Category Archives: Albuquerque

Cycling to work and beyond

This week in May many cities celebrate cycling with a “bike to work day.”  Here in Albuquerque it’s Friday May 19.  I’m a believer in cycling everyday, and aligning a ride around work or school is a good way to get started.  That’s how my cycling began 20 years ago in Reno, Nevada.

There are more benefits than we can imagine in cycling to work.  We get to know our cities better.  We see life from a new perspective.  And we develop our cycling skills as we navigate through varied infrastructure to get to where we need to go.  Cycling to work is a healthy habit.

The key is making cycling a routine.  Transportation is a lifeway, just like eating.  When we try changing with a short term fix, like going on a diet, it usually doesn’t stick.  And cycling to work is going to be the same way.  The idea is to make it a habit that becomes integral to your routine.  We can celebrate cycling everyday!  Bike to church.  Bike to the store.  Bike to open space.

The amazing thing about cycle commuting is how much you accomplish outside of the trip itself.  First of all, cycling energize our lives.  We arrive to work fresh, and if the weather was bad outside, actually relieved to be at our desk.  Free shelter!  Many employers reward cycle commuters with health bonuses, and you become an example for your colleagues.  You boost morale and your enthusiasm is contagious.  People are proud to work with you!  And when you arrive home, you’re already refreshed and replenished with a happy and clear mind.

As a student of cycling, the bike commute is a masters course.  It gets us on the bike twice a day.  The preparation it takes commands concentration and mindfulness.  And we get to practice our cycling skills without having to carve away free time.  There’s an interview with our national hill climbing champion, Leroy Popowski, on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  They ask him what he does to get fit, and he responds that most of his training is riding to and from work with a backpack.  He’s not kidding.  You can look him up on Strava.  Same route twice a day.  That’s ten rides a week.  Of course, then he goes off on the weekends and does more exploring.  But the bike commute is the core for a joyful cycling life.  I hope you seize the chance to begin this May!

Resources:
Find out more at Albuquerque’s member-driven volunteer-run not-for-profit, BikeABQ:
http://www.bikeabq.org
Check out Santa Fe, New Mexico’s bike to work day events:  https://www.biketoworksantafe.com
The League of American Cyclists bike to work month page: http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Urban Landscapes in Living Terms

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Lao Tzu

One of the reasons I moved to Albuquerque was to work on urban sustainability.  The majority of the world lives in cities.  Cities are important places!  On a trip to Taos I had a chance to decompress beneath the extraordinary sky and consider urban life from a rural perspective.

Williams Lake

into the Taos mountains

Sage plains

I see our cities as an integral part of nature, and don’t think they need to be places where we want to escape from.  We can do better making them living and breathing landscapes.  The soundscapes, the night skies, the ecosystem functions of our cities can all be restored to produce high quality habitat that nurtures human life.  We don’t have to leave the city to learn about nature.  We are part of it.  Activities such as walking, cycling and growing food help us learn.  Cycling teaches me conservation and efficiency for example, since my energy is so precious and limited, and it reminds me to carry only what I need, to travel light.

majestic

streaming down

Cycling helps me tune in to places.  There are no walls around me when I ride.  I feel like I belong.  But when I visited the mountains above Taos, it was much quieter and I felt at ease and could pay attention to the subtle things a little more.  At our campsite I realized the automatic beeping from our car key fob was a significant disturbance to the soundscape, so I started locking the car with the key only, in simple mechanical fashion.  That way the car doesn’t beep.  Much better!  Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems in the world we sabotage our journey towards solutions before we even start.  But big successes are made up of small victories.  Taking the opportunities presented, however tiny, add up, and carry us a long way.  Especially when we collaborate, embrace our cities and each do our part.

New Mexico Sunshine

Taos basin

Santa Fe aspen trails with indian paintbrush

Resources–
Here are some tips on making a difference from our National Parks.  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sound/difference.htm

Friluftsliv at Golden Open Space

Sunday morning Mai and I rejuvenated with a walk at Golden Open Space on the Los Duendes Trail.  Golden was one of the first spaces set aside by Albuquerque in 1964 to preserve nature. Exploring city green space is a way to engage what the Scandanavians call friluftsliv, free air life.

