Many of us in the Burque non-motorized, multi-modal, cycling/walking, call it what you will community, one that sees drivers as getting too much and those not in cars too little of the transportation infrastructure pie, were disheartened to read this tweet:
— Mayor Tim Keller (@MayorKeller) November 30, 2018
And here’s the tweet’s photo blown up to better reflect the size to which we have been disheartened.
BB saw the tweet almost immediately upon publication by the Mayor last Friday. BB also saw first-hand the work-in-progress at the beginning of November that has led to removal of bike lanes in front of Lindy’s Diner on 5th and Central, replaced by vehicle parking spaces and a non-parking space (yellow curb) that the Mayor inexplicably points to in the tweet/photo above.
And, having seen this, BB is disheartened. Why?
- Is BB disheartened because this section of 5th Street is proudly part of the “50-Mile Activity Loop”? No.
- Is BB disheartened because having bike lanes on this stretch of 5th Street is a vital safety element on a dangerous roads for cyclists? No. These bike lanes are not vital and a different traffic calming treatment should have been implemented in the first place.
- Is BB disheartened because evidently bike lanes on 4th and 5th have been removed in an erratic pattern that now leaves some blocks with bike lane (even parking protected in one case) next to blocks now with no bike lane? Yeah, to a degree, but orphan bike lanes are what this town does oh so dangerously well, so whatever.
- Is BB disheartened because sharrows and “Bike May Use Full Lane” signs aren’t really “bike friendliness” (as stated in tweet, which, of course, requires us to create #bikefriendliness in response) when compared to bike lanes, especially bike lanes that had parking curb separation when first installed? Now were really getting somewhere with regard to being disheartened.
- And, finally, is BB disheartened because getting rid of bike lanes to add even more places for drivers to park is worthy of a Mayoral photo-op and proud tweet while grand openings of improved cycling and walking infrastructure almost always tend to be done secretly, apparently in order to not piss off drivers (e.g., the road diet/bike lanes on Zuni)? Bingo.
Here’s is a mathematical expression of BB’s level of disheartenization (which I know isn’t a word, but give me a break, I’m disheartened):
More car parking + Proud proclamation + Inadequate resulting orphan lanes + Lack of addressing non-motorized concerns elsewhere downtown in exchange for loss of bike lanes
As an example of the last component of our cheesy math problem above, the City is currently rolling around the idea of making downtown a 20 mph zone. Great! Other cities are doing this. Let’s do it!
So far, the biggest fly in the 20 mph ointment is the usual one for Burque, we ain’t got no money. So, the idea to this point largely revolves around 20 mph speed limit signs and stop sign here or there.
- No engineering changes on downtown streets.
- No speed bumps, chicanes, or other traffic calming elements.
- And scant talk of enforcement because…Albuquerque.
Getting back to the “exchange for loss of bike lanes” actually equaling #bikefriendliness idea, if Mayor Keller had proudly pointed toward removed bike lanes on 5th Street while also announcing any/all of the following as part of a “20 is Plenty” downtown campaign, the math equation above would be far more equal on both sides:
- Red light cameras downtown
- Street reconstructions on, say, both Tijeras and 6th downtown, i.e., streets with promising traffic calming/road dieting possibilities
- Parking-protected bike lanes in more vital network connecting spots, such as the allegedly already planned Lead & Coal project between 2nd and 8th
No, we don’t get any of that. Just a sharrow symbol here and a “Bikes May Use Full Lane” sign there. Thanks for playing, multi-modal Burque: #bikefriendliness!
Way back, before even the Internet, three guys wrote a bunch of essays trying to talk rich white men into ratifying what became the United States Constitution. One of the guys, James Madison, wrote Federalist Papers Number 51. The gist of that essay might be summed up as Madison’s attempt to show that the checks and balance system proposed in the Constitution would prevent “tyranny of the majority” through establishment of three branches of federal government (“so many separate descriptions of citizens”):
If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable.
Plugging Madison into our current “avenue” of discourse, the “majority is united” by a desire to have as many places to park their cars as possible. Even more than is safely possible. Mayor Keller is engendering support from the rabid “must have more parking” majority by throwing the non-motorized minority under the bus, so to speak. This is easy politics, but is also what Madison was warning against and what the Constitution was crafted to avoid.
Instead, public policy decisions regarding our roadways must be based on safety for all users, and with considerations such as climate change in mind, instead of simple kowtowing to the “more parking, more, MORE!!!” mob. Regardless of whether a majority of citizens would prefer parking (free parking, naturally) over bike lanes or better sidewalks. And yes, BB mentions “climate change,” the subject of a very interesting, and often disheartening, debate currently filled with elements of what Madison was writing about back in 1788.
Being Mayor is hard. Leadership is hard. Placating the mob by scrubbing a few roadway stripes and replacing them with more popular stripes is easy.
It’s also disheartening.