A few weeks ago, Steve Clark from the League of American Bicyclists visited Albuquerque to evaluate our ability to become a more bike friendly city. This fantastic article covers the exciting events which occurred on that day and what this all means for Albuquerque.
On Tuesday, April 8 Mayor Berry kicked off his 50 mile healthy travel initiative with a ceremony on a trail linking the Mile High District to Uptown in Albuquerque. This coincided with a visit by Mr. Steve Clark from the Bicycle Friendly Community program run by the League of American Bicyclists. The day’s festivities moved Albuquerque in healthy directions. Cities that rate highly as walk and bike friendly also rank as top places to live. Elected officials, professional staff, businesses and community advocates are working on this synergistic development.
We met at City Hall in the morning. The plan was to take a bike ride with Steve and look closely at Albuquerque’s transportation system from a bicycling perspective. First we had coffee and greetings. This meeting would be a fun one to do every day.
We stopped at Martin Luther King Jr Blvd to discuss multimodal improvements on the horizon
There are many different options available for bike infrastructure, so we will be explaining some of them and providing recommendations for where they might work in Albuquerque.
We would first like to apologize to anyone we may have led astray. Our intention was not to lead anyone on but to stimulate a productive dialogue about what we want to see Downtown and across the city.
And what a dialogue there was! Some of the comments:
“This is what I’ve been asking for! It’s a shame that they do not include streets like Silver, Gold, etc.”
“Is green paint really gonna keep drivers from running us over? Once again the mayor falls short. We need a physical BARRIER for bike lanes, not just paint.”
“I would love to bike more, but it’s frankly scary the way so many routes are mixed with traffic and so few protected bike paths.”
“Downtown is in desperate need of bike lanes and bicycle friendly routes. We have a small downtown area but it’s very difficult to safely bike from… Gold Street Cafe to Marble Brewery… Short simple journeys like this should be immediately bikeable… This is especially pertinent right now because we’re about to launch a bike share program downtown – BICI – the success of which largely depends on how easy it is to bike our streets.”
“If only that weren’t an April Fool’s joke! Hopefully Mayor Berry and his staff are taking ideas like this seriously.”
Obviously, this is an issue that people feel strongly about.
The Mayors Response
The most interesting response came from the Mayor himself. He was interviewed on the KRQE morning news show the next day and this was his response:
Portion of Transcript (emphasis ours):
Mayor RJ Berry – “When I first saw it, I thought… ’cause next week, we’re going to be doing the first of our 50 Mile Bike Loop legs… I’m a big bike fan… this is already a great bike city… when we heard ‘way to go Mayor Berry on these buffered trails’ I was a little confused… It’s a great biking city, we’re trying to improve it every single day, it’s been a priority for the administration. The buffered bike lane idea is a good one… We’ve got hundreds of miles of trails. We always want to make it better because it’s one of the things that makes us stand out and it’s one of the reasons we’re one of the healthiest and fittest cities in America.”
Lessons from the Responses
There’s a diversity of knowledge about bike infrastructure among Burqueños. Some confuse lanes and trails, others pointed out that we didn’t actually show buffered lanes in our April Fools photoshop job. So let’s clear some things up! We appreciate the Mayors supportive words but we crave more than just trails here in Albuquerque.
Why Should We Care?
Why do we want to see protected, painted and buffered bike facilities here in ABQ? According to the city website, “the City of Albuquerque has over 400 miles of bike paths and trails”. However, when you look closely, you realize that many of these facilities are poorly designed, non-existent or do not connect to each other.
Furthermore, most of these 400 miles are designed for confident riders. They frequently force riders to mix with fast moving traffic, especially at intersections.
There are different bike facility standards for riding with partners. If residents want to comfortably ride next to a friend and chat, there are fewer than 100 miles of bike facilities here in Albuquerque. Most people are “interested yet concerned” about bike riding. They have a desire to ride but they do not feel comfortable on most of the roads in Albuquerque.
What We Want to See
On the national level, there are three types of bike infrastructure spreading like wildfire: colored, buffered and protected.
Colored bike lanes
These types of facilities are being implemented across the country. The premise: when bike lanes cross intersections or driveways, they can blend into the street. Coloration can help to distinguish and highlight the existence of a lane.
