Category Archives: Bike Sense = Design & Education

Building Community Through Safe Routes To Schools

Most people are worried that kids are going to be worse off than their parents…politicians have simply not paid attention to the best interests of kids…it is all short term decision making.
–Jim Steyer, from Common Sense Media, on Charlie Rose

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) is a great investment in kids, and the benefits extend beyond healthy commutes to school.   This report from the National Center for SRTS documents how safe walking and bicycling strategies for kids can catalyze community-wide changes.   The report lists five opportunities SRTS presents for extending the benefits of healthy transportation.

Mai flowers one

  • SRTS provides a logical starting point for innovative infrastructure to improve driver and pedestrian safety behavior at crossings.
  • SRTS programs create opportunities to try behaviors and inspire community-wide change.
  • SRTS initiatives serve as starting point for using bold ideas to tackle difficult safety issues like speeding.
  • SRTS creates safe networks for walking and bicycling.
  • SRTS attracts a robust base of support by promoting broader community benefits.

from 5 Ways SRTS Can Help Advance Youth Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Beyond the Trip to School 

Mai flowers three

Working with school age youth and their families provides a tremendous opportunity to listen to community issues from neighborhood-level perspectives.  It helps prioritize the safety of all street users and balances walking and bicycling considerations with motorized travel.  “SRTS programs bring together diverse people around a common cause: to improve the safety, health, and well-being of all children and their families.  They have helped improve local air quality; increase children and families’ physical activity levels; improve students’ academic achievement and reduce the number of days they are absent from school; reduce school transportation costs; and address the presence of street crime and violence in communities.”
(from Creating Healthier Generations)
 

Mai flowers two

Southwest Bike Initiative is happy to be partnering with ABQ Public Schools on SRTS!

Resources:
National Center for Safe Routes to Schools:  http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/
direct link to the report report from NCSRTS:  Advancing Safe Walking and Bicycling for Youth
Post photos:  from the phone of Sansai Studio, Spring bloom at the University of New Mexico

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Earth Day Bike Ed Tips

I saw a cool sign in an Albuquerque neighborhood (photo below).  It reminded me how we’re evolving our consciousness to better accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.  It starts with basic steps, including raising awareness.  Small changes gradually add up to very big things!

watch for bicyclists

Bicycles go everywhere cars go, and more.  Here’s a photo from Uptown Albuquerque, which is a high density and mixed use area that is also a hub for transit and the nexus of numerous bike routes including the 50-mile activity loop.  You’d expect to see bicycles here, and you’d expect to be able to bicycle here.  The road has two lanes and the right lane is not wide enough for a bicycle and motorized vehicle to share side by side.  On this road configuration expect bicycles in the right hand lane and expect overtaking vehicles to use the left lane to pass.

Uptown bicycling

When I bike through here I usually use the middle of the right hand lane.  It makes me more visible to other traffic, and gives me a buffer and room to react if a vehicle is pulling out from an intersection or driveway.  Plus my experience has confirmed what the evidence clearly shows, that riding to the far right of a lane that is too narrow to share leads to closer passes, increasing the danger of being sideswiped.  It can be counterintuitive to think that a bicycle positioned further out in the travel lane is safer, but in spite of our conditioning, statistically this is true.  When Steve Clark from the Bike League was here last April, he explained lane positioning as a way of communication.  Riding in the lane, rather than on the edge of the lane, makes it easier for faster traffic to intuitively understand that they need to change lanes to pass.  And when you have a lot of turning traffic like you do at Uptown, riding in the lane also decreases the likelihood that a motorist will overtake you and then suddenly turn right in front of you, aka the “right hook”, which is a common crash type.  When bicycles use the full travel lane it can help other traffic see and process you as a vehicle on the road and account for you.  Riding off to the side makes it easy to be overlooked.  Cyclists have to make these critical positioning judgments.  Other traffic responds to that positioning, and follows the universal traffic rule to yield to all traffic in front of them.  Traffic flow depends on cooperation and a set of common rules.