Color country New Mexico style

ooh!

Utah blue

Mai and I were startled at what we found there.  The fresh air and silence covered us like a shawl of comfort.  Though Golden Open Space is only 20 or so miles from the City, the Sandia Mountains run between them.  Golden is triangulated under three large mountain ranges, the Sandia, the Sangre de Cristo, and the Jemez.  The smaller San Pedro’s rippled profile meanders across the eastern horizon.  Between all these mountains is a country full of color New Mexico style.  Arroyos and erosion indicate water’s workings everywhere but the element of water itself is ephemeral and rare.  There are plenty of birds and horse prints.  Hidden beauty unspooling.

horns of Juniper

fallen gravity

color canyon

I’m a big fan of getting exercise in our city environment.  But we need to rest and de-stress too.  A gentle walk for adventure and discovery at Golden is a great way to combine the two.  Albuquerque is a nature rich city, and we have access across a range of scales, from neighborhood parks, to wide open spaces.  Every citizen receives nature’s benefits for free.

dimensions

standing tall

yellow green

violet

Resources:  Here’s the link to Golden Open Space at the City of Albuquerque website

Desert Rat in a High Altitude City

“This is paradise.”  –a City employee on living in Albuquerque
“With an average elevation of 5,312 feet, ABQ is the highest U.S. metropolitan city.”
–Albuquerque Change Your Perspective, The Official Visitors Guide 2016 visitabq.org

I expressed concern in my last post, but I feel optimistic about the change we are seeing in Albuquerque and the North American Southwest.  Sometimes we worry about intractable problems but a historical perspective shakes us free of any notion that culture is static.  It’s always changing and the bicycle is a positive change agent in every sector of society.

It’s true that the bicycle is sometimes seen as an outsider on the road and held to a narrower band of acceptable behavior.  We make crazy statements that make no sense, like we could accept bicycles if they would all start following the rules.  I say that is crazy since we don’t reject cars just because some drivers don’t follow the rules.  When we say things about bicycles it really says more about our attitudes toward a minority than it does about the group we are speaking of.  Classic profiling, stigmatizing, stereotyping we see in the pattern of race, class and gender discrimination.  What has really surprised me is how many people who bicycle themselves hold these kinds of judgmental views that divide bicyclists up into categories.  I’ve been working on dissolving my own prejudices (got ’em!) and I gotta say that this is the consolation of middle age and self examination, that you get to relax and enjoy more freely.

People are people and there is no way to tell us apart without getting to know individuals.  Bicycling on the whole recharges my faith in humanity.  The positive interactions I have with citizens, the smiles, the shared knowledge, beauty of a given day, mutual admiration, connect on a bicycle.  You can make it safer.  We are lulled into a complacency enclosed in motor vehicles when in reality the mass of the vehicle plus the speeds make it the most dangerous travel mode.  People make extraordinary efforts to safeguard bicyclists and pedestrians on the roadway.  The more people out walking and biking, the more beautiful our landscape.  Springtime in Albuquerque I can’t think of a better time to ride.  Buen provecho, go get those miles and give yourself and your community the best of everything, ride a bicycle!

sun so yellow

A high desert evening with a glass sky turning westward like a magic carpet trailing a cosmic menagerie it its wake

 

Bike Friendly City

I don’t know if you follow Stephen Clark on Twitter, but you should.  Stephen used to be the bicycle coordinator for Boulder, Colorado, and now he leads the Bicycle Friendly Community program at the League of American Bicyclists.  Stephen visited ABQ last April.  He shared this story via Twitter on Minneapolis’s ascent to bicycle friendly Gold Status.
How Frozen Minneapolis Became a Biking Mecca

SVEDC mural time

I don’t think there’s any one formula for bicycling success in a city, and it has to be an ongoing and authentic process.  But there were a couple key factors in Minneapolis that sparked the journey.  The elected leadership began advocating for bicycling improvements, working with community-based organizations including the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.  Then they earned a 25 million stimulus to support new biking and walking infrastructure that tied the active transportation networks in with their “long-standing heritage of parks, trails and outdoor recreation.”  They started downtown and connected neighborhoods working in sections.  Ridership kept growing and the city’s identity coalesced around bicycling and walking.

