Note: Below is hoped to be the first of many posts by new BB contributing writer, Cam Solomon. Cam is an epidemiologist studying how our built environment impacts our physical activity.
First a hearty thanks to Scot for generously offering this space to discuss an issue close to my heart and home: Lomas Boulevard.
Lomas Blvd. rips through the heart of some of the most walkable neighborhoods in all of Albuquerque. As readers likely know, it runs all the way from up in the foothills of the Sandias down to Old Town Plaza, where it joins Central in a quagmire of disastrous proportions that only the CEO of General Motors could love:
On its western journey down to this puzzle of absurdity, it passes through a number of working-class neighborhoods, past schools, golf courses, ball parks, dog parks, trailer parks, skate parks, and eventually its raison d’etre (AKA the Auto Dealership Ghetto, running for more than 10 massive blocks after crossing I-40, until it hits what I like to call the Albuquerque Albatross, the State Fair Grounds, now oddly called “Expo New Mexico”).
Lomas then serves as a massive, incredibly fast-flowing automotive river through some very nice residential and commercial areas, including Nob Hill and UNM. Through these areas, the section I’m most familiar with, the speed and width of this torrential river makes it difficult-to-impossible for people not in some sort of motor-craft to fjord without great risk of drowning and not surfacing alive. In some sections, you are almost required to be mentally ill to cross it, which is likely why so many mentally ill have beentragically killed on this road over the years.
In addition to the pedestrian and bicycle nightmares, I can’t help but notice that the terrible design is also probably not doing some of that commercial space any favors. For example, I’ve been going past this sign for well over a year. It was funny. Once.
Lomas then approaches I-25, and becomes essentially an urban highway, bisecting Martineztown, then Downtown (consisting these days of mostly just the massive “halls of justice” and not much else besides parking lots, parking lots, and more parking lots), flowing fast and wide until it reaches the alluvial plain of Old Town, as seen in the top snip.
Some people, mainly people for whom transportation wholly exists looking through the windshield of a car or truck, might say: “Well duh. We need to get places, most people in Albuquerque drive cars, and I’d prefer to go fast. Lomas is necessary.”
And I’d agree. It’s necessary. But it isn’t necessary for Lomas to destroy neighborhoods it passes through, as it does in its current, absurdly over-engineered form.
Lomas Blvd. can do its job moving cars, but it doesn’t have to be this huge barrier to walking in our neighborhoods, separating people on-foot or wheels from friends, shopping, restaurants and all other manner of things people want and need. They should be easily accessible without dragging out the ‘ol Dodge Charger or F-150, but aren’t. As the Surgeon General stated so aptly in his well-researched plea for Americans to walk more: “Walkable communities are good for social connectedness, good for business, good for the environment, and, most importantly, good for our personal health.”1
So what might we do about it? Stay tuned for contributing post number 2!
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Step it up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. Surg Gen. 2015:57.
(Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. Vice Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service, Surgeon General U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)