Constitution bike lane trash recycle

The photo above is from recycle day on Constitution, which is one of the best east-west bike routes across Albuquerque.  The bike lane has a few obstacles in it.  This is pretty common in my experience, and I don’t sweat it.  Bike lanes are a preferred use facility.  They’re intended to encourage people to come out and be a part of traffic on the road.  They’re not intended to limit where bicyclists may operate.  Believe it or not, I find everything I learned in Commercial Driving School, where I was trained to drive 18-wheelers, is perfectly applicable to being a safe cyclist.  What do I mean?  Well, I learned to look ahead, anticipate hazards, position my vehicle in advance, and signal my intentions.  So I am always on the lookout and looking far up the road to see if a bike lane is blocked, either with an obvious hazard like this one, or a more subtle but equally dangerous hazard like broken glass or a parked car with a door that could hit me if it was opened.  If there’s a hazard in my path, I look over my shoulder (“shoulder check”, or you can use a mirror) to check for traffic.  When you are changing lanes you always have to yield.  When it is clear I’ll signal left, and move into the general travel lane.  When it is safe to move back over, I’ll do the same thing, check for traffic, signal, change lanes.  It works well.

This is it

If we are on the lookout for cyclists, it makes it a lot easier and safer to ride.  Bicyclists are trained to be visible, to follow the rules for vehicles, and to be predictable.  One road, a variety of user types, with coordinated movements is the outlook for keeping safe while navigating different kinds of infrastructure and conditions.  More to come on this topic…here a few more pictures from a recent hike in the foothills east of Albuquerque.  Enjoy outside on Earth Day!

paintbrush windmill emergin

twotone

Spring bloom

Riding for Nathan

Last Saturday Nathan Barkocy’s family, friends, teammates and the community gathered for a bicycle ride on the Bosque Trail.   We rode together to rally for his full recovery.  Nathan was injured just over a week ago when a motor vehicle collided into him.  Nathan is struggling for his life.  The Albuquerque Journal published this news story on the collision and Nathan’s life.

Ride for Nathan long train

Ride for Nathan pacelining

Ride for Nathan bike train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the ride I moved up along the left side of the group.  I wasn’t sure why as I’m usually content to sit at the back of a group.  I guess I wanted to get a sense of who was on the ride and visit with various people.  There was a place next to one rider and I pulled alongside.  It was Earl.

Ride for Nathan Mr. Gage

Ride for Nathan Earl

I like riding with Earl.  We talked and caught up and worked together to safely pass pedestrians and slower riders.  We glided in each other’s slipstream to close gaps.  What a naturally gifted rider.  We shared stories of how we fell into bicycling.  How it fit us.  It just clicked.  The world speaks in whispers.  We marveled at the excitement and joy bicycling funnels into our lives.

Ride for Nathan all together

Ride for nathan big group

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about 500,000 injuries per year are caused by distracted driving of motor vehicles in the United States.  Every day about 10 people are killed and over 1000 people are injured by distracted drivers.   There are three main types of distraction.  Visual: taking your eyes off the road.  Manual: taking your hands off the wheel. and Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.  Every road user is at risk from distracted driving.

Ride for Nathan the card

Ride for Nathan flag

Nathan’s team did a wonderful job organizing the event.  They had a huge card we all signed and we mixed afterwards and talked.  In this country and world we can’t afford the price on human life and dignity to have random and senseless violence happening to free souls pursuing health and happiness and working toward their dreams.  This problem is worth paying attention to and preventing.  We must band together as a community of drivers and change our driving behaviors so driving responsibly is the norm, and nothing less is accepted.  With power comes more responsibility.  Exercising a responsible freedom gives everyone a chance to thrive.

Resources:
Nathan’s team:  https://www.facebook.com/juinorcyclingteam/?fref=ts
Nathan’s caringbridge site:  http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/nathanbarkocy
CDC resources on distracted driving:  http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/
The USDOT’s distracted driving page:  http://www.distraction.gov/
The NHTSA site on driving safely:  http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety
USDOT’s bike-ped safety initiative:  https://www.transportation.gov/safer-people-safer-streets
Context Sensitive Driving https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/learning-from-trails/

Traffic Safety for All People

All men are one and there is no other tale to tell.  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
He said that the way of the road was the rule for all upon it.  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

Respect

Public roads are inclusive of travel by walking and bicycling.  This is common understanding.  Safe passing is the responsibility of the overtaking driver.  Wait until it is safe. Traffic flow is about people, more than just cars.  Look for me.  I will look for you.  We have to look for each other and travel with care.  Every road user has the same expectation for safe travel.

One misconception is that bicycles cannot impede traffic.  That is false.  The traffic impeding law in New Mexico only applies to motor vehicles.  The movement of cyclists on the road at speeds safe and reasonable for bicycles is normal and expected.  Speed differentials are balanced by calming faster vehicular traffic.  When bikes and pedestrians are around please slow down.

