Category Archives: Business and Bikes

Connecting Albuquerque and Santa Fe with cycling

The way we treat the environment and the way we treat each other are intricately connected.  —Jonathan P. Thompson, “We are the environmental movement”, Colorado Sierra Club blog 

I’ve reached a couple milestones recently.  This is my 365th blog post on bike yogi.  For some reason, this has been a number I’ve had in my head as a goal since I started this blog in 2014 to write about cycling.  I also was trained as a cycling instructor this past Spring by the League of American Bicyclists.  I’ve wanted to do that for years!  And on Sunday June 17th, I connected two great cities, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, with a bicycle ride along the Turquoise Trail, through Santa Fe, and on up Hyde Park Road into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

the turquoise trail connects Albuquerque to Santa Fe through rolling high desert terrain and beautiful mountains

I woke up early on Sunday to begin my ride by 7:15am so I could meet my wife in Santa Fe at Fort Marcy Park for a picnic at noon.  Although June is an extremely hot and dry month historically in the Southwest U.S., the previous day we received a steady rain and the landscape was still wet and fragrant.  Lingering clouds dropped some showers in spots as I rode.  It felt so good to pedal and circulate that oxygenated blood all around my body, and at the same time watch that vital ingredient in the chemistry of life–WATER–flow from sky to the waiting earth.

bike art along the Turquoise Trail

The atmosphere above, the ocean below–it’s one big system.  –Sylvia Earle, “Sunken Treastures

Spooling down the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway on a bicycle is a little bit like sailing on an inverted ocean, the clouds roiling in the sky with a fluid, wave-like motion.  I feel the beauty inside of me.  We already see the roads as an artifact of our culture, and a way into the culture, history and traditions of the land around us.  In Georgia, there is a pilot project on highway to farm the roadside and make it more ecologically productive.  As part of this project rethinking what a highway can be, Georgia is building bioswales to clean the water runoff, growing wheatgrass to sequester carbon, and experimenting with asphalts to make it quieter.  This sounds exciting, but right now by cycling I already feel the way this road is improving my health, today!  Why do for people what people can do for themselves?  Cycling is an economic engine.

Hyde Park Road leads up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

The infrastructure is the landscape.  –Jonathan Thompson, “River of Lost Souls

In Santa Fe I took the most direct way through town, and started climbing up Hyde Park Road.  Due to the high fire danger most of the recreational facilities from the road are closed, so there is very little traffic, and more than half of that traffic are bicyclists.  It’s so quiet I am spooked when I here twigs breaking in the forest next to me.  I look to my right towards the sound’s source and there are two deer running up an embankment.  They were enjoying the quiet too.  After I climb “the wall”, the steep two mile pitch through the State Park, I turn around to be on time for my picnic date with my wife.  It’s delightful.  After lunch we stroll through town.  In the Plaza in the center of town where the streets are closed to motorized traffic, all I can hear is a chorus of human voices.  It’s like a hundred conversations happening all at once, something like a symphony of voices.  A beautiful sound.  The fabric of community.  We stumble upon a free concert by the Santa Fe Concert Band in front of the Court House.  We lay on the grass and listen to the songs roll–Arioso, Black Horse Troop, A Touch of Carmen, The Phantom of the Opera. We drive home to Albuquerque together, feeling restored, hoping more rain will come soon.

The Santa Fe Concert Band played a Father’s Day Concert at Federal Park

Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.  –Albert Einstein

References and Resources:

We are the environmental movement is an interview with writer Jonathan Thompson https://www.sierraclub.org/colorado/blog/2018/06/we-are-environmental-movement

Georgia DOT is farming the roadside:  https://www.mnn.com/green-tech/transportation/blogs/georgia-highway-rightofway-farming-ray-anderson

Explore New Mexico’s Scenic Byways:  http://dot.state.nm.us/content/nmdot/en/byways.html

The Sun Magazine’s feature interview each of the last five months has been incredibly inspiring:
https://www.thesunmagazine.org

Jonathan Thompson’s book River of Lost Souls is in part about converting our economy so what used to be sacrifice zones contribute more to human well-being and our sense of place.  https://riveroflostsouls.com

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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

Challenging times with leadership opportunities

I should say up front, I’m a one-issue voter. I would vote for almost any president who had a brilliant climate change agenda.” –Jeremy Grantham, chief investment strategist at GMO

I like this interview with Jeremy Grantham.  He challenges the old mental architecture of economic growth by offering a new paradigm.  Economic growth with environmental protection. When one person stands up for the truth and cares, it becomes easier for all to take responsibility.  Especially when that person transcends stereotypes and offers analysis and answers while honestly examining the complexities in our world, beginning with where we stand.

