Screw Election 2016! A Case of True Participatory Democracy

Note: This is the BB piece for Duke City Fix this week, but the votes count just as much here at Better Burque or any of the other 1,000 sites I’m hoping this “ballot question” shows up at in the next few days. “Vote early and often,” as they tritely say. 

Internet old-timers, like me, can recall (so to speak) that one of the early ‘Net appeals from firms that would become mainstays, such as AOL, GeoCities, and AltaVista, was that the Internet offered a never-before chance for instantaneous universal democracy.

Wow! We could impart our views on the new-fangled interweb tubes and exert immediate impact on our world. The Internet was gonna be the friggin’ atomic bomb of democracy, baby!

And, as we Internet historians (i.e., users) have observed, that “bomb” has seen its ultimate payload expressed most profoundly in efforts such as votes for “American Idol” contestants and “Hot or Not,” not to mention “voting with our feet” as counted in the hits of YouTube videos exploring the cinematic contexturalism inherent in visual art such as cats hanging from ceiling fans.

It’s certainly become a rich pageantry of democracy, the Internet. Election 2016 seems to serve as a summing up of all that potential turned to, well, what Election 2016 has turned into.

Here’s a chance to change that a bit.

The photo atop this post is one taken earlier today looking north up Chappel Road, a few feet from Pan American Freeway (the I-25 frontage road) in the Duke City. Speaking of *history, the sign dominating this photo is a fascinating historical relic. It announces that Chappel is a “private road” with “HEAVY TRUCKS TURNING.”

Today, only the latter is true, and the fact Chappel isn’t private is where your Internet Fickle Finger of Preferential Fate (IFFPF) starts to make it way up the nose of participatory democracy.

Here’s the ballot question: In another historical reference, a long-existent narrow gap in the guard rails near the location of the aforementioned “heavy trucks” sign has allowed cyclists on the North Diversion Channel Trail (NDC) to exit the NDC and travel on Chappel to places such as REI, Performance Bike and all the other wonders of the Renaissance/Montano capitalist’s shopping experience.  Perhaps you have bicycled the NDC and experienced where a few of your tax dollars are going. Maybe you’re a regular user and have a very strong opinion about the NDC, or at least more of an opinion than for some of those judges you haphazardly will/have voted for/against in Election 2016.

More recently, as part of its work to widen nearby Singer Blvd. (really long story), the City widened this narrow gap, turning it into 10 feet of opening with orange barrel accompaniment:

Note the darker asphalt? That basically shows how much the gap has been widened. The old gap was something on the order of 44 inches; the new gap, measured today, between guardrails is 118 inches (about ten feet).

Now, with the Singer widening project winding down (oh, better put a photo of Chappel looking up toward Singer here):

Singer is where those two trees are in the background right. Anyway, where was I?

With the Singer project ending, the City currently plans to re-narrow the 10-foot gap to its original 44 or so inches, citing safety concerns of Chappel NOT being what’s called a “bicycle facility” (i.e., it doesn’t have a bike lane and isn’t even what’s called a “bike route.”)  Understandably, the City doesn’t want to get sued by someone who avails themselves of the widened gap not knowing that Chappel has trucks like the one in the photo above waiting for them.

At the same time, and as regular cyclists may very well know, Chappel is a popular route, enjoyed by many who find the NDC extremely irritating in the section between I-25 and Osuna. The biggest reason for the irritation is a series of outrageously bumpy wooden bridges, in various states of disrepair, one must travail in this section. I don’t have a good photo of one of these bridges, but my nether regions wince just thinking about crossing them. They are irritating.

The result, widened gap or no, is that some cyclists choose to share the road on Chappel with trucks and whatnot, while others prefer the hammered nether regions over the possibility of mangled truck death on Chappel.

It’s one of those eternal philosophical questions, similar to whether cats hanging from ceiling fans are funnier than Miss South Carolina.

Returning to the “ballot question” premise, the overriding experiment in democracy here is whether we should tell the City to keep the widened gap at NDC/Chappel or not. Those who like to research before voting on stuff might want to personally check out the situation. They might also recall that this stretch of Chappel has already been the scene of a City/cyclists brouhaha a few years back in 2012, one in which the City tried to “close” Chappel to cyclists.

While that attempted closure didn’t get as ugly as Election 2016, the authoritarian essence certainly rankled some. Here, in asking you, dear Duke City Fix reader, this question, we’re going for a much more participatory process. At the same time, while the tone of this piece has been irritatingly flippant (we blame Election 2016 for this nonchalance), we’re dead serious in our interest in your views.