A second misunderstanding is that bicycles should always be far right.  That is false.  One of the most effective proactive safety techniques for cycling is traveling where cars generally do, or just to the right.  This is because the movement of bicycles is akin to the movement of cars, and that is where people are looking.  Proper positioning increases visibility, helps avoid right edge hazards, and prevents the most common crash types which includes falls from surface hazards, vehicle turning conflicts, and driveway pullouts.  If the right lane is too narrow to share with a vehicle side by side (generally the minimum width for side by side sharing is 14-15′), bicyclists may use any part of the lane for safety.  Edge riding around the white line can increase the likelihood of a close pass or sideswipe.  Educated cyclists will often center themselves in the lane or ride just right of center to clearly indicate they are using the lane.  This makes bicyclists conspicuous, more visible, and makes their movement more predictable, because they’re clearer of hazards and can hold a line without having to frequently move laterally to avoid debris and pass obstacles.  It also signals to cars that they must changes lanes to pass, and puts bicyclists in a clear field of vision.  Plus good lane positioning gives bicyclists better sight lines through intersections, past driveways, and around corners.  Bike lanes may have the pitfalls of right edge riding depending on their design and conditions.  Safe bicyclists use them with caution and care.  Change lanes to pass cyclists.  Give ample room.  Be sensitive, safe.

A third misunderstanding is that bicyclists should not be on the road.  This is false.  Bicyclists are a normal part of multimodal traffic flow.  Bicycle travel is expected and encouraged.  The Federal Highway Administration’s policy is “bicyclists and pedestrians (including people with disabilities) will be fully integrated into the transportation system.”  This integration begins with the conceptual framework of the public travel environment as a shared space we live in.  This includes recreational use of the public infrastructure.  Cars are used for work and recreation.  So are bicycles and walking.  We want to encourage public health and induce more exercise.

In his investigative book Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt makes a comparison between the 9/11 toll and monthly death toll on roads.  The latter exceeds the former.  “We know all this, and act as if we don’t” (p 275 Tom Vanderbilt).  That is changing.  Our civil society depends on safe roads for all.

Ride for Nathan climb up

Resources:

http://iamtraffic.org/resources/infographics
Tom Vanderbilt Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and What It Says About Us
Cormac McCarthy The Crossing Quotes are from p. 157 and p. 414, The Border Trilogy, 1999, Knopf, Everyman’s Library edition
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/get-educated-on-cycling/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/how-to-pass-bicyclists-safely-how-to-enforce-this/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/side-path-bicycling/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/learning-from-trails/

County Planning Meeting

“The potential exists to greatly reduce transport energy use and GHG emissions by shaping the design of cities, restraining motorization and altering the attributes of vehicles and fuels. Indeed, slowing the growth in vehicle use through land-use planning and through policies that restrain increases in vehicle use would be an important accomplishment. Planning and policy to restrain vehicles and densify land use not only lead to reduced GHG emissions, but also reduced pollution, traffic congestion, oil use, and infrastructure expenditures and are generally consistent with social equity goals.”  –Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

“Each bird while it is part of the flock seems part of something larger than itself.  Another animal.”  Barry H. Lopez, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape

There’s a Comprehensive Plan Update Meeting this evening at the Westside Community Center and I would urge you to go.  It’s a good opportunity to help shape the framework that guides our growth.  The draft Vision statement is up on line and you can submit your comments by email, too.  I’ve been participating as much as I can in this Comp Plan update process.  Good bicycling and good active transportation networks begin with a desire and vision for human powered mobility freedom.  That vision drives the planning and zoning documents, which in turn directs the design of a transportation infrastructure that is inclusive and diverse and considers walking and bicycling as primary choices and fundamental requirements for an equitable and connected community.  We can have a sustainable transportation system that promotes health and wellbeing, local economic development, and improves our quality of life.  We just have to ask for it.  We have an opportunity to create human habitat where we are free to move under our own power.  Let freedom ring through your voice, choice and vision.

“There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares to other expressions.  It is imply your business to keep the channel open.”  –Martha Graham, Making Good

The buffalo are back on the Sandia lands grazing away on the east mesa near Tramway

The Bison are back on the Sandia lands grazing away on the east mesa near Tramway

Buffalo are back

Buffalo

“At the root of the failure to regulate bison hunting was the midcentury belief in economic competition.  Everyone, Indian or Euroamerican included, was engaged in a race to exploit resources for individual gain.” (Andrew C. Isenberg, Destruction of Bison, p.163)
The purpose of our economy is to support human nature.  The transportation ecosystem as a tool for economic development needs to support human movement the way we are intended to move.  We can’t afford to lose our fundamental human powers.

