Someday A.R.T. construction’s gonna end

I’ve been telling this joke lately about my policy proposal to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety in Albuquerque.

Impromptu protected bike lane

The joke is this: I believe construction on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project – A.R.T. – should be continued indefinitely. I don’t think it should ever end.

Did I mention that this is a joke.

And yet….

I realized some months ago that the A.R.T. construction zone has turned a formerly unbikeable, not terribly walkable automobile land into an oddly comfortable space for me when on two wheels or two feet. Crossing central from the University of New Mexico, where my office is located, to get to our favorite restaurants was awkward at best and dangerous at worst.

We know that Central has been an extremely dangerous street for pedestrians. That comes from the toxic combination of a big street with fast cars getting through and lower-income neighborhoods where people are more likely to be on foot. (Better Burque proprietor Scot has been on this for a while here.) My hypothesis: during A.R.T. construction, it has been far less so. This is for two reasons. The first is that there is simply less traffic. My hypothesis is that with traffic moved largely to Lomas to the north, which has far less pedestrian activity begin with, we’ll see a net decrease in Central Avenue pedestrian injuries and fatalities when we get this year’s data.

The second reason it has been less dangerous is that the crazy, chaotic A.R.T. construction has caused the drivers who are still using Central to slow down and pay attention. Jaywalking there these days is a breeze, and I’ve been riding my bike on Central for the last month, using the construction areas as an impromptu protected bike lane. It’s a sort of unplanned traffic calming:

While traffic-calming measures are primarily intended for neighborhood streets to reduce vehicle speeds and/or reduce cut-through vehicle traffic, measures such as street closures, speed humps, chicanes (series of alternating curb extensions), traffic curbs, diverters, and others are in use in various U.S. cities. While controversial, many of these measures have been found to effectively improve safety for pedestrians and/or traffic as a whole based on reductions in crashes, vehicle speeds, and/or reductions in cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets.

This morning, Scot and I rode out to the west end of the construction project, the lovely new bus shelter at Central and Coors on the west side. There was some dodging into the neighborhoods and sidewalk riding required, but it’s been fun for a few months to have large sections of Central to ourselves, without the ever-present anxiousness you get when you’re on a bicycle sharing space with cars.

I’ll be a little sad when the construction ends.

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