In my lifetime (I’m 42) the average hourly pay (adjusted for inflation) for the American worker has been stagnant.  For some perspective, in France wages have gone up 140 percent in the same timeframe, in Japan 80 percent, in the UK 65 percent.  Bicycling has helped me moderate that impact with its savings.  Cycling is a huge part of the shift we need to make promoting renewables, quality of life and opportunity.  We can have cycling and rising wages.  And we should not feel sorry for ourselves, because people in places like Africa have not profited as much as we have from carbon pollution, yet their suffering from the consequences is worse.

More of Grantham’s key observations–
*out of the 20th richest nations, the U.S. is last in income equality and last in economic mobility
*instead of reversing these trends we are witnessing the “complete flowering of corporatism” where industries are appointed to oversee the agencies that are meant to protect the people
* the Chinese have advantages including taking science more seriously (Grantham measure this by noting 9 out of the 10 people in the last Chinese regime had PhDs, while in the US Congress all the way up the presidency we have 1-2 PhDs depending on how you view doctorates)

To make the pendulum swing back towards a brighter future, we need to get capital flowing to renewables, including cycling.  Then we’ll reap the long term benefits of harnessing free power, and giving the people the tools we need to lift up our lives, including education.  We need to reward the corporations and investors who are doing it right, incentivizing beneficial behaviors.

I first saw Grantham on Charlie Rose in 2013, at which time he speculated we ‘may already have cooked our goose’ with climate change.  How resilient is the earth?  How ingenious are its people?  We’ve been lucky so far, and I think the American people are excited for this adventure.  All our excellence comes from everyday citizens, courageous leaders speaking up, organizing and implementing what we know and will discover as we build a better world beginning at home.

Watch Grantham on Charlie Rose:  https://charlierose.com/videos/30816

“Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”  –William Bryant quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Why Cycle? Because it works!

Cycling in Japan is more about getting the groceries than getting fit.  –Byron Kidd, tokyobybike.com

Anytime we travel or do something out of the ordinary, it gives us a special perspective on our daily lives.  That was certainly the case when I traveled to Japan.  A few things dawned on me that are working in Japan to create a robust walking and cycling culture.  It’s not perfect, but I learned a lot there.  Here are ten reasons why walking and cycling are thriving in Japan.

1. Everyone walks and cycles.  It is a daily necessity, and expected.  It’s the way people go shopping, and to work and school.  It’s the way people access open space, get fresh air, exercise, and spend time outside together.  Walking and cycling are routine, everyday habits.  Errands and exercise flow together.

Seniors ride their bikes to Thai Chi practice in the park

2. Automobile drivers are disciplined, careful and attentive.  Drivers expect to see people on streets and crossing at intersections, and are prepared to yield to slower traffic ahead and when turning.   Drivers reliably use blinkers to communicate intentions.  Driver education and training is extensive and the responsibility of driving is taken seriously and respected.

3. Communities are planned as villages, and are oriented around train stations.  Businesses cluster around the train station, creating a village center.  People live within a short walk or bike from the village center and walking and cycling are the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way of getting to where you want to go, and the best way to access shopping and services.

4. Japan’s train system is awesome.  You really don’t need a car because it makes more sense to take the train.  Trains are accurate, frequent, fast, smooth and safe.  Quality transit makes good community planning a lot easier, and is a building block for healthy, efficient and sustainable transportation.  You have freedom to read, relax, talk or meditate on the train.

5.  Japan has the lowest car usage rate of any of the G8 countries.  This means roads are smaller.  Smaller roads necessitate lower speeds.  Lower speeds for cars means calmer streets for walking, cycling.  Reduced speed differentials increases safety and comfort.  Smaller roads are easier to cross, cycle on, and navigate, and do business along, and it feels like healthier human habitat.

6. Compact, dense development makes destinations closer.  Japan is more careful about space efficiency because space is precious.  With denser building, more destinations are within easy reach by walking and cycling.  Compact, dense development makes walking and cycling very useful, as well as super interesting.  Cars are designed to be space efficient, as well, and the nimbleness of walking and cycling is prized.

