by Scot (with help from BB readers)
Last week we had a “contest” to declare the “Most Dangerous Bike Route in the Duke City.” In case you missed it, bike routes are streets that don’t have bike lane striping, but are generally considered more convivial toward cyclists. They also serve an important bike transportation role as connections between full-fledged bike infrastructure like bike lanes and trails.
But some are FAR less convivial than others. Those designation streets are in orange above in a snippet from the online ABQ Bike Map, but you’ll notice that, whether nice or gnarly, all bike routes get the same orange. Some should probably be in an orange damn close to red, to symbolize the possible blood shed in trying to navigate them. Hence, the “contest.”
While it is true that almost any time folks chime in with their opinion about “best” or “worst” the conversation quickly devolves into a form of “I’m not an idiot, you’re an idiot” (witness the current discussion at Lobo Lair concerning hiring a new UNM basketball coach), the Better Burque “contest” was anything but, with several fabulous (sarcasm intended) candidates for Most Dangerous. Let’s take a look at some entries, along with my own contribution. I’ll put these in no particular order to avoid “I’m not an idiot” metaphorical/literal fisticuffs, but feel free to vote in the comments on the one you most agree with, or identify your own candidate if you don’t see your particular “favorite” below.
Just south of Montano, 2nd St. loses a widened area and reverts back to two lanes with no shoulder, no sidewalk, a pretty median (unless you’re trying to see cars) and a 40 mph speed limit sign. Please stop laughing at the 40 mph speed limit sign. I know…I know. Nobody in a vehicle has traveled only 40 mph in this stretch of 2nd since the Model T Ford. A powerful opening candidate in our contest.
I might have the wrong stretch of Corrales Road here (apologies), for the contributor mentioned a 55 mph speed limit. I’m not aware of a 55 mph stretch on Corrales, but, then again, that might be because I’d NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS ride a 55 mph stretch of Corrales Road. It’s bad enough at 35 mph as shown above. As with all candidates, however, many riders don’t mind Corrales Rd. at all. Fear is flexible.
I know I have a southern part of town bias in terms of bicycling/danger, but this one is hard to top. You got three lanes in each direction. You got curves. You got speeding, even uphill, at least by the cars. You got what I call “Interstate Driver Mind,” a mental condition existing around all Interstate highways that tells the brain “I have to drive as fast as I can possibly can and get on/off this Interstate before my brain explodes.” Your humble blogger lives pretty close to this stretch and it COULD be a vastly important east/west connection to all who live south of downtown or UNM. But it looks like this, so, instead, it’s avoided by 99.9% of cyclists. In fact, this stretch is so bad we’re talking about it tonight at the monthly bike committee meeting. It’s bad.
But wait, there’s more down south. Here’s Gibson with its westbound lousy, painted before Billy the Kid got shot bike lane suddenly ending just as the cyclist gets ready to rumble with crazed “Interstate Driver Mind” drivers. The only “disqualifying” feature of Gibson here is that it’s technically a “bike lane” and not a “bike route.” Interestingly, the bike map also mistakenly has this bike lane ended at the Interstate itself (bad enough), instead of where you see the sign above. Also by the way, it stops right at the South Diversion Channel, an arroyo that one day, some day, will host a multi-use trail ala North Diversion Channel. Let’s make that happen!
Speaking of North Diversion Channel (NDC), I hear tell there’s a “funny” political budgeting story behind why NDC has underpasses on pretty much all the street crossings now, except Indian School. That story might be apocryphal, but the fact there’s still a street-level crossing is only apocalyptic, particularly in afternoon rush hour. Again, we see a curve to spice up the danger level. Again, technically speaking, this isn’t a bike route situation, as NDC is a trail and Indian School has bike lanes. Still, this crossing needs an underpass in the worst way.
This one is hard to capture in one screenshot, but your riding southbound along a bike lane on San Pedro, get to Claremont a block or two before the big, bad Menaul intersection, and like Lucy with the football, you as Charlie Brown have your bike lane yanked away, a condition that extends all the way to an I-40 overpass that would be LOVELY (there’s no direct Interstate access, hence no “Interstate Driver Mind”) if ONLY there was a bike lane. Perhaps most irritating is that immediately thereafter lies some of the absolute sweetest combination of buffered bike lanes and such on San Pedro and surrounding streets. But only if you survive getting through Menaul and that I-40 overpass.
El Pueblo at the Train Tracks (between NDC and Jefferson)
I don’t even know if I need a photo for this one. This one is so infamous that one can merely say “El Pueblo” to any fellow cyclist and the recipient hearing the streetname will reach for their wrist, arm or collarbone, because that’s where they broke their wrist, arm or collarbone crossing the damn train tracks. Okay, here’s a photo…
Alright, that’s as close as I’m getting. Too painful to look further east as the train tracks appear. For those uninitiated, the problem isn’t necessarily the tracks, it’s the very slow speed and acute angle one has to adopt to safely cross them. For some reason, many drivers on El Pueblo do not seem to like following cyclists adopting acute angles at 4 mph directly in front of them. Oh, how lucrative this situation has been to our doctors specializing in wrists, arms, and collarbones…
Scot’s Choice (admitting that several of the above are hard to top): Blake Road
I know, an obscure choice. Many of you not only don’t drive or ride on Blake, but don’t even know of its existence. It’s way down in the South Valley, near my enormously tiny farmette. So yeah, there’s some personal experience bias here, but Blake is designated as a bike route and does look like this:
Blake might not win “most dangerous,” but it’s sure as hell is trying and tops its candidacy with what I will declare is the worst road surface in all of Bernalillo County. Above is truly a representative section, as the whole stretch from Coors Blvd. to Isleta Blvd. has a “face” strikingly similar to that of Chet Baker, late in life. It is amazingly bumpy, while also “featuring” worthless speed tables beaten from evidently decades of use (and with stupid little median curbs that do nothing but prevent drivers from passing cyclists at the speed table), curves as seen above, and an increasing traffic count in recent years, almost 100% of which consists of pickup trucks hell-bent on getting to Coors or Isleta.
Blake Road: C’mon down to my South Valley and try it some time. Better yet, don’t.
So there are your candidates for “Most Dangerous Bike Route in ABQ.” Maybe somebody can put together a macabre cycling event with a route including all of the above. It will obviously be sponsored by a funeral home and doctors specializing in wrists, arms, and collarbones.
Meanwhile, the question does linger: What should we do, as a cycling community and citizens, to change and improve the safety of these bike routes? Should we simply take their bike route designation away, leaving holes in the bike map, so to speak? Should we fight to spend money fixing them in times where money is so very tight and the number of roads in need of repair so large?
Questions to ponder. Things to think about while riding around town. Just don’t think about them when riding any of the above; you need 101% concentration on just staying alive in these cases.