.  El Paso is creating a comprehensive bicycle plan.  It sounds good.  The planning is being coordinated with the City, MPO and State, which owns and operates many roads in El Paso.  There are community meetings the next two months.  El Pasoans, make your voices heard.

El Paso Wyler

El paso camino buena suerte

After we returned to Albuquerque winter arrived.  I walked across the bike/ped bridge to Los Altos Golf Course and took pictures.  I-40 was closed from here clear to Texas.  I have bicycled this bridge from our home over I-40 to the bike/ped trail and back 100’s of times.  The pedaling rhythm is easy to find.  Walking the bridge on a snowy day gave me time to see more.

ABQ Los Altos Park bridge

ABQ Los Altos Park Bike-Ped Bridge

ABQ I-40 closing off and on

ABQ berries in snow

ABQ dec. snow

It felt like a blizzard but the next day I was riding outside again.  The power of the intense Southwestern sun.  A different look with mountains draped in snow and chiseled in low angled light.  There’s nothing new on earth, it’s our perceptions that open and attenuate.  Learning is stimulated by seeing distinct and a variety of places, reading, meeting people, being exposed to different ideas and cultures, exercising curiosity, thinking freely, reflecting.  Living.

ABQ La Luz resplendent

ABQ Elena Gallegos road to

Today we visited Los Poblanos, an open space preserve in the North Valley on the eastern bank of the Río Grande.  The air whooshed underneath the feathery wings of Sandhill Cranes.  I remember hearing Richard Nelson on NPR talk about how bird flight is simply extraordinary.  Indeed.  Seeing the evening unfold from Los Poblanos was more magical than staying indoors.

Mai's photo of cranes

Los Poblanos good

Los Poblanos bonsai cottonwood tree

field

I hope in 2016 I can keep bicycling daily.  I like the discipline of riding well, and the symmetry and sense of discovery it brings to life.  Everyone should have access to these freedoms.

Armendaris

depth

laid back

El Paso scenes east

 

References:

El Paso’s Bike Planning including meeting schedule and interactive map!:  http://www.elpasotexas.gov/capital-improvement/project-updates/el-paso-bike-plan

El Paso is also revitalizing a street car line between downtown and University:
http://www.sunmetro.us/streetcar.html

The Federal leadership on bicycle planning is heading in the right direction:
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design.cfm

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Bicycling El Paso

We stayed in El Paso for two days and each morning I bicycled for about two hours.  The Southwest is my querencia, the place where I feel at home, but I still get nervous bicycling in cities when I don’t know my way around.  Bicycling is the best way to learn about your location.  So I did a little research and then headed out and immediately got lost.  I guess that’s exploring.

yeah

These sculptures along I-10 near where we stayed generate electricity from wind power

Walking over from the hotel with morning coffee I saw the Franklin Mountains aglow

Walking over from the hotel with morning coffee I saw the Franklin Mountains aglow.  El Paso art feels good

Dawn in the Southwest is simply electric.  My destination on day one was Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, about 25 miles mostly east.  I couldn’t find a dedicated bike map so I used the Strava Heat Map to see where people are riding.  The darker the blue lines, the more bicycling.

El Paso Strava Heat map 2015.12.27

I used google earth some too to see the roadways beforehand and scout out big intersections.  I decided to use Edgemere Boulevard but that requires about 10 turns to get there unless you use the main arterials.  You can ride all roads abiding by the rules for drivers of vehicles, but I look for streets that are lower stress and attractive while also being direct and efficient.  Smooth and steady bicycle traffic flow, a complete street inclusive of all modes, a nice ambiance and an active and engaged culture are all key components of a good bicycling route.  I studied the maps best I could but once I started riding I went by feel and discovered a beautiful city.  I took Edgemere to Zaragosa Road and then east on Highway 62/180 out into open country.

El Paso open road

El Paso east of town

El Paso curve

El Paso kindle

The shoulder of hwy 62 is wide and smooth from the outskirts of town out into the open desert.  It would be perfect for fast group rides, touring cyclists, and anybody wanting to spin their legs and get their heart pumping underneath the vibrant desert sky in fresh air.  I noticed this is the route the Oryx Challenge Bike Tour takes to raise money for the USO.  It’s a good ride.  Near the Hueco Mountains I turned north on the quiet back road and met Mai for hiking.
On day two I went the other direction to check out Scenic Drive and a few other short climbs up into the Franklin Mountains.  I enjoyed getting lost again but I kept heading west towards the gigantic Franklin Mountains skylighted against a deep Chihuahuan blue, and found Scenic Dr.

El Paso Scenic Drive skyway

El Paso road over city

El Paso Scenic Drive twist

El Paso downtown

Scenic Drive is unique.  You can get a close up view of downtown from the southern tip of the Franklin Mountains, and see clear into Mexico and the surging mountains beyond.  There are many great roads climbing the eastern flanks of the Franklins.  One is stupendously steep.  I was standing in my lowest gear going way to hard for wintertime, though temperatures were in the 60’s.  McKelligon Canyon road was used in a bicycle race and it’s a longer climb, similar to our La Luz climb in Albuquerque, but not as consistently steep.  It has a nice bike lane and many people were jogging and walking on road, way more pedestrians than cars, always nice.

El Paso McKelligon uphill

El Paso descending Wyler

El Paso in the Mountains

El Paso Bicycling the Franklins

I like bicycling El Paso.  It’s a great city, with farmland up and down the Río Grande valley and mountains prominent above town.  So much character, very diverse.  The emergent bicycling community received honorable mention when Steve Clark of the League of American Bicyclists visited town in 2014.  The Paso Del Norte region shares air, water, and culture between Ciudad Juarez, New Mexico and Texas.  Bicycling culture is a point of convergence.   Velopaso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition is working to make the walking and bicycling economy part of the backbone of the region’s sustainable development strategy.  It’s a beautiful thing to witness a movement that moves humans with dignity and protects fragile desert ecologies and resources.

