A Few Early Observations on Albuquerque Bike Lane Measuring

I. While certain aspects of getting our Auditing Albuquerque Bike Lane Effort (AABLE) off the ground have involved overcoming a certain level of personal introversion on the part of your humble blogster, at its core there’s a nice, almost quiet and quite individual ritual involved. 

  • You ride to the spot.
  • You get out your bag of camera and tape measure.
  • Traffic whizzes or fizzes by as you take photos of the cross street and any speed limit signs nearby.
  • You peel out enough tape measure distance to cover the bike lane, while presenting a certain aura to passers-by that you are not some insane person about to run out into traffic with an extended tape measure.
  • You position your camera/phone at the crack between road surface and gutter.
  • Take the picture.
  • Load up the stuff and get back on the bike.

Like all worthy rituals, there’s a contemplative beauty in performing the above over and over. Ritual included, it’s about as meditative an activity as one can have while basically standing in a busy street. Admittedly, I say that as one who finds riding a bike on these very bike lanes similarly meditative, at least at times.

 

II. Part of undertaking a communal effort is that one engages and interacts with the community. This includes telling folks one doesn’t know “just why the hell you’re measuring these bike lanes.” Honestly, those asking this and related questions have been very nice about it. None have actually used the word “hell,” rolled their eyes, or looked at me like I’m dumb, crazy or a threat to the nation.

Moreover, measurements are coming in from others now. Folks I don’t know. We’re to the point at which posting the spreadsheet is getting unwieldy, and it’s better to just send you, fellow bike lane measurer, the spreadsheet file in a reply email. And that’s a very good thing.

It seems the sharing of this data has as much to do with love of cycling as it does auditing our bicycle facilities.  It also has a bit of “I’m here motorists, and here, and here, and here…deal with it.” This sentiment isn’t adversarial, necessarily, it’s merely pointing out that our community setting aside highly prized road surface for bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, etc., is worth it. Because we are using those lanes. We are on those lanes, in this case literally.

In the old days, I think we would add “boo-yah” here, but not in an adversarial way.
III. So what are we finding so far? More than anything, the data collected to this point illustrates we have significant chunks of great cycling infrastructure here. Yes, that’s right, I’m a cyclist and I’m saying things are great for cyclists along our roads in many parts of town. For those who don’t spend significant time with hard-core cyclists, I’ll pass along that my writing the previous sentence is nearly sacrilege to some of the more disaffected in our cycling community.

 

But cyclists aren’t that different from any of us. We all tend to focus on the negative/bad and gloss over the positive/good. As analogy, it’s not the fault of the media to focus on bad news, it’s the fault of human nature, a nature sometimes spun in a positive way via terms like “Western Critical Thought.”

That digression aside, there is much to celebrate from a cycling infrastructure perspective in Burque, and things continue to improve. New work on previously bike lane-less Zuni Road is a good example. All that said, and reverting back to good ‘ol “Western Critical Thought,” here are a couple of  “needs improvement” aspects observable even at this early point in measuring all Burque bike lanes:

  • Our evolution of thinking with regards to what constitutes a safe, sufficient bike lane is showing. While brand new, “Complete Streets” work such as Zuni is tremendous, our older bike lane efforts reflect a standard that we’ve long since progressed beyond. The work done years ago on Comanche and Candelaria east of I-25, for example, just isn’t good enough, in many places, for 2016. Meanwhile, as newer work is done on more and more streets around town, visual evidence of this evolutionary gap become more and more apparent. At some point we need to distinguish between satisfactory and unsatisfactory bike lanes at a 2016 standard, and yank the bike lane designation for unsatisfactory streets on our bike maps and in our overall count of bike lane mileage.
  • We’re still figuring out a standard, recurring method of providing cyclists safety at intersections. One doesn’t need to stand on the street and measure bike lanes to know/experience the great diversity in cycling at intersections in Albuquerque. We’re all over the map in terms of intersection layout, including a number of places where extensive bike lanes just “go to die” at major intersections (e.g., San Pedro and Menaul). Most frustrating are places where fantastic, brand-new “Complete Streets” as Hell work has just been done, terminating in something like this:

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This is Ouray at Unser. It’s not captured well here, but basically Ouray Westbound goes from delightful, 72 inches with a 25 mph motoring speed limit, this:

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To no bike lane at the intersection, and a confusing set of lanes and dashed lines throughout this:

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And this is pretty much brand, spanking-new work. Atop this, of course, Unser is not 25 mph, and it’s 45 mph nature, even on the Sunday morning in which the photo above was taken, is jarring enough without the sudden termination of the bike lane on Ouray. The reasons for roadwork like this are many, but Burque needs to overcome the problems inherent in generally engineering safe intersections (this is a problem everywhere, not just ABQ), and specifically how to properly end project-terminating intersections. For as we all know, intersections are the most dangerous point.

See what happened?

Your humble blogster got right back into “Western Critical Thought” mode and emoted five time more words and space on observable “needs improvement” matters than he did on all the good things going on regarding Burque bike infrastructure. He, and we, are going to work on that as we *continue to measure lanes throughout town.

As mentioned above, keep those measurements coming and I’m happy to keep those interested updated through email reply. We’re ahead of schedule, in your humble blogster’s view, and your help will continue to keep it that way. Thanks!

 

*Not to jump right back into the negative, but there’s a natural tendency to ride the really good/safe bike lanes first and “save” the not-so-good, more dangerous streets. As the project winds on, we’ll be knocking out these less safe places as well. Be safe out there, remembering all the rules, i.e., not getting killed while doing this.

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