What do you think the City should do regarding the gap at NDC/Chappel? While the “candidate” choices below don’t encapsulate all the possibilities, we think they do a better job than the current list of political candidates. Pick one below in a reply to this post, adding any commentary you wish to why you went with that particular option.

Admittedly, we might not get that many responses, but look at it this way: your vote REALLY counts here. The City is going to end its work on Singer soon. Something is going to happen with that gap at NDC/Chappel, and this is REALLY your chance to have input in that decision. We on the Greater Albuquerque Bicycle Advisory Committee are speaking on this issue at our next meeting, November 14th, and would love to hear/read what you think.

Now, finally, the ballot question in final form. Remember to copy/paste the response “heavy and dark,” as they say about the circles on the paper ballot, to make your vote clear and all that.

Question: Regarding the currently widened guardrail gap on the North Diversion Channel Trail at Chappel near Pan American Fwy., the City of Albuquerque should:

A. Option #1: Keep the widened gap, install a **bollard where the orange barrel is to prevent Mack Trucks from entering the NDC, and place signage along this entrance/exit and Chappel to “Share the Road” and/or “Bikes May Use Full Lane.”

B. Option #2: Re-narrow the gap and spend the bucks/effort instead on definitely improving the incredibly bumpy bridges between I-25 and Osuna. 

C. Bernie Sanders, Universal Health Care Option: Keep the widened gap, invest in a bollard/signs, and spend whatever is necessary to also improve the bumpy bridges. 

D. Ineligible Voter Option: Don’t bike, don’t care.

E. Ostrich-in-Sand, When is Election 2016 Over? Option: Do bike and still don’t care.

F. Other ________________________________________________.

Thanks for voting!

*I’d love to hear the history of Chappel going back to its “private road” status. If you know it, let us know here or at my own little blog Better Burque.

**A bollard is one of those barriers put up at entrance/exits to bike trails and such. Here’s a photo of one (or three, actually):


3 thoughts on “Screw Election 2016! A Case of True Participatory Democracy

  1. Well. Thanks for the history.

    This explains the red-faced driver, honking, screaming and gesticulating wildly through her SUV windshield at me on Chappel last week. Until this article, I assumed she was asking where she could get a similar awesome bike to ride on this too-wide 4-lane road, with plenty of room for both bikes and the extremely low-level of car traffic.

    With the exception of Chappel (and one other time where guns and dead kittens were politely discussed up on Tramway: but that was a case of mental illness I think), drivers have been mainly overly courteous on every other non-arterial road in Albuquerque. I’m guessing that 2012 intervention provided a confusing sense of entitlement for those staring through a windshield.

    I’ve gotten a couple flats going over those wooden bridges, so I skip them now, whenever possible. I support REI, but I don’t need to give them any unnecessary money. I don’t own any Lycra, and my tires aren’t as skinny as some, but I still have the sense to protect my tires, aging joints and tender parts.

    C. Bernie Sanders, Universal Health Care Option: Keep the widened gap, invest in a bollard/signs, and spend whatever is necessary to also improve the bumpy bridges.

    Also, until this post, I had assumed it was just a matter of funding and will before they just paved the dirt paths on the west side of the arroyo as well as the dirt and rock path back down to the trail on Osuna and make biking Chappel official. The reason, is because if you look at google maps, there IS a North Channel Trail marked on the west side of the Arroyo (whether you spell Chappel with one “l” or two – google does both!) . And for the most part there is plenty of space to make is so, particularly if the make Chappel into two car lanes instead of four, which is all it deserves, given it’s low auto use. You can count this as option F is you like.

    It’s the obvious choice, unless you consider the political strings that the cement factory and contractors along the road clearly are pulling.


  2. Biliruben: Excellent points all, including the fact Scot and Google can’t spell Chappel consistently (it really should be with two Ls, but we’ll officially get that changed after we deal with the road infrastructure).

    You mention the fact there IS a NDC trail adjacent to Chappell, and I have asked a few folks why that trail currently stops at Singer. I haven’t heard a definitive answer (anybody with the skinny is most welcome to jump in here). I feel sorry for that little orphan stretch of paved trail that dies out. I’ve never seen anybody ride it, and I’m sure the history there is just as interesting/convoluted as that of the “Private Road; HEAVY TRUCKS TURNING” sign.

    I’ve jotted down your vote as C, with the Option F caveat, and will try to keep readers up to date on how things shake out both in terms of voting and eventual action.

    Of course, we’ll all SEE the eventual action. Voting is still very much open, folks!


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