Surviving the Stupidest Road Sign in Town

To spot what is very possibly the single stupidest roadway sign in Albuquerque it helps to not be terribly bright yourself.

The Better Burque Tactical Urbanism Team (BBTUT) cycled north and west yesterday. At some point in this venture, a decision was made that immediately resulted in dramatically heightened pulse rates, via fear of impending death, and spotting of this sign:

merge right
Photo: John Fleck, Official BB Staff Photographer

What was this decision (1) and why did two not terribly bright cyclists make it (2)?

  1. “Let’s turn right on Coors at Southwest Polytechnic Institute Road instead of left, as we have always done, and ride Coors past Paseo del Norte to Irving Boulevard.”
  2. Because the official Albuquerque Bike Map indicates Coors has bike lanes:
arrows to faux
Blue for bike lane; Univerity of Texas burnt orange for bike route. Yes, even the Official Albuquerque Bike Map notes the bike lanes end on Coors at Paseo, but we figured a few hundred feet of bike lane approaching…okay, our thinking was less than optimal.

Regarding #2 above, yes, BBTUT was guilty of the same offense committed by Flounder in “Animal House.” “You fucked up. You trusted us.” Problem was, once committed to turning right onto Coors, the not terribly bright cyclist is left with the only seeming option: plow forth.

From above, such high-pulse plowing looks something like this:

search this area

and this:

more searching

And did I mention the average speed on this part of Coors is ~50mph?

Nevertheless, regardless of the witlessness of your humble blogging team, it is an ABSOLUTE, INDISPUTABLE FACT that the Official Albuquerque Bicycle Map, and thus the City of Albuquerque, considers this stretch of Coors Boulevard a “bicycle facility.” In other words, riders are EXPECTED to be here.

Further proof, in addition to presence of (importantly incorrect) bike lane/route designations on the Map itself, is this sign:

merge right

The sign above located just north of the Paseo del Norte overpass, and just before thousands of drivers whiz off PdN and fly through the slip lane “on-ramp” also seen above, is there because this is a “bicycle facility.” Somebody, most likely at NM Department of Transportation (remember Coors is a “State Road”), was compelled by this “bicycle facility” status in deciding that the sign above must be ordered and placed.

Of course that process of decision-making is almost as stupid as deciding to ride Coors north through Paseo del Norte, and that’s almost as stupid as this sign. Which illustrates just how stupid this sign is.

An additional wrinkle or two about this sign. One, it’s interesting to consider how few living humans have actually ever read this sign. The thousands and thousands of drivers/passengers flying by each day are going WAY too fast to notice it, and the very few cyclists/walkers going slow enough to read it stand a good chance of being killed very shortly after doing so.

Two, Better Burque is looking, searching, and looking some more, but can’t find this sign ANYWHERE in the lengthy list of approved Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) signs. This is important because EVERY time cycling/walking advocates come to governmental entities asking for a sign to be placed, e.g., one like this which could be placed at the uber-dangerous train tracks on El Pueblo:

train track sign

we are asked if the sign is MUTCD-compliant.

Every. Time.

And it’s possible this stupid sign is actually buried somewhere in the bowels of MUTCD, but I haven’t found it yet. Which makes sense, actually, because it’s a really stupid sign.

As readers might have guessed, the good news is that your not terribly bright BBTUT survived riding Coors north past Paseo del Norte and on to Irving Blvd. We even lived to tell of riding around Cibola High School (perhaps the least non-motorized user friendly public school in the world) to the Northwest Transit Center, which you very likely have never heard of.

It was one of those trips that make great stories around the fire with grandchildren, if you live long enough to have grandchildren given how stupid you were. Speaking of fires, BBTUT recommends “Bicycles Merge Right” be thrown (merged) into a fire, and that the Official Albuquerque Bicycle Map be corrected a wee bit in the area of Coors and Paseo del Norte.






6 thoughts on “Surviving the Stupidest Road Sign in Town

  1. Just wanted to reply to your question about the track sign. It is not an approved sign in the MUTCD. This was a sign developed by Portland for their streetcar. It’s been used a handful of places outside of Portland but there is no official signing.

    Tucson has a similar sign which is a rectangle and is white on blue. I’m not familiar with this particular crossing (I’m in Seattle and have been to ABQ a handful of times) but a W10-12 sign may work. Tucson also has a supplemental sign which says in text BIKES CROSS TRACKS WITH CARE.


  2. Mike H: Thanks for the further information. I neglected to fully clarify that we’ve been told down here in ABQ that we can’t use the Portland sign as it’s not MUTCD-compliant.

    One “funny” offshoot of all this is that we get the idea our State DOT might be willing to put text-based signs up, even those w/o MUTCD compliance, in lieu of graphics. Your Tucson reference makes me wonder about this text-based remedy even more. That said, we all know graphics work better than text AND one wrinkle in the train track situation down here is that the sign is really equally for drivers, to let them know how dangerous this crossing is for cyclists. At the driving speeds we have on this road, text ain’t gonna get read. An eye-catching graphic is the only hope we have.

    Thanks again, and drop by anytime!

    – Scot/BB


    1. It wouldn’t surprise me about ABQ saying to not use that sign. Per the MUTCD, text on signs can be used for different conditions but symbols need to go through a process to see if users understand what the sign is telling them. A side note is that these signs are known to “walk away from their posts”. 🙂

      The Tucson streetcar has used a warning sign saying TRACKS IN PAVEMENT to get around the symbol item. Seattle has a sign that is used for both streetcar crossings but also some RR crossings. It’s a diamond sign with a bike symbol on top, circle railroad symbol in the middle, and then TRACKS at the bottom. It’s often followed by a supplementary sign reading USE EXTREME CAUTION. (Not sure what the difference is between normal caution but I digress…)

      I love your blog. It’s great to see what is going on in different places in the country!


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