Zuni Ave. Cycling Update: A Trip Up and Back

After having last cycled on the new, improved Zuni about eight weeks ago, I had the chance over the weekend to ride up and back from downtown in its “finished” bike lane state. Do you know how long a stretch of new to brand-new bike lane Lead/Coal/Zuni is?


Yup, that’s six miles, as the crow flies. I was too lazy to look at my bike computer for actual start/finish distance. Six miles, plus! Wow. Here’s a quick observation or two from that not so little ride:

  • Zuni Ave. and Isleta Blvd.: Having commuted from Isleta/Rio Bravo for over ten years now, I was struck with how visually similar riding Zuni is to riding up Isleta to Bridge Blvd. Cultural delights abound along both, and you can’t really enjoy the view until you’re going only 9 mph uphill, 14 or so down. As a motorist, I haven’t traveled Zuni much, but in my journeys up and down (about 85% of which involved going to Cafe Trang for Pho), I certainly never noticed places like La Cabañita:


Yeah, this is a Google StreetView shot, as I was also too lazy to take my own photo. I’ve yet to have eaten at La Cabañita, but this place sure appears to have all the requisite elements (handwritten signage, small, unusual building, niche menudazo market, etc.) of an interesting culinary visit. The restaurant is toward the very end of the six miles, almost to where Zuni runs into Central Ave., and such Isleta Blvd.-esque establishments, colors and architecture are so much more fun to pass on the bicycle. By the way, if you haven’t had the chance to ride on Isleta Blvd., it’s a great weekend treat (a bit too manic on the weekdays, what with its three-foot bike lanes and such).

  • Bike Lanes Boldly Going Where…: Despite the wide to very-wide bike lanes on Zuni, I did see folks riding on the sidewalk, and zero people riding in the bike lane. Why? The reasons for this are probably many (I don’t know, as I was also too lazy to ask any of those sidewalk riders), but the biggest one is probably the typical, “the bike lane isn’t separated, and is, therefore, too dangerous, I don’t care how damn wide it is.” The same can be said for Isleta, now that I think about it. “Local” riders still tend to take the sidewalk and work (dare I employ the awful buzzword “outreach”?) needs to be done in changing that. For right now, many still feel, erroneously, that riding the sidewalk is safer. This sentiment would probably best be addressed by truly separating the bike lane, via delineators and such, as is being done more and more elsewhere. One senses Burque is getting closer to embracing separation…but it’s gonna take some large-scale political advocacy and on-the-ground arm-twisting to make that happen.
  • Bike Lanes as Gentrification: This hot topic permeates every spin of the pedals up/down Zuni. Like many cycling advocates, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this issue. Riding Zuni will have just about anybody wondering: What changes, good and/or bad, are driven into motion, so to speak, by installation of bike lanes in low-income, culturally dynamic areas? Such questions are of the “brain explosion” variety and require many more thought pieces and dissertations than is possible in a bullet list such as this. More to come…as they say.
  • The Zuni Expressway: Riding from downtown to past the Fairgrounds and environs is SO MUCH FASTER on Zuni. Those side streets cyclists were previously required to take just don’t get you there nearly as quick.
  • Bike Lane Generation X, Y and Z: Zuni is another great example of the public policy evolution process when it comes to traffic/road engineering, design and implementation. You don’t have to conduct an “audit’ of every damn bike lane in town to see that Zuni has features of bike lane design at the forefront of ABQ 2016 thinking (Note: This is not exactly the same as, say, Santa Clara, CA 2016 thinking):


Yeah, no green paint on Zuni. The honor of first evolution to significant green paint looks to be happening on MLK, Jr. Blvd. instead. In fact, folks tell me MLK is just about done; I haven’t had time to ride out there in a few weeks. So many bike infrastructure evolutions, so little time. The big positive of all this evolution is obvious; one small drawback is the concomitant need for educating users to the new wrinkles.

Take, for instance, the far eastern terminus of Lead/Coal/Zuni at Lead/Broadway and Lead/2nd. Street. Motorists are still exhibiting an inability to understand the idea of a bike lane between straight-across and right-turn driving lanes at Broadway, and Lead/2nd St. ends with an unsatisfactory abruptness that looks like the City ran out of beer money right at closing time.


Still, such evolution is generally good, and all users will eventually figure individual wrinkles out. That includes Zuni, where reports indicate motorists are, in a few cases, using the nice wide bike lane nostalgically as the driving lane it used to be. A bit more attention to the “three Es” (Engineering, Education, Enforcement) would sure help there, as is true everywhere (even in Santa Clara).

What I hope you, dear Better Burque reader, takes from the above is that riding Zuni is damn fun and interesting. Because it is. Try it out for yourself. “Rich” cyclists with that newfangled Strava are especially encouraged to ride it up and down every day, all day. Those Strava heat maps shown at various public meetings and on-the-ground arm-twistings will thank you for the contribution of “heat.” Regardless of how fancy your bike, its accountrements or where you’re headed on Zuni, be careful out there. Evolution does have it “survival of the fittest” aspect.


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