Where in the ABQ? – A good first place for colored bike lanes would be on MLK Jr. Blvd. This is doubly true because other improvements will soon be made to the bike lanes along this corridor. We are primarily asking for color in conflict areas including driveways and places where the bike lane crosses other roads aka intersections.
Our Ask to the City – Colored bike lanes in the conflict areas on MLK and on other similar streets such as Lead / Coal, Indian School, Washington, and more. And make them turquoise!
Buffered bike lanes
All over the city, a thin stripe of paint separates fast moving vehicles from bike lanes. What if there was a wider stripe of paint? This is the premise behind buffered bike lanes.
Albuquerque already has some buffered bike facilities, primarily on the Westside. We would like to see lots more, especially because they are so easy to implement. After all, it only requires white paint.
Where in the ABQ? – Indian School Road is an important bike connection between downtown, UNM, and Uptown. We think this is an important place to provide a buffer between the fast moving cars and bike commuters. MLK is slated to receive buffers and we can’t wait to see them there. Other places where buffered bike lanes would be great would be on Lead, Coal, Zuni, and Central Avenue.
Our Ask to the City – Where possible and where auto lanes are 12 feet wide or more, add a buffer. We are looking forward to the buffers coming to MLK and we hope to see them on Indian School Road as well.
Protected bike lanes
In over 50 American cities, you can now find some type of physical protection which separates bikes from traffic. There are not currently any protected bike lanes in Albuquerque but we would love to see some. Specifically, we would like to see parking protected bike lanes.
Where in the ABQ? – Streets where protected bike lanes would make the most sense include Lomas Blvd in the Downtown area where traffic counts are low enough to allow for a lane reduction. Rio Grande Blvd north of I-40 can also absorb a lane reduction and on-street parking would stimulate business activity on this strip.
Our Ask to the City – Protected bike lanes on Lomas and Rio Grande.
Please sign our petition and let us know your thoughts and ideas. We’ve already received almost 100 responses but we still want to hear from you!
Talk to your City Councilor. There’s a City Council meeting TONIGHT, Monday April 6 at 5:30pm which has the Bikeways and Trails Facility Plan, Bus Rapid Transit, and other issues on the agenda. You can come and provide your opinion on buffered, colored and protected bicycle lanes and ABQ!
It is time for Albuquerque to return to the top when it comes to cycling. Our trail system is great but we’re falling behind when it comes to on-street facilities. We must make it clear what we want and why and it will take a collective effort. Please join us! We will close with this quote from urbanist Enrique Peñolosa:
“Improving our bicycling infrastructure is critical to maintaining the excellent quality of life in our great city. Visitors and residents are attracted to our active and unique lifestyle and I believe this project will attract more businesses and millennials to Albuquerque,” Mayor Berry said. “These new bike lanes will lay the groundwork for Albuquerque to be the most bike friendly city in the United States and will create economic opportunities and jobs throughout Albuquerque.” The plan was endorsed by Mi ABQ, a group of millennials actively working to improve Downtown Albuquerque.
Green painted bike lanes are cropping up all over major cities. The color improves visibility of bicyclists and their lane for drivers and has been shown to decrease accidents. But rather than going green, Albuquerque’s bike lanes will be painted turquoise. According to Mayor Berry, “Turquoise bike lanes will give our own local flavor to this growing worldwide trend.”
The $4.7 million project identifies 13 miles of on-street bikeways that will be completed by early 2016 and will serve to connect areas such as the Rail Yards, Innovate ABQ, and UNM. The streets slated for these improvements include Broadway Boulevard, 4th Street, Tijeras Avenue, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and Lead and Coal Avenues.
The plan falls in line with recent measures by the City that focus on pedestrian, bicycle, and transit-related street designs — the Complete Streets ordinance, which passed unanimously at City Council in January, and a walkability analysis by renowned consultant Jeff Speck that was released in late 2014 and adopted last month. Speck’s report laid out principles for a useful, safe, comfortable and enjoyable roadway network, as well as recommendations for improvements to specific downtown streets.
A diverse collective advocating for a better live/work/play, healthy and equitable city for everyone!