Making Bridge Blvd. at Isleta Blvd. Safer: A Formal Proposal

I usually avoid having “worlds collide” when it comes to Better Burque and personal cycling/walking roadway advocacy, but I make an exception with the email below to those working on the Bridge Boulevard Reconstruction Project.  I do so because: A. We discussed the Project here a few days back; B. It’s a very important project to my South Valley; C. It seems germane in addressing a question one sometimes gets about “how to advocate for stuff.”

I don’t know how well I’ve done with “C” above, but I also post the email below to remind you that comments on the Bridge Project, Phase II, are due by tomorrow, May 11th. Lastly, I throw the information below out there to keep discussion going, specifically on this project, and generally on how we might make walking/cycling around town safer overall.

By the way, Diane Sholtis is the BernCo Project Engineer for Bridge. I can report she has always been very professional and informative in getting back to me with my questions and such.

Ms. Sholtis and Others To Whom This May Concern:

I write today as a member of the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee (GABAC), the area’s principal governmental board/commission advocating for greater access and safety in riding a bicycle around Bernalillo County. I am the representative for the Southwest part of “town,” including the area of Bridge Boulevard covered in Phase II of the very much appreciated and anticipated Bridge Boulevard Reconstruction Project.
Thanks, Ms. Sholtis and all others involved in making this happen. The potential of Bridge Boulevard is great, perhaps nowhere greater than the vital South Valley intersection at Bridge & Isleta Boulevard. As a South Valley resident who has ridden through this intersection many, many times, I’ve had the chance to see what’s working and not working in the current configuration. I’ve also taken a look at the proposed reconstruction of the intersection, and while I’m far from a traffic/roadway engineer, I do have an idea or two based on my experience riding Bridge/Isleta and around town. In particular, I’m most interested in what are the two most prevalent and problematic actions by all road users at this intersection: A. Turning left/south on to Isleta from westbound Bridge; B. Turning right/east on to Bridge from northbound Isleta. I’ll also touch a bit on the through-traffic possibilities on Bridge itself.
Splitting the intersection into two views, as the north and south side are so different, let’s start with the north.
bridge and isleta copenhagen no bike box
As seen (above), I propose elimination of the bike box extending across the entire westbound lanes. The box is evidently there to allow cyclists to leave the buffered bike lane on Bridge to turn left/south on to Isleta. This is setting cyclists up for a very problematic movement, namely walking/waddling/riding very slowly directly in front of traffic as they make their way from the bike lane to the left-turn lane. I shudder thinking of the guessing game that comes with “hoping” the light doesn’t change to green while I’m waddling over to the left-turn lane.
Instead, let’s put a two-stage left-turn (“Copenhagen”) treatment in its place. I’ve drawn a little green box on the attached to indicate where that staging box could go for the second part of the turn. My thinking in all this is two-fold based on confidence of cyclists: A. Very confident cyclists are just going to use the driving left-turn lane, as they have always done, navigating traffic to make the move from the bike lane prior to the intersection; B. Less confident cyclists (I’ll include myself in this group here) will not want to make the switch from the buffered bike lane to the driving lanes, and the two-stage left-turn allows them separation from drivers.
One wrinkle I would add at the intersection to help both pedestrians and cyclists would be a Leading Pedestrian/Bicycle Interval signal timing system. Giving walkers/cyclists a head-start via this system before allowing left-turns westbound Bridge from Isleta would help immensely.
Protected Intersection for Isleta Bridge south side
Looking at the south side, the problems and opportunities present beckon installation of a fully-protected intersection, as illustrated (above). The current problem, somewhat fixed in the proposed reconstruction, is the strong tendency of northbound Isleta drivers to “pinch” cyclists by taking the bike lane as they zoom around the turn to go eastbound on to Bridge from Isleta. More properly squaring the intersection, as the Reconstruction rightly proposes, helps, but what is very much needed is actual physical separation between motorists and cyclists wherever possible at this busy intersection.
Using curb, we could slow motorists down by altering the turning radius, while also providing significant protection from “pinching.” An added bonus is that this SE corner of the intersection is home to Gateway Park. Thus, curb-separation could continue along the turn into Bridge until the first driveway. Similarly, eastbound through-cyclists on Bridge could have curb-separation as shown on the attached protected intersection model, while also slowing down motorists who tend to make that eastbound Bridge to southbound Isleta turn at speeds far too high.
isleta goes from one lane to three
One important question in all this is whether two right turn lanes are truly needed from Isleta eastbound on to Bridge. A check at MRCOG shows AWDT of around 14,000, a figure well within consideration of a “road diet.” This case is made even stronger by a look at the current approach northbound from Isleta to Bridge (above). Isleta suddenly goes from one driving lane to three (one left turn and two right turn lanes). Why? This configuration currently leads to motorists accelerating into the more wide-open space, encouraging behavior such as the “pinching” mentioned above. Isleta should stay “road dieted” at the intersection, just as it is south of the intersection. In my considered opinion, there should be no more than a single left and single right-turn driving lane from Isleta on to Bridge.
So, in brief conclusion, at the intersection of Bridge & Isleta I propose:
  1. No bike box westbound
  2. A two-stage “Copenhagen” left-turn instead
  3. Leading Pedestrian/Bicycle Interval signal timing
  4. A fully-protected intersection along the south side of the intersection
  5. Reduce right turn lanes from Isleta on to Bridge from two to one
Thanks again for all your work to make Bridge Boulevard safer, while also returning it to its highly prominent place as a neighborhood center for business and community. I very much look forward to the transformation that will surely happen once the Reconstruction is complete. It is not an exaggeration to say this is a real “game changer” for my South Valley.
If you have any questions about anything mentioned above, please contact me. Of course, those working on the Project are always invited to our monthly GABAC meeting, including our next get-together coming up on Monday, May 14th.
Scot Key, Member
Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee

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