Moving Beyond Sidewalks to Protected Cycling/Walking Lanes

Editor’s Note: The following post is by Charlie Otto, who wrote on protected intersections a couple of weeks ago. Keep in mind that we encourage a diversity of transportation viewpoints here; if you’re interested in having your opinions known by readers of BB, drop us a line

Let’s face it Albuquerque is pretty spread out. When most people go somewhere they get in their car and drive. There are streets and roads everywhere to get you where you want to go. There is also a pretty good, developing network of bike routes, including multi-use bike paths, physically separated from the streets, and other bike lanes painted on the right side of the traffic lane.

abq bike paths
Open Cycle Map of Albuquerque

Sadly, with distracted driving and texting these days most people, men, women, and children, (with the exception of the hardened road warrior cyclists) do not feel very comfortable in bike lanes with just one or two (buffered) white stripes of paint on the ground between them and 4000 pound vehicles, and their drivers, passing at far higher speeds.

Understandable! Here are the numbers:

20 mph30 mph40 mph










Albuquerque has a system of pedestrian sidewalks, that, while incomplete, and not always ADA-compliant, spread haphazardly throughout much of town. The only problem is, apart from downtown, Central Ave., UNM and a few other highly used pedestrian areas, most of our sidewalks host few people walking upon them. All these concrete sidewalks cost a lot of money, yet, in many areas, are hardly used at all.

Why? Because Albuquerque is pretty spread out. It is just too far to walk to most of the places where these sidewalks go.

charlie proto
Sidewalks, Sidewalks everywhere,… with the bike lane in the street: Academy between Seagull and Burlison
sidewalk charlie 2
Beautiful sidewalk with bike lane in the street: Alameda east of I-25 (Editor’s Note: See how the sidewalk, for absolutely no rational reason, juts right into the wall, making it nowhere near ADA compliant?)
sidewalk charlie 3
Sidewalk with bike lane in the middle of the street (notice cyclist not using it!): Washignton north of Constitution

Idea! It may be too far to walk, but might not be too far to bike.

What if we had a new “sidewalk standard” throughout the city of Albuquerque, one that included a lane for pedestrians and a lane for cyclists.  Hence, a protected bike lane and protected walking lane. I’m not talking about the normal bike paths with a mix of pedestrian and cycle traffic, but rather a dedicated one-way bike lane, separate from the pedestrian sidewalk, and protected from traffic on the street.

Add a few parked cars between the traffic and the curb that further protects cyclists and pedestrians from 4000 pound vehicles, and even more people would feel safer riding their bikes, and walking our streets. That means more men, woman and children taking their bikes to work, shopping and school, more people walking to get places, and fewer cars on the roads and less chance of collisions between drivers and cyclists/walkers.

sidewalk charlie 4
From National Association of City Transportation Officials, NACTO

Protected Bike Lanes are becoming popular in many countries, and there are some in the United States as well. Generally they are one-way and go with the flow of traffic. There is usually signage to let you know if bikes and pedestrians are separated or mixed. These protected bike lanes flow directly into Protected Intersection designs.

Here are some examples of protected bike lanes that would make a lot more people comfortable biking around Albuquerque.

split sidewalk charlie 5
Common sight in much of Europe; photo taken here in the Netherlands
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Also the Netherlands
split sidewalk berlin
Moving east, here’s a photo taken in Berlin, Germany
split sidewalk jackson
We have them in the States, too. Here’s one in Jackson, Wyoming. Note protected bike lane to the right of the curb and to the left of the pedestrian sidewalk.
split sidewalk jackson sign
Accompanying road sign in Jackson, WY


With the help of the Street Mix folks, let’s visualize how we can go…

standard street abq 1
From this
protected bike lane charlie
To this!

If we truly want to encourage people cycling to work, school, and errands, as well as simply for recreation, we need to invest in the infrastructure that allows cyclists of all abilities the safest, most enjoyable, low stress, cycling experience. 

Supporting Videos


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