Proposed Changes to Coal Ave. Between 2nd and 8th Downtown

Regardless of how you get around ABQ, there’s so much construction, repaving and such going on that it’s hard to keep up. Take Coal Ave. between 2nd and 8th downtown. It’s a project BB has held off reporting about because the project is still in some form of planning stage, precisely how far along a tad difficult to determine.

For those who can take a ten-second look at a birds’ eye view image of the proposed new look and “get it,”: A. I envy you; B. You won’t need any of the prose below.

coal-2nd-to-8th

For those who, like me, cannot simply look at the above photo and “get it” without staring at it for ten hours, the first thing you’re probably going to do is, like me, blow the photo up to about 1000%. Then you will perhaps remark to yourself, as I first did when looking at it ten times bigger: Damn there’s a lot of parking in downtown Albuquerque!

And parking is an important part of this *improvement project.

For one thing, this proposal includes, for the very first time in ABQ, the increasingly popular “wall of steel” protected bike lane idea. Instead of placing the bike lane to the left of the on-street parallel parking, much of this route instead puts the bike lane to the right of parked cars. Former NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan coined the term “wall of steel” for this method of physical separation between moving cars and bikes.

More controversially, from a **cycling perspective, is that the stretch between 4th and 5th Avenue will feature a new/advanced traffic engineering feature alongside a very old one. The new feature is that on-street parking between 4th and 5th will be of the angled head-out variety. In other words, cars will back into the parking spaces. The old feature is that the bike lane will be on the left side of this angled parking.

For many, but almost certainly not all, in the cycling community, this combination of treatments is like getting really nice new shoes that somehow give you athlete’s foot, over and over and over. The juxtaposition of far safer parking through which drivers can see cyclists much more easily as they exit the parking space, with bike lanes suddenly reverting to being right next to moving cars (with no buffer), is kinda like dating a really sexy bi-polar person.

Or something like that.

As mentioned above, the final version of these “improvements” is still under discussion. In addition to the two aspects mentioned, the proposed changes here truly warrant the 1000%, ten-hour stare. What about the number of parallel parking spaces in the proposal? Too few, too many? What about the driving/bike/buffer (door zone) lane widths? How will physical separation be employed to make sure motorists don’t park in the bike lane? And what should the speed limit be on this revised stretch of Coal? 20? 25?

The importance of the eventual job on this small stretch of Coal is very big. Not only is this treatment envisioned as being replicated on Lead from 2nd to 8th in the near future, the quality and effectiveness of any new treatment, such as “wall of steel,” is extremely vital as a showcase for that treatment’s future uses in Albuquerque.

One can look at the oft-discussed HAWK at Lomas/Alvarado for an exemplar of how such showcases can possibly retard further use of a treatment idea. It will be interesting to see how this particular combination of the cycling manic and depressed, to misapply a psychological condition, turns out.

 

*I’ve decided I really don’t like the term “improvements” with regards to such projects. The term is very often used, but quite often far from 100% of those staring at the “improvements” think they improve the status quo.

**Although not all cyclists like the “wall of steel” idea, either. One maxim in bicycle advocacy is that one can NEVER use the phrase “all cyclists think” about ANYTHING. We’re the orneriest bunch imaginable. In many ways, we make those Bundy whack-jobs taking over an Oregon wildlife refuge look even-keeled and rational. The old chestnut that “bike advocacy would be much better and easier if we just got rid of the cyclists” has a small, yet certain cynical ring of truth.

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