Saturday, January 21, 2012

Albuquerque Comes Through As A Bike Friendly Community

From Jennifer Buntz: " Looks like the City read the Journal Editorial (today's paper, see below) before it was printed.  Whatever happened behind the scenes, we might want to e-mail Mr. Riordan a thank you."

I agree with Jennifer.

Dear GABAC Members,
I sent a letter this week to you concerning the series of events that occurred with Traffic Engineering installing no bicycle signs on Chappell north of Singer and my apologies about the lack of communication of that plan.
Since I was made aware of the installation of the no bicycle signs, and the public comment at the Council meeting, I have had further time to review Traffic Engineering's cited conditions and discuss the adjacent construction of the North Diversion Channel Trail underpass at Osuna.  The trail construction provides an opportunity for a potential solution to the bicycle restriction issue.   As part of this traffic control plan on the trail reconstruction project I have instructed the contractor to restripe Chappell Road between Singer and Osuna with 2-5' bike lanes and 2-11.5' vehicle lanes as a temporary detour route.  This will provide bicyclists two options for detour.  The first if bicyclists want to remain on the trail they will be routed a short distance east to connect to the Bear Arroyo trail which brings them to Osuna.  The second will be the use of the temporary 5' bike lane on Chappell.
During this time the no bicycle signs will be covered.
The duration of the construction project that will be constructing the grade separated notch under Osuna is approximately 6 months.  During this time myself and my staff will attend GABAC meetings to develop a long term solution.
I apologize again for the lack of communication from the Traffic Engineer and look forward to working with you on this solution.
Michael J. Riordan, PE
Department of Municipal Development
City of Albuquerque
P.O. Box 1293
Albuquerque, NM 87103
Phone: (505) 768-3830
Fax: (505) 768-2310

Albuquerque Journal, January 21, 2012 Page A-6

Two-Wheeled Drivers Deserve To Be Heard

   Sometimes the power of civil public discourse outweighs the power of an 18-wheeler loaded with gravel. Or at least it should.
      The city of Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development missed an opportunity to have a discussion with the folks who use two-lane Chappell Road in the Northeast Heights about the wisdom and safety of having bikes travel the same route as cement trucks and their brethren, especially considering there is a taxpayer-financed bike trail within view.

   Instead, a city traffic engineer, responding to a few 311 complaints, went out to the stretch between Osuna and Singer and did the engineering thing, measuring the lanes and the shoulders. Being witness to a near-miss between a cyclist and a vehicle — and the ensuing argument — apparently sealed the deal.

   And while the math and the physics may show restricting bike traffic is pragmatic (though that’s seriously in question because the city recorded the road as 21 feet wide when a re-measure showed it 30-32 feet wide), the simple fact is no city road has ever been closed to bicyclists before now.

   That precedent-setting factor alone should have prompted the city to initiate a public discussion about whether this is the right road with the right conditions to ban bikes before throwing up signs doing just that. Then it wouldn’t be where it is now, slammed by protests and allowing the bikes back on, at least as it considers long-term solutions.

   Jennifer Buntz, president of Duke City Wheelmen Foundation (the group that erects ghost bikes where cyclists have died in collisions), says the lack of accidents on that stretch of Chappell (one in the last 19 years) shows the city found a solution in search of a problem.

   It may be that the city didn’t want to wait for a tragic bike-vehicle accident on Chappell and the perennial “how many people have to die before something is done?” It may be that most of those 311 calls actually came from the industrial companies along Chappell that were spooked by near-misses. But under New Mexico law, bicycles are vehicles and their riders have all the rights and responsibilities of drivers.

   In a city that prizes its bronze designation from the League of American Bicyclists as a bike-friendly community, making an exception to that law should be fueled by an informed discussion after plenty of input, not a few calls and a Lycra-induced argument.

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