My plan was to count how many folks were out and about in their neighborhood yesterday, but I quickly found I can’t count that high, at least while riding a bicycle. A trip through neighborhoods from South Broadway all the way to North Albuquerque Acres and roughly back was endlessly replete with:
- Walking the dog(s)
- Cycling family members, including many riders on “training wheels,” including on Comanche along Montgomery Park
- Walking solo and in pairs
- Pushing countless baby carrying devices of all types
- Riding old bicycles you could tell hadn’t left the garage in years
- Exercising buff folks obviously mourning their lost gyms and weight rooms desperately
- More and more of all of the above
I deliberately avoided bike/ped paths as much as possible, thinking those would be unsafely crowded (they were), and wandering streets like Mackland, Robin, Wisconsin, Admiral Halsey (which, of course, had me singing, poorly, a Wings/Paul McCartney song), and Del Rey mixed just enough quiet with just enough of a stream of humanity.
Even as a fairly regular cyclist it was one of my favorite rides in some time.
Naturally as a self-proclaimed “transportation safety advocate,” the ride also had me wondering what semi-permanent changes to our roadway behavior might be possible post-pandemic.
Will a sizable number of these multitudes newly walking/rolling/riding kindle/re-kindle a fondness for getting around their neighborhood this way? If so, what changes might we see in roadway engineering and law enforcement? Is a significantly lasting remnant of non-motorized roadway use possible?
As the smartest people, particularly doctors and attorneys, so often say: It depends.
Which gets me to this sign:
I came across the sign above a couple of weeks ago while riding over the train tracks westbound on Lead Avenue. Being the somewhat obsessive transportation safety advocate that I am, I’m been pondering placement of this sign and all its associated meaning ever since.
Long obsession short, this sign is telling drivers that they need to slow down on Lead due to construction, despite the fact the upcoming stretch of Lead is part of the “Downtown Safety Zone” and has a 20 mph speed limit, even when there is no construction.
There’s also the fact the sign is placed directly on the bike lane, when it could/should/must be placed instead on the buffer between bike and driving lane, but that’s another never-ending blog thread. No, there’s plenty to obsess about on top of that fact, including many obsessions with implications for roadway engineering that would actually encourage continued, unprecedented masses of walking/rolling/cycling folks throughout town. To wit:
- The “Downtown Safety Zone” idea and many others were germinated through a walkability study by renowned walkability study guy Jeff Speck. What if the same level of detailed observation and recommendation took place in other parts of town?
- Would that study end up being at least somewhat implemented, such as Downtown, or would it end up like this Uptown Pedestrian Study that has pretty much seen implementation of not a damn thing.
- Might our new interest in getting around by means other than Ford F-350 trucks to get breakfast burritos three blocks away at Lotaburger (another thing I saw yesterday) lead to actual implementation of the Uptown Plan and calls for other such plans/implementation elsewhere in town?
- Given the family nature of these walks/rolls/rides, with grandmothers “scooting” next to mom/dad and kids on bicycles (as I saw more than once yesterday), might we reconsider ideas such as kids walking/biking to school and/or making it possible for grandma to scoot on a sidewalk wide enough to do so instead of scooting in the middle of the street?
- Noting that vehicular traffic is certainly lighten these days, and having also noted many of those driving now consider this “Mad Max Day” with zero regard for considerations such as speed limits, might it also be possible to focus more law enforcement on these assholes and the Ford F-350 trucks in which they drive three blocks to get breakfast burritos at Lotaburger?
So many possibilities, all counter-balanced by our hope/wish/fear that this will all be temporary and we will soon be back to our normal lives spending less time with our families and driving hither and yon to public places reopening in downtown hither and uptown yon.
It’s possible I’m being unnecessarily negative when I write this, but, based on experience and that construction road sign above, I’m not terribly optimistic. For one thing, $11 a barrel West Texas Intermediate and $1.25 a gallon gas will not be conducive to families intergenerationally scooting/riding three blocks to the Lotaburger.
Ultimately, I wonder how many folks out and about yesterday were truly cherishing the chance to escape cabin fever and calmly spend time with their families, and how many were secretly or not-so-secretly damning the fact they weren’t in Ford F-350 pickups driving, solo, three blocks to Lotaburger.
I guess we’ll find out.