Change is in the Air

“Transportation, which is still 95 percent reliant on petroleum, is the world’s fastest growing energy-based contributor to greenhouse gases.  About three-quarters of the total comes from motor vehicles.  Few disagree that the best solutions include the adoption of electric vehicles and, especially in cities, making it easier for people to forgo cars by using public transportation or riding bicycles.”  –NYTimes, Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits, retrieved 2015/12/7 at nytimes.com in the energy & environment section

The U.S. set out to be and has been a global leader in many things, both scientific and cultural.  Making it easier for people to bicycle is a timely area for us to apply ingenuity, adaptation, creativity and flexibility, American hallmarks.  It can be as simple as repurposing existing infrastructure and making design changes to induce more walking and bicycling.  Sharing knowledge on all the benefits from active transportation including improved health, social stimulation, a growing local economy, a network of safer routes, cleaner air, helps too.  Plus it makes people happier.  Making bicycling easier and using it to enhance our lifestyles is perhaps one of the most valuable areas of leadership we could develop, share and export.  The best example is set by doing it right here at home, and enjoying it, a positive transportation future.

The Senior Center in Corrales makes futuristic look fitting now

The Senior Center in Corrales makes the future look fitting now, at least on the roof.  Parking is still taking lots of room

Yield to crossing active traffic Corrales

Attention to details in the roadscape raises our awareness to people choosing active transportation

Old Alameda bridge at Rio Grande crossing

The old Alameda bridge crossing the Río Grande still works great for low weight and simple conveyances

 

Bike Infrastructure 2.0

Since I’ve moved to Albuquerque I’ve really brushed up on my traffic skills.  In Flagstaff we had a few busy intersections, a few tricky places to navigate.  Albuquerque is much more complex.  Figuring out the safest way to proceed through town is not always clear.   I work hard at it.

Albuquerque has more linear miles of bicycle facilities than almost any city I know.  Many of the bike lanes in place are first generation bike lanes, and almost all of them are too narrow.  They guide bicyclists into a riskier position over at the far right edge of the road.  The good news is we are learning how to design better bike facilities.  Time for bicycle infrastructure 2.0 .

bike lane preferred safe design iamtraffic

I like the ‘best practice preferential use lane’ in the graphic above.  It guides bicycles to a position that is more advantageous and reduces conflict with motorists and pedestrian traffic.  The six foot bike lane integrated with a narrower general use lane and buffered from the edge makes bicyclists more visible, which is the number one concern for comfort and safety.  It makes bicyclist more predictable because they won’t have to maneuver as often to avoid debris, bad pavement, or a car pulling out from a driveway or side street, and bicyclists will have a better field of vision and improved sight lines.  Crash risks from cars turning right in front of bicyclists, or crossing left in front of bicyclists from the oncoming direction, will also be reduced.  With an integrated bike lane (integrated meaning flush with the pavement of the general travel lane, with a simple white stripe between them) bicyclists have maximum options and can change lanes to pass slower traffic, to turn left, or to avoid a hazard such as a dog on a long leash along the side of the road, or to give extra room to people walking or to protect playing children.

A six foot lane encourages bicyclists to ride two abreast.  Two abreast means bicyclists double their vision and are poised to communicate.  Riding two abreast makes bicyclists more visible.  Riding with a partner is the safest and most encouraging way to bicycle.  And yes it is fun!

Narrow, rough, edge bike lanes have caused a lot of undesirable outcomes.  Bicyclists are less visible, and motorists and bicyclists sometimes interpret this road configuration as meaning bicycles have less priority and are supposed to be out of the way.  That is the wrong orientation for safety, and quite frankly it can be very discouraging to ride in that environment.  The good news is we have knowledge and tools to make things better, and we know how to use them.   We know that increasing bike and pedestrian safety increases road safety for everyone.  We know that encouraging more people to feel they have the choice to ride when they want to is empowering, and can be a gateway to habits of lifelong health and positive social relationships.

The best infrastructure makes traffic principles intuitive and the rules of the road clear.  The Bike League’s Quick Guide has the basic rules of the road and principles of traffic law on p. 14, 15.  I see a lot of bike guides and maps that quote local traffic code, but that is not always easy to digest.  The Quick Guide distills the practices of safe cycling to essential components. The pathway to growing bicycle ridership is easier than we sometimes think.  If we simply focus on supporting the people already bicycling and treating them with respect and dignity, then it will be easy to see that this way of travel is something our society embraces and promotes.