Category Archives: bikes plus education

Year of the Bird

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

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I awoke before dawn in our tent listening to the music of the birds.  Owls were hooting in the dark, and coyotes yipped and howled.  The cranes roosting in the playa waters were noisy most of night. I bundled up and opened the tent flap.  It was freezing outside.  Stars were shining across the sky and a faint band of white light was glowing on the eastern horizon.  I lit the stove and heated water.  I looked around.  The backbone of the milky way arched overhead, the dark shapes of the mountains skylighted by dawn.  I poured the water over the coffee, cradled the cup, and sipped.  It was a great day for birding at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area in Arizona.

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Whitewater Draw is a playa and wetlands in the Sulphur Springs Valley.  It was purchased by Arizona in 1997 to provide habitat for the cranes and other wildlife.  The cranes like to rest in the shallow waters at night, protected from bobcats and coyotes.  They fly out every morning to feed in the fields on bits of grain and corn that were left over from harvest season.

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Whitewater Draw has camping, which makes it easy to be out at the edges of the day when the birds are flying in and out.  Every morning and evening we walked on the pathways and decks with views of the playa.  At nighttime the stars reflected in the calm waters.  We met some great people.  One retired couple joked they had run away from their home in Alabama, and were taking their sweet time exploring the Southwest U.S.  Their plan was to not have a plan, just explore.  Another couple was younger and were taking a year off to travel.  Conversation flowed cheerily as we watched the birds glide, overlooking the watery playa and expansive valley and mountains beyond.  The small crowd of people Whitewater attracts is friendly and easy going.  Everyone was attuned to the language of the landscape, the beauty of the surroundings.

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I came home with questions to research.  I was excited to learn that 2018 is being celebrated as “the year of the bird” by the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, BirdLife International, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  It’s the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which has played a critical role in conservation of biodiversity.  The Sulphur Springs Valley is a good example of balancing human activities such as agriculture and conservation, and ecological stewardship, partnerships made to last.  It was good to see these birds considered, admired, and cared for.  I certainly learned a lot from them while I was there.

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If you take care of birds, you take care of most of the environmental problems in the world.  –Thomas Lovejoy, Biologist and Godfather of Biodiversity

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Resources and Credits (and cycling info.):
Thank you Mai at Sansai Studio for these wonderful photographs!  You can check out more of Mai’s work at her Instagram site:  https://sansai.photoshelter.com/instagram

The Whitewater Draw live, streaming crane cam!  https://www.azgfd.com/wildlife/viewing/webcamlist/sandhillcrane/cranecam/

The Year of the Bird website:  https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/year-of-the-bird/

We brought our bicycles with us.  What a way to experience the landscape! I plan on blogging about the riding there, but for now, here are maps, data, and pics from those rides, via Strava.
https://www.strava.com/activities/1353895700
https://www.strava.com/activities/1352328961

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Pedaler in Chief

“Bicycles will save the world.”  –Susan Handy, UC Davis Environmental Science & Policy

How poignant this Rush song is today.  It was written in 1985 when greed was being institutionalized in America.  I grew up a confused child in a troubled world.

After high school I worked as a roofer.  I started college.  At 21, I drove an 18 wheeler around America the beautiful, and epic Canada too.  But it was the bicycle–rediscovered at the age of 22 when I realized the car could not save me and was too expensive for me to operate anymore–that changed me.  It was a tool that helped me learn Emerson’s Self-Reliance from the inside by living it.  It’s not easy, and I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but it is a fun ride.

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What if our next President charged the country with cycling more?  Make a difference, bike more.  We don’t need everyone to ride, we simply need to support people that are out there cycling right now and encourage people that will.  Especially our youth, and young at heart.

If you’re feeling cynical during this election cycle I recommend cycling more.  It builds us up and connects us to the greater world.  I would also recommend voting.  We have to make our effort and let go of factors beyond our control.  We can only dictate our own effort.  And it works.

2012 was a pivotal moment on my cycling journey when Joe Shannon, Flagstaff Cycling’s Pedaler in Chief, gave me an opportunity to race again, build a team and smooth out my pedal stroke.  We keep growing the movement and spreading the word.  What if the next President of the U.S.A. embraced this new title, Pedaler in Chief, and built a team with all Americans and World Leaders?   Who knows, maybe big money can help more too.  Let’s ask.

References–
Check out Dr. Handy’s research here:  http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/
Joe’s team is linked here–
https://flagstaffcycling.squarespace.com/
Cycling joins together disciplines:  UC Davis’s Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior

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.

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  • 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 

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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)
 

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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

At the Margin of Safety

“The only problem with the law is that nobody but cyclists know it.”  –Steve Tilford

One of the more discouraging aspects of bicycling is the too-close pass.  Unsafe passing is always physically scary but it can be especially tough mentally when it’s intentional.  I saw this comment on Steve Tilford’s blog:  “I don’t know how many times in my lifetime I’ve had people yell single file to me.  Probably 1000’s.”  For people to flourish on public roads, to make them healthier roads, we have to target threatening, intimidating and irresponsible behaviors.   We are advancing civil rights in many social areas, why not transport?  We all know that mobility is fundamental to American identity, we are a people on the move.  This song reminds me of these bicycling times, “not the best of times but they’re the only times I’ve ever known”.

