The Short, Generally Unhappy Life of Downtown’s Protected Bike Lane

As Better Burque reported yesterday, the protected bike lanes on 4th Street downtown, a feature of Mayor Berry’s “50-Mile Activity Loop,” are no more.

4th Street at Copper, January 1, 2018
4th Street at Copper, March 25, 2018

Throughout its short existence, the “PBL” consisting of curb and flexpost separation was criticized by many, business owners and frustrated motorists wishing to park along 4th prime among them, of course.

The PBL, one never requested, as far as I know, by any Albuquerque cycling advocate group or individual, was always much more a symbol than a truly necessary or especially functional roadway treatment, given the specific traffic features of 4th Street downtown. Earlier this month, I wrote a little something arguing that the 4th Street PBL’s singular importance was just that, yet one worthy of preservation as a historic toe-dip into a roadway feature that can, and should, be installed in places all over the area.

And now that symbol is gone, and with its absence reappears the perception of a City going backwards, again, in non-motorized travel infrastructure.

Notable, too, has been the City’s general avoidance, by either Mayor Berry or Keller,  acknowledging the 4th Street PBL ever existed. Mayor Berry gave a press conference  back in March 2017 to celebrate signage going up on the 50-Mile Loop, but there was zero public notice when 4th Street downtown first got buffered lanes. Only press coverage of opposition to them.

And pretty much the only way anyone ever found out about the PBL treatment was to happen along 4th Street during the treatment’s short and generally unhappy life. I can personally report I was able to ride this lane a few times (that’s me in red in the 1st photo above), and I can also report that I audibly went “wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” the entire two blocks.

Thus it not surprising the City of Albuquerque has evidently yanked the PBL without notice.  BB contributor John just happened across it yesterday. When it comes down to it, Albuquerque’s very first protected bike lane had a life somewhat similar to an infant anonymously left on a church’s front stoop, and a death somewhat like that of Hemingway’s story of Francis Macomber, from which I stole today’s blogpost headline.

In short, the character of Francis Macomber proves inconvenient to his wife and her safari guide lover, and thus he is conveniently removed from the picture. Hmm…the analogy here is much closer than I first realized.

Which gets us to a final point. This doesn’t look good. Yanking the very first PBL in town, especially in such a manner, is deflating and frustrating. Even having it removed along with an acknowledgement by Mayor Keller, a notice hopefully including a strong commitment to such infrastructure in more appropriate settings around town, would be FAR better than what very much looks to be one of those Baltimore Colts move to Indianapolis actions.

No, it doesn’t look good.


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