7. Japan has a great cycling culture naturally.  From school children to elderly, business people to homemakers, everybody cycles.  It’s just normal.  People cycle in their day clothes, and functional athletic gear, too.  Whatever is fitting.  Towns and businesses serve cyclists by making parking convenient and easy because it makes rational sense and people use bikes for everything.

8.  People walk everywhere, and people are used to sharing space.  Cycling benefits from a strong walking culture.  It means drivers are accustomed to the presence of people on the streets, are on the lookout, and patient to share.  Walking is the foundation of the transportation system in Japan, and it anchors the streets in a culture of sharing.  People have priority.

9. Safety and security is high.  Bicycles are usually parked with a simple lock immobilizing the rear tire.  Streets are family space, and feel inhabited.  Public spaces are clean, organized, cared for and well-tended.  The architecture, design and the way things fit together is beautiful.  There is a strong sense of social responsibility, order, respect and dignity in Japan.  It feels neat and safe.

10.  Walking and cycling is easy, convenient, and effective.  The Japanese take advantage of the most basic forms of transportation by using them as organizing principles and practical tools for daily living, including making people healthier, happier and connected to the community where they live.

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/

Bicycling Hog Wild in Arkansas

Ark biking

The welcome center on I-40 as you enter Arkansas near Ft. Smith makes you want to move there.  They do their job well.   Oak and hickory woodsmoke from the stone fireplace percolates through the air as you make your way across the lawn to the front doors.  The shelves are full of promotional materials to browse.  I walk up to the counter and there are two hosts.  I say I’m interested in bicycling and she reaches and gathers up three or four brochures as thick as magazines.  Lots of cycling here.  By the free coffee, a flat screen plays bicycling videos.  Riders glide on trails through the woods underneath sheets of layered rock with waterfalls running over them.  On the next scene road bicyclists ride socially on Ozark country lanes.  Then the video shows families and friendly groups cycling together on the Razorback Greenway.  It made me feel very excited and welcome to bicycle, and showed Arkansas is set up for bicycling.

ARK Botanical

ARK Fay fun trail

ARK Fayetteville Lake mirroring

We stayed with my Aunt in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Her neighborhood connects to the Razorback Greenway.  The Razorback Greenway is a 36 paved multiuse trail between Fayetteville and Bella Vista.  It’s a game changer for making the region a bicycling destination.  I want to go back and ride the entire length.  On this trip I had a chance to explore the loop around Lake Fayetteville.  It is one of the many spur trails in local communities now interconnected by the main trail.

ARK Fay the Greenway hog

ARK NW trail count

The Walton Family Foundation has built strong partnerships with regional agencies to get this trail completed.  When my Aunt moved here the trail was in progress, and because it was one of the reasons she relocated to Fayetteville, she followed up with the Mayor to let him know what an important foundation it was for quality of life.  They must have heard from a chorus of voices because they finished the project in May 2015.  The is one sweet trail.  It took me into parts of the woods and revealed nature that would otherwise be hidden.  Quiet and still.

ARK Fay layout

The trail speed limit is moderate out of courtesy to the wide range of users.  We modify our speed based on conditions, the presence of people being the most important factor.  I don’t mind slowing down and I found the trail design and culture quite suitable for a satisfying cruise with the road bike.  When I want to ride faster I use public roads.  Pedestrian safety comes first, and bicyclists always yield to pedestrians and equestrians.  Building up this culture of sensitivity, inclusiveness and patience is key on our trails and public roads.

ARK Fay trail speed

ARK Fayetteville Lake passing signs

ARK zoom Fayetteville Lake trail

It was a peaceful morning ride and helped me focus before Grandma’s birthday.  The way the world moves feels right on a bicycle.  Let’s build more of these and welcome more bikes.

ARK Fayetteville sunset

ARK Fay water fall down

References
Walmart’s support http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/our-impact/home-region/nwatrails
Walmart’s Bike Friendly Headquarters http://bikeleague.org/content/bfb-spotlight-walmart-hq
Arkansas Wild, Bike Volume 2 http://www.arkansaswild.com/archive/
NW Arkansas Regional Bike Ped Master Plan http://www.nwabikepedplan.com/
Arkansas Outdoors, Bicycling http://www.arkansas.com/outdoors/biking/
Bike League report card 2015 http://bikeleague.org/content/report-cards
Tim Ernst Photography http://timernstphotography.zenfolio.com/p431024935