El Paso Franklin Mtns splendor

El Paso Sun Land

When people want to get moving, the bicycle is there.  We saw six bike share stations by the university and downtown.  It’s a bright morning in the Great Southwest.  Go El Paso!  íVaya!

El Paso B Cycle

El Paso desert morning

gran suroeste

Paso Azul del Norte

We took the long road south following the Río Grande rift valley.  Being far from our families, we thought this Christmas was a good time to explore the Sun Land around El Paso.  On our first morning there under the slanted winter light we walked at Hueco Tanks Historic Site.

desert shadow

salida del sol

range

Hueco is a place where water pools in natural rock basins.  It has attracted people for thousands of years and rocks are etched with their imagery.  A confluence of cultures here.

protected

delicates

blue hole

heart of light

The banded mountains in the distance look painted on in the stark desert light.  Up close the plains are resplendent with grasses fanning out and sotol and yucca flowers spearing skyward.  The unfolding red tips of blooming ocotillos punctuate the resonance of life.

Ocotillo show

correr

fanning out

The Chihuahuan Desert is a different kind of beautiful.  The Creosote bush ocean changes visual palettes.  This desert is relatively temperate and full of surprises.

deep green color

screen

A deep Chihuahuan blue wrapped by rocks, water and sun.  So many colors and tones.

cracked and peeling

lichen rock

texture weave

bladed

piedras de colores

We had no idea a place like this existed.  A heartfelt place.  Admiring the vast detail of the open lands in the angled light of a sunny winter’s day, we vowed to explore more.

new growth

sunup

building and tree

Wagon Wheel repose

cresosote bush

soap tree yucca

life

stalk

A Beautiful City to Bicycle

On Sunday I tried a different route.  I took the Gail Ryba bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Río Grande and continued west on the I-40 trail until I reached another bike/ped bridge.  I crossed over I-40 again by Hanover Rd. to the West Mesa High School area. I’ve seen that bridge before but I’ve never used it.  It’s smooth with great views.  Working my way over to West Central I saw parts of town previously hidden to me.  From the bicycle things look and feel different.  I noticed the beautiful art work on the Unser road cut where it descends the volcanic escarpment.  I saw a horserider push the crosswalk button and trot across Alameda.  I noticed the serpentine xeriscaping down the center of I-40.  The neon artwork flickering on West Central.  The textured sands in dry arroyos.  Tumbleweeds blowing above the volcanoes, freed from fences, whipping across the west mesa.  Dust pluming up from the new development  breaking ground.   The stunning light and splash of colors at daybreak and evening time.  On Sunday I rode across five dedicated bicycle/ped. bridges.  From the mountains across the river to the volcanic west mesa and back again, what a beautiful city and State for bicycling.

the beauty of Tramway Road

route 66 sign

west mesa escarpment road cut

cool cat

Bridge over I-40

evening sky

pink sunrise

sunrise

Bicycles, Pedestrians, and Horses

West Mesa Aquatic Center

volcano road

paseo trail

Sand River

New Mexico colors

 

Making Peace with the Bicycle

Italian-radio-station-nominates-the-bicycle-for-the-Nobel-Peace-Prize

In Italy a radio station has nominated the bicycle for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Good idea.

Around the World by Bicycle

Ride your bicycle in unity
think of physics and glide gracefully on
the world’s a sheet and you a joyous globe
see the faces of friends
on every street
you are familiar in every city
around the world this currency is known
bicycling is a common language such as music
spoken quietly by God’s ear
you are home be one

Socioecological Dimensions of Bicycling Cities

The more I try to understand bicycling transportation the more nuanced my sense is of the connections to every other part of our lives, the complexity.  I just read an article that touches on this complexity.  It is called The Bicycle is a Catalyst for Nature Conservation and it appears on a nonprofit collaborative called The Nature of Cities that explores cities as ecosystems of people, nature and infrastructure.  It is not a perfect article but it gets better as it goes along and does a good job exploring.  We seem to be entering a fundamental shift in the way we think about our cities, from places environmentalists abhor and run away from, to being harbingers of the change towards more sustainable, equitable and connected ways of living.  In conserving nature we enable the conservation of humanity and discover more about ourselves.

Here’s a snapshot of organizing themes from the article, and a couple quotes:
_____________________________________________________________________

More bikes=more connectivity, awareness, compassion, and innovation
More bicycles = more space for nature
More bicycles = less pollution, more resources
More bikes = more environmental justice

“I recently visited a suburb of Johannesburg.  Ecologically dull, aesthetically grim, traffic congested, socially segregated, it is dominated by roads, car parks and shopping complexes—a superb example of bad urban planning, a suburb designed for cars not people. Yet it resembles much of the modern world—a world that is rapidly transforming through low-density car-infatuated urban sprawl.”

“Green infrastructure generates multiple ecosystem services that support human wellbeing including education, recreation, spiritual fulfilment, storm water absorption, climate regulation, and food production.”
_____________________________________________________________

We can plan, design, and build a more vibrant city if we set out to do that, and work together to produce the kind of results we envision are possible.  There are many points of light in this vision.  What we can realize is more than we have yet dared to imagine.  What would happen if we made walking and bicycling the fundamental organizing principles of cities?

Full article here:

http://www.thenatureofcities.com/2013/04/28/the-bicycle-is-a-catalyst-for-nature-conservation/