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The hardest part of the violence I’ve witnessed (first hand and through story) is the damage it does to people and communities.  Perfectly healthy well adjusted people saying I’m not sure if it is worth it if I can’t stay safe out here cycling.  Tilford has another post about the upsurge in gravel road riding, in part driven by the desire to avoid motorized traffic.  I would say the majority of bicyclists prefer mountain biking simply because it feels safer.  There are positive drivers for off road cycling–the beauty and solitude backcountry affords, the intimate contact with the textures of raw earth felt through your tires, the technical challenges–but much of it is driven by avoidance, people who just don’t want to deal with the chaotic behavior on roads.  People want to support bicycling for all good reasons, begin by enforcing safety on the road.

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The best address I’ve read for this was produced by the American Psychological Association’s “Task Force on Reducing and Preventing Discrimination Against and Enhancing Benefits of Inclusion of People Whose Social Identities Are Marginalized in U.S. Society”.   They did this report called Dual Pathways to a Better America  that is really succinct and universal.  The premise basically is that promoting diversity is the proper anecdote.  The bicycling community is well aware that acculturation to bicycling–when it is naturalized and people become accustomed to it, and most people do it at one time or another–disarms that “otherness” and creates a normalcy, helping us connect as humans.  “Discrimination, stereotyping and bias generate exclusion and marginalization for certain groups and wrap a blanket of inclusion, security and opportunity around others…Irrefutable psychological evidence supports the understanding that everyone is affected by systems of discrimination, and when these systems are challenged, the eventual acceptance of and support for social diversity is exponentially healthier for everyone” (APA report, introduction).  The intolerable part about biases in transportation (including the conception of privilege) is that human life is in the balance.

I’ll be writing a lot about this, but for now, there’s an important quote here from the FHWA approach for accommodating active transport:

“There is no question that conditions for bicycling and walking need to be improved in every community in the United States; it is no longer acceptable that 6,000 bicyclists and pedestrians are killed in traffic every year, that people with disabilities cannot travel without encountering barriers, and that two desirable and efficient modes of travel have been made difficult and uncomfortable.”

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This FHWA document is insightful and thorough in its evaluation and disruption of the status quo, and recommends good changes.   This is a call to action that takes responsibility and changes attitudes.   The Vision Zero framework, one that approaches every traffic injury as preventable, is helpful moving forward.  “Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority” is principle number one.  If we change our attitudes and make people the priority we win, and the world and the roads connecting it will be a better place, good times to come.  Then the stories we write about the road, our hopes and dreams, will help to move us forward.

Loving Land from the City

“This is our world, where our health is woven together with biotic communities in a shared environment, and it is so clearly evident at Tahoe.”
–Peter Goin, Using Lake Tahoe photographs to blend art and science, UNR Nevada Today news

Living in the American West makes noticing the unique characteristics of place inescapable.  There are usually mountains rimming town and in most places piercing sun and deep blue sky.  The air is dry and water is rare and valuable.  In Phoenix, Arizona there is a bicycle club with a long tradition of sewing together people’s health with the lay of the Sonoran Desert lands.  They’re putting on a great race next weekend called the Valley of the Sun (VOS) stage race.

It is amazing how deep racing goes.  Included in the festivities is a Hand Cycling race.  “VOS has  been chosen by the United States Olympic Committee, U.S. Paralympics Cycling as one of six events in the US to complete a U.S. Paralympics Cycling Series. The goal of this series is to provide public awareness of health benefits and sport opportunities for those with spinal cord injury.”  VOS also has a kids bike race, rodeo, and safety clinic.  More information here:

Kids Bike Race, Rodeo, and Safety Clinic
Hand Cycle Race and Learn to Ride Clinic
All the events can be viewed at wmrc.org/

Every year volunteers from the White Mtn. Road Club put on the VOS series and it draws racers and spectators from all over the country.  The level of community involvement and deep knowledge of the growth of bicycling in the Phoenix metro region in that organization is phenomenal.  I was a fortunate enough to be a member for a couple of years and now I stay interlinked through strong bonds even from 500 miles away.  Bicycling makes one big family.

The White Mountain Road Club is my bike org of the month for January 2016.  Thanks for the work that you do!
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Here are a few photos from rides in the Sandia and Manzano ranges this weekend.  The strong El Niño is ebbing for now and the sun is out and the high country is becoming more accessible.  I start and end all my ABQ rides from home.   I am looking forward to the season.

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double pine on Sandia Road

Improving on the Old Way of Doing Things

“The good news is the good old days were never the good old days.”  –Michael Bloomberg

La Luz moonrise over chamisa

“Roads are designed to move people…we have this unique method of transportation called walking…people are starting to ride their bikes more and more.”  “The only way to get people to respond to the good objectives of safety and sustainability is to explain to them why they today get a benefit by making the sacrifice.”  –Mike Bloomberg, 108th Mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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“The evidence is catching up to the ethics.”  –Jim Yong Kim

Pino Trail ethics

‘Roads are designed to move people.  Focus on the movement of people.  Not just vehicles.’
‘We have to look at other ways to move people.’
‘Motor vehicle traffic hurts your economy.’
‘With increased pedestrian traffic, gross sales of businesses on the street level goes way up.’
‘You have to explain to people today what benefits they get from less traffic.’

