Zuni Road Gets Long-Awaited “Road Diet”

Zuni Road, a street through one of Burque’s more troubled neighborhoods, is getting a “road diet” to address one of its many troubles, its high incidence of cycling and pedestrian injury/death. Councilor Pat Davis, following through on work started by his predecessor Rey Garduno, has been instrumental in bypassing right-of-way issues that have blocked a larger reconstruction to instead simply restripe Zuni within the existent road width to include bike lanes.

As the City’s online press release for the project points out, the work will make Zuni from San Mateo to its merge with Central similar to the portion of San Pedro NE where two lanes in each direction became one, with a center turn lane between them, along with bike lanes. Zuni west of San Mateo will stay with four lanes in keeping with Coal and Lead further west.

One detail not included in the press release (a release that has received little media attention) is the width and style of the bike lane itself. Raising this question tends to concomitantly raise the hackles of traffic engineers and non-cycling members of the public. “You got a bike lane, now what are ya bitchin’ about?” sums up this line of hackles raised thinking.  But let’s go ahead, raise the Titanic hackles, and ponder the question.

Councilor Garduno got the ball rolling on Zuni by commissioning a road study in 2011. The study (caution: it takes forever to load for some reason) called for five (or even six…see below) foot bike lanes. It’s a little unclear from that work whether that width is maintained throughout, or if overall road width varies enough that five or six feet might be difficult to maintain. As to style of the lane, the study calls for a bike lane. Period. No mention of buffering or separation.

For those new to hearing cyclists “complain” about style of bike lane, “buffered” means there a set of stripes instead of a single strip separating bike from motoring. The extra stripe(s) give cyclists a “buffer.” An example of this, interestingly enough, is the stretch of San Pedro mentioned as comparison in the CABQ press release. Here’s an example:


And no, this example isn’t San Pedro (I couldn’t find a photo) but I like it because it’s nice to think of San Pedro winding along the ocean, beach and palm trees. I’ll imagine this tableau next time I ride by Christy Mae’s at San Pedro and Mountain.

“Separated” means placement of something to make that buffer three-dimensional (e.g., those white poles you see at Rio Bravo and Isleta and other places).riobravoisleta6
One interesting aspect of the question is the fast evolution of thought taking place regarding bike lanes. Way back, only five years ago, when the 2011 Zuni study was done, ideas of buffering and separation were pretty much “off the table.” The idea of a five or six foot bike lane, unbuffered, with 11 foot driving lanes, as is called for in the Zuni study cross-sections below, was pretty radical thinking.



Compare five and six feet, for instance, with the “Complete Streets” work done on Isleta in the 2000s, where a three-foot bike lane sits along traffic going 35 to 40 mph.

So the “whiny” question here is whether Zuni will employ the 2011 specs, or will instead maybe shave a foot off the turn lane and other slight alterations to create enough room for, say, a buffered four to five-foot bike lane.

Arguably whiny questions aside, it’s worth mentioning here that Albuquerque’s development of bike lanes and other “facilities” has historically depended much more on existing road width than any sort of economic inequality. You might not know it, but bike lanes are controversial subjects in other places for reasons aside from their “ruining” driving lanes. Issues of gentrification and economic inequality in placement of bike lanes are rampant in many cities.

As the long-planned work on long-troubled Zuni shows, the bike lane issues here tend simply toward existing road width and a city too cheap/broke/unwilling to change that road width. Here, political issues of fairness are instead mathematical. Can we cut the driving lanes to 11 feet? Can we go to 10.5? Or, gulp, even 10 feet?

Of course there’s politics in such math, too. How many pissed off drivers does CABQ want to put up with, enraged because their precious lanes are being narrowed?

The upshot is that BetterBurque has asked and, at “press time,” has not been told just how wide the bike lanes on Zuni will be or whether they will be buffered. One thing cyclists learn here, CABQ press release or no, is that one often has to just wait and see what actually gets done with such projects. Until then, it’s kinda of a mystery.


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