Who Are ABQ Bike Lanes Really For?

Riding down the bike lane on Indian School from just west of Tramway all the way to Broadway this past weekend, I got to thinking about whether bike lanes actually encourage more folks to bike.

With one slight interruption caused by I-40, there’s a continuous bike lane on Indian School all the way between the crude red dots above.

Of course, one is not supposed to be thinking about anything other than staying alive when biking in the street, but, you know how the brain works. So I’m very much enjoying this quick, straightforward means to cycle all the way from Foothills to Downtown, a ride not on my usual routes, when that Roger Geller “Four Types of Cyclists” definitional schema comes to mind.

You know, the one where cyclists are either “Strong and Fearless, “Enthused and Confident, Interested, But Concerned, or No Way, No How” when it comes to biking in general and biking a specific route in particular. Ever since 2006, these typologies have been central in pretty much every cycling infrastructure discussion, in particular focusing on the identified largest group, the “Interested, But Concerned.”

The thinking has gone that this largest group largely doesn’t cycle largely because large percentages of our roadway infrastructure suck. But if we, the thinking continues, improve our infrastructure enough these current non/rare roadway cyclists will become regular roadway cyclists.

And I’m asking myself while enjoyably riding down Indian School on a Saturday morning: Does this bike lane on Indian School attract “Interested, But Concerned” cyclists? And my answer was: No. No, it does not. Regardless of how much fun I was having, there’s way too much danger and mayhem about, even on a Saturday morning, to attract any of the many folks who fall into the identified “Interested, But Concerned” group.

And because it’s a pretty long stretch from Indian School at Tramway to Broadway, I had further opportunity to ponder the follow-up question: Which current Albuquerque bike lanes actually attract “Interested, but Concerned” rare/potential roadway cyclists? As I rattled through my known list of these roads (e.g., Comanche, Zuni, Isleta, Montano, San Pedro, Dellyne), it occured to me that none of them do. One is hard-pressed to think of ANY ABQ road with a bike lane with the safety/comfort levels required to attract such riders. Maybe Los Volcanes NW (look it up on the map), but maybe only on weekends. The list is very, very small.

Of course, the reason why none of these roads with bike lanes are sufficient is because: A. They do not physically separate riders from drivers (i.e., bollards, curbs, jersey barriers); B. They have traffic volumes too high and/or traffic speeds too high.

So these bike lanes really only exist to attract dumb “Fearless/Confident” cyclists like me, yet they are generally hailed for their bike-friendliness, particularly if they have some added space between cyclists and MOST drivers via a painted “buffer.” Studies and anyone who has ever taken a minute to pay attention has observed that paint, alone, doesn’t attract “Interested, But Concerned” cyclists.

And it was just about the time I reached the end of Indian School/Odelia at Broadway, zooming downhill at 25 mph or so (when one REALLY should be thinking about cycling instead of cycling infrastructure), that ABQ is never, ever gonna get physical separation on 95% of our current roads with bike lanes, so WHY DON’T WE JUST STOP FOCUSING ON BIKE LANES. They’re not attracting anybody but me and the other .9% (that’s point-9 percent or less than one-in-a-hundred) of folks brave and/or stupid enough to use them. They are infrastructural red herrings when it comes to: A. Making cycling safer; B. Encouraging more cycling.

So yeah, it was a fun bike ride down Indian School this past Saturday. I’d encourage everyone to cycle it.

One thought on “Who Are ABQ Bike Lanes Really For?

  1. I used to commute by bike on Indian School to UNM Continuing Education at University. My main concern was it’s uphill both ways (really, it’s true!) but I had a few scares along the way. Plus, debris in the bike lane made for quick decisions. The best stretch was my neighborhood, where there is a frontage road separate from IS (why?), though getting to Washington was a risk.

    Liked by 1 person

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