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Pino Trail fall woods

“Real innovations are low-cost and efficient.” –Andrew Steer, Pres. of World Resources Institute
“Transportation really is about people.”  –Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank

Pino Trail on horseback

Pino Trail horsemounts

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Pino family cycling

“The way we build our cities is about food security, health, education, it’s about everything we want to accomplish as a society.  Of course it is about sustainability…let’s start by focusing on transport.”  –Jim Yong Kim, World Bank from his conversation with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

Pino Trail rust

Downtown cosmos

Ikebana October

Most of the quotes are from Shaping the Future of Urban Transport.  Pictures are from walks and bike rides on the Pino Trail, Pecos National Park, La Luz, and from gardens in Albuquerque.

Designing and Educating for Bicycling

Every effort to promote bicycling hinges on a clear understanding of how bicycling works in the context of the overall transportation ecosystem.  The guiding principle for bicycling is commonly referred to as vehicular cycling.  A more modern term is bicycle driving.  It is the basis for safe coexistence with traffic and conforming to the rules of the road.   If you’ve ever operated your bicycle on an ordinary residential street, going with traffic, then you’re already doing it.  Bicycle driving is what is taught in the Safe Routes To Schools curriculum, and every other bicycling education program.   Complete Streets is the design aspect for bringing bicycling into the mainstream by designing streets for bikes.  The educational component is bicycle driving, and it instills confidence for people to be fully empowered to use bicycles to travel anywhere.

The Bike League’s curriculum and all bicycling education programs are designed “to create a mindset that bikes are treated as a vehicle” (from becoming an instructor).  This mindset instills a sense of proportional responsibility and is the basis of appropriate relationships for bicyclists to all kinds of traffic and traffic control devices.  This mindset shared by all sets the tone for great streets and trails.  On the multiuse trail this principle guides bicycles to yield to pedestrians and equestrians, gauging travel speeds accordingly.  On the road the bicycle driving principle means the most predicable, safe, and visible way to move is with the vehicular traffic flow.  Even when there is physical separation between motorized traffic and bicycle traffic, such as with a protected bike lane, the motions of the two traffic streams must always be coordinated and mutually aware.  This is especially true at intersections, driveways, and parking zones when traffic mixes and the cooperative environment depends on predictable movements, communication, awareness, negotiation, and common rules to which all traffic adheres.  Complete Streets policies support design environments that welcome bicycle traffic and lower traffic stress so that people have a better chance to positively orient to the road with whichever mode they choose.  A Complete Street is as an inclusive place and built on the underlying structure of relationships between varying types of traffic.  Traffic skills education is a complimentary factor that facilitates pleasant travel by fostering order and raising awareness.  Design and education work in tandem to promote good bicycling.

Most people have some reservations about bicycling because they are not clear how bikes fit in.  Forward looking solutions include education for drivers to respect all kinds of traffic, and treating bicycles as an equal vehicle, welcoming diversity.  Most bicycle traffic occurs on roads without a designated bicycle facility such as a bicycle lane.  A regular travel lane needs to be at least 14 feet wide for it to be safely shared side by side by a car and a bicycle.  Seeing bicycle traffic using a general travel lane may look different than what we are used to.  I trust we are acclimating to bicycles as a normal component of traffic and civic life in the mainstream, just like we are welcoming diverse religions, cultures, and lifestyles.  Change takes a new attitude, an open mind, and in the case of roads, traffic calming and the conception of an inclusive space.

Bicycles are good for the transportation ecosystem.  As we design and educate better for bicycles, include bicycle traffic in our engineering metrics and traffic flow analysis, and we learn more about what bicycling can do for us and we do it more, things are going to get a lot easier, safer and more attractive.  The quicker we can make these changes, the sooner we can move ahead.  In the Southwest, Utah and Colorado are already in the bike friendly top ten.

For understanding bicycling, I’ve benefited from the generosity of the creator of azbikelaw.org.  For the last two years, Ed has suggested reading related to bicycle law, roadway design, engineering, and traffic behavior.  He has a “do it yourself” entrepreneurial attitude and continues his education, applying critical thinking and analytical skills to practical experience to spur progress.  Ed responds cordially to questions, and links people to resources.  Always there to foster more informed dialogue.  Some of the lessons were tough, like the lessons from a cyclist who was killed by a hit from behind on a charity ride in Cornville.  Ed’s analysis and documentation is brave and courageous, like the novelist Cormac McCarthy’s willingness to tell the story of violence in Western culture and its continuum past to present.  AZ Bike Law is my August 2015 Bike Org of the Month.  Thanks for your diligence and enthusiasm Ed.

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Please be kind to persons bicycling, walking, rolling, driving autos and commercial vehicles.  Drive with care and caution.  Forgiveness and understanding.  We are all learning.  Gracias!

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