On April 19, I experienced the Multi-Modal Experience event Downtown. It included lectures, a walking tour and a biking tour. The event took place in an office building on Old Route 66 in a room with walls covered in interesting and innovative solutions to our current mess of automobile dominant development. It is known as the UNM City Lab.
LECTURES + LOCATION
Julie Luna of MRCOG delivered an impressive lecture summarizing a road safety analysis done by MRCOG and staff on a segment of Central Avenue just west of the river. The analysis led to some unexpected findings such as the real and perceived dangers of jaywalking. It included interesting and useful information about user behavior on that stretch of road, specifically bicycle users (many wrong-way riders) and people on foot.
Members of CABQ mayors staff made presentations about ABQ The Plan, ABQ Ride, Route 66 and the proposed 50 Miles Loop. Sections of the future loop were explored on the biking tour in the afternoon. City staff members emphasized the importance of using public investment to leverage private investment.
Erin Marshall had a great presentation about the connection between the built environment and obesity. She covered Safe Routes to School, MAP-21 transportation policy updates, Complete Streets and more.
SEEN ON THE STREET
One of the neat elements included as a part of this conference were actual temporary urban improvements. A large mobile bike corral, filled with bikes, occupied the front of the building.
During lunch, a parklet/parquito replaced a couple parking spaces. A food truck (the always tasty Boiler Monkey) and a busker completed the vital urban space.
After a self-guided walking tour around Downtown, everyone met at a parking lot on 6th & Central. Routes Rentals and Tours brought funky cruiser bicycles for attendees to use. The tour led us through a variety of different areas, from Old Town to the South Valley. Along the way, we discovered the great, the bad and the awful bicycle infrastructure which exists in Albuquerque. Different people talked at different stops along the way. It was helpful to really get out and see the infrastructure we were talking about in the conference. The walking tour and bicycle tour helped to emphasize what is currently working well in the urban landscape and what is not.
This event was a mix of inspiring and discouraging. The presentations by the City of Albuquerque staff emphasized the reservations I have about ABQ The Plan. When bicycle infrastructure is discussed, the emphasis is always recreation and never bicycles as transportation. When BRT is brought up, flexibility is emphasized more heavily than consistency, reliability and permanence. In other cities across the country, bicycling is being used for business incubation. That conversation needs to be going on. Once can generally find the same set of professionals found at these types of conferences. Where are the local residents? Where are the transit users? The gap between academia and reality is unfortunate and difficult to overcome. However, we at least left the room at this conference. We actually went out and engaged with local urban environment. This is key to change occurring. Overall, it was an informative and useful conference. I expect and hope more urban engagement at the next one.
Did you attend this conference? Do you think ABQ The Plan is on a good path? Comment below with ideas and questions.