Bear Canyon trail

In Albuquerque we have a competitive advantage with our geography.  Even if you’re into snow bikes, just go higher.  Minneapolis has “four full-time city planners dedicated to pedestrian and biking matters”.  That focus, networked with a broad alliance of supporters, committed leadership, dedicated funding, and a creative spirit, weaves together all of the community-wide assets, most importantly by nourishing social connectedness between land and people.

Trek on top

Albuquerque is a great city for bicycling.  I feel very lucky to be here.  Bicycling dovetails into everything else we’re doing from addressing climate change to creating inclusive growth with economic innovation.  From caring for human health and well being, to energy efficiency and wise land use.  Moving bicycling forward is an affordable solution, and quite fun.

References:
Here’s the article on Minneapolis:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/01/16/frozen-minneapolis-became-biking-mecca/78920880/
Photos: 1 the mural at the South Valley Economic Development Center.  2 Commute home today on the Bear Canyon Arroyo trail just west of Wyoming Blvd.  (fresh snow on the mountains is so pretty).  3  Sunday on top of the Sandia Crest looking South, what a high.
Federal Resources are available, read more here:  http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability/newsletter/january_2016/index.cfm

Land Use Planning and Better Walking and Bicycling

Land use planning and walking, bicycling and transit are intricately connected.  Planning is probably the most significant area for making transportation more sustainable by crafting our communities to the scale of human living.  Basically this means building denser, mixed use spaces that are more accessible to walk, bike and transit and that reduce demand for car travel.

city_sprawl

Good land use planning makes walk, bike and transit better transportation choices.  Good planning makes the city set up for accessibility by the most basic and efficient travel modes.  It is not something that happens automatically but is change we have to shape and work for.  I’ve heard criticisms of the Bus Rapid Transit system development on Central Ave. making the point that Central currently doesn’t have the kind of density and mixed use development that transit-oriented districts typically have.  That is an invaluable point to listen to, because it means that transportation planning and land use have to coincide for both to be successful.  Rapid Transit including bus and light rail will be most effective when we increase density in urban centers.  We have to imagine a revitalization of Central Ave. that invites more businesses and people in.

The chief advantages of living in a city are that more services are closer together and propinquity (the proximity of people) spawns creative and beneficial human interactions.  Good land use planning maximizes returns on these natural elements.  Suburban living and car lifestyles will remain popular choices, but smart growth development will mean that we start shaping our cities to open up an array of alternatives, helping variety flourish.  It means people won’t feel like they have to own a car to live here or to be taken seriously.  For most families it means the best of both worlds.  You can live where you want, drive when you want to, and you can feel safe walking and bicycling too.  For the large population that doesn’t drive or doesn’t want to drive, you can have first class transportation options too, mobility freedom for all.

Albuquerque is currently updating its Comprehensive Plan.  There are upcoming meetings to involve community members in planning.  The draft plan is online along with other documents for public review.  It is OK to ask for good transportation choices, and expect to see new patterns on the land increasing livability, health, and equity.  We are becoming something more.  I try to keep an open mind, stay involved and work for a future where we all flourish.

Resources:
Graphic from:  http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/07/7-proven-principles-designing-safer-city
https://www.planning.org/policy/guides/adopted/smartgrowth.htm
http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/planning/sample_plans.cfm
http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/guides/smart-growth-at-the-state-and-local-level/education/develop-a-land-use-and-development-curriculum-for-k-12-students/
http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/smart-growth-and-transportation
http://www.bikeleague.org/content/5-es
‘The world is run by those who show up’:  http://abc-zone.com/

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