Third Time’s the Charm: The Legend of Alvarado Dr. NE

By Burque McBikeface

It’s official: Alvarado Drive NE, between Constitution and Copper, is the most bike- friendly street in the city! Have you been on it recently? There’s a bike-related sign every few feet:

  • Bike Route
  • Bike Boulevard
  • 18 MPH Bike Boulevard
  • Bike Boulevard Wayfinding
  • Bikes May Use Full Lane (my favorite sign)
  • 50-Mile Loop
  • 50-Mile Loop Mile Marker “X”
  • Bike Crossing

…and so on.

It’s great! But how did this happen? And what can we learn from Alvarado?

Two Recent Upgrades

For many years, Alvarado sole cycling charm was as a humble bike route. It was much like every other bike route found on quiet residential streets in Albuquerque: green “bike route” signs, and not much else. Other than a scary crossing at Lomas, and a stop sign configuration that forced riders like myself to stop every few blocks, it was a good street to ride on.

50-Mile Loop – The first change happened to Alvarado when it was added to the 50-Mile Activity Loop route around 2014. This meant the street received priority bike improvements, mostly in the form of a HAWK signal at Lomas Boulevard. In addition to the signal, the left turn lanes were removed, making it impossible for through traffic on Lomas to use Alvarado. Sharrows, bike-shaped pavement markings, were added as well.

This was the first upgrade.

alvarado 1
Fair Heights Bike Boulevard as it makes the turn from Copper Avenue to Alvarado Dr. NE

Fair Heights Bike Boulevard – Then, the Fair Heights Bike Boulevard was rerouted to Alvarado in 2017. This meant distinctive purple signs, an 18 MPH speed limit, wayfinding and the switching of stop signs (changing two-way stops on Alvarado to two-way stops for the cross streets instead). Purple street signs were also added to every intersection.

This was the second upgrade.

As an actual rider, the removal of left turn lanes at Lomas, the switched stop signs and the addition of wayfinding signs were personally the most significant differences. The removal of left turn lanes reduced through traffic, and switching the stop signs allowed me, as a rider, to quickly move through the corridor.

And then there are the numerous signs.

alvarado 4
Alvarado northbound approaching Lomas Blvd.

Signs are nice but unless they’re directional or wayfinding, they don’t do much for me as a rider, at least not in comparison to the other changes I mentioned. I would recommend removing some of the signs, especially the “bike route” signs, and adding them to streets that could use it, i.e., every other street in the city.


Median Refugees, Switched Stop Signs and Wayfinding for Every Bike Route

The story of Alvarado begs the question: why can’t through traffic be reduced, stop signs switched and wayfinding signs added to every bike route in the city? I’m not asking for expensive HAWK signals. A simple median refugee, like the one found at Silver and University, works fine in most places. Switching stops signs doesn’t cost much money at all.

alvarado 2
Crossing University Blvd. on the Silver Bike Boulevard offers this diverter/median refuge, preventing vehicular left turns, and through traffic on Silver

I wonder if and when the other parts of Alvarado, from Claremont to Haines, and from Copper to Eastern, will get fixed. I also wonder if all the other bike routes in the city need to be declared a “bike boulevard” or added to a citywide bike loop for these simple and relatively cheap fixes to occur.

I sure hope not- because I now love riding on this segment of Alvarado and it would be great to see these small, yet very important changes happen on other Albuquerque bike routes as well.

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