New Mexico a leader in great outdoors

If passed by legislators, the Outdoor Equity Fund would also be created–the only fund of its kind in the nation that would be designed to spur the development of New Mexico’s next generation of conservationists. –Angelica Rubio and Stephanie Garcia Richard, on the proposed Office of Outdoor Recreation, in “Op-Ed: Access to the Outdoors is a Basic Human Right

A group ride on the Paseo de la Mesa trail on Albuquerque’s West Side (author’s photo)

It’s been a busy year in New Mexico watching our newly elected officials take office.  Representative Angelica Rubio rode her bicycle 300 miles from Las Cruces to Santa Fe to kick off the legislative session!  The Legislature and Governor have been working in concert to introduce and discuss landmark legislation, including Senate Bill 462 to create the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division in the Economic Development Department.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham with New Mexico Zia symbol on jersey (from Governor’s facebook)

In addition to the proposed Outdoor Recreation office, there have been a series of bills and memorials designed to leverage our State’s bountiful natural beauty and resources.  House Memorial 10 recognizes the “importance of bikepacking to cultural resources, physical activities, conservation, and tourism”, while pointing out the importance of road and trail connectivity.  House Bill 192 creates a uniform rule for safe passing of bicyclists, while also protecting motorists by including guidelines for not passing slower traffic when there is oncoming traffic in the adjacent lane.  This is good for everyone, as it is widely acknowledged in the transportation profession that interventions protecting “the most vulnerable road users will benefit all road users” (National Transportation Safety Board SS1701, Reducing Speeding-Related Crashes).

Puerticito road off the Turquoise Trail, NM 14 (author’s photo)

There’s more good news!  New Mexico recently published its first Statewide Bicycle Plan, and House Bill 192 will boost its implementation process.  The NM Bike Plan “includes the goal of making bicycling a more comfortable and attractive mode of transportation”.  Creating educational campaigns with instructions for safe passing is an important part of the “implementation of driver education strategies as a means to improve bicyclists safety” (from NMDOT – Traffic Safety Divison, NMBOT Bill Analsyis, HB 192).  There are many organizations in New Mexico already teaching transportation safety.  By joining our efforts together and with a concerted focus on promoting access to our natural environment, things are looking up for using the simple bicycle as an accessible, economical, and super fun way of getting people outdoors!

A mural in Albuquerque, NM with my bike (author’s photo)

This is a good video by Austin’s PD with instructions on safe passing.  In New Mexico, the required minimum passing distance will be 5 feet, up from Austin’s 3 feet, providing even more protection

References and Resources:
The lead quote is from this article in Outside Online, a magazine based in Santa Fe
https://www.outsideonline.com/2389421/new-mexico-outdoor-equity-fund-op-ed-rubio-richard

Outdoor culture is good for our spirits, and putting our economies in synch with quality of life initiatives
https://headwaterseconomics.org/economic-development/trends-performance/recreation-counties-attract/

The National Park has a guidebook to develop bicycle and pedestrian access.  Webinars are available
https://www.nps.gov/subjects/transportation/bikeped.htm includes NPS Active Transportation Guidebook

Albuquerque Journal published a story on the Outdoor Recreation office proposal
https://www.abqjournal.com/1277104/governor-lawmakers-propose-new-office-to-promote-outdoors.html

This study by the National Transportation Safety Board is a pivotal reference for traffic safety for all https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-studies/Pages/SS1701.aspx

Albuquerque itself is a city with one of the best open space systems in the nation
https://www.kunm.org/post/using-historical-photos-explore-albuquerques-future

2018 NM Bike Plan http://dot.state.nm.us/content/dam/nmdot/BPE/NM_Bike_Plan.pdf

Grinduro 2018

This ride report by Team CSP-SBI cycling ambassador Kurt Sable

So what is Grinduro? A bike race? A century? Mountain bike? Gravel grinder? Road Bike? It is all of these things plus bacon and whiskey at the rest stops and Big Foot sightings along the way, and a load of fun on two wheels. Lots of focus on your ‘ride to party ratio’.

I just participated in one of the two Grinduros in the world in my rural hometown of Quincy, California on the last Saturday of September, (the other one is in Scotland in July). It was quite amusing to hear exclamations from other cyclists as horses and deer ran along the road while we were rolling out. Many of the 1,000 or so riders come from more populated areas and I felt proud that folks were amazed at the natural environs. Not to mention, I work as a hydrologist for the Plumas National Forest and we were riding in my “office” for most of the ride.

I wore my awesome CSP/Southwest Bike Initiative kit to represent during the event and got to chat with people while grinding up a 15-mile, 3,500 ft. climb at the start.

How could I chat? This is part of the brilliance of Grinduro. Like mountain bike enduros, only segments of the ride are timed; between timed sections I could just ride and take in the pure mountain air and views at whatever pace I wanted. In mountain bike enduros the timed segments are usually the downhills. What is unique about Grinduro is that the timed segments are incredibly varied: a 1.1-mile uphill gravel road climb, a 6-mile fast descent on a gravel and dirt road, a 6-mile rolling paved time trial, and, last but not least, a 3.5-mile single track decent. All of these timed segments are peppered along a 62-mile route of mixed surfaces (dirt trails, gravel roads, paved roads) with 7,700 of total climbing. The big climbs are on dirt and gravel and quite steep in places.

Instant and common topics of conversation include: What bike? Should you use a mountain bike, a road bike, or is this event a good excuse to get a new gravel bike? What tires? How much tire pressure? And after the ride, how much dirt is on and in one’s body, and how many flats did you get? And, did you get a flat during a timed section? We definitely could have used some rain before the event – there was a lot of loose dirt and dust.

There has been a ton of great media put out there about the event. These folks provide a flashy and witty take:

https://grinduro.com/

https://www.velonews.com/2018/09/gallery/up-next-grinduro_479403

Stepping back from Grinduro, I wanted to mention the role events like these have on small rural towns.

The event is organized by Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS), a non-profit organization based in the Northern Sierra. They have been brilliant at partnering with the Forest Service, local counties, local schools, and the State Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Commission to authorize projects and get money to build and maintain sustainable trails. They are mostly a mountain bike group, but they embrace all trail users. They organize events, run trail shuttles, have a bike shop in another rural town, Downieville, CA, and organize many trail events that attract volunteers from the pool of local and out of town trail users.

They employee a trail crew, bike shop and other staff in our rural communities, and reportedly pay a good living wage.

https://sierratrails.org/

Quincy is primarily a timber town and still has an active lumber mill.  Like much of the rural west, the population has been declining and unemployment is relatively high. There are a lot of reasons for this, but since the trails and events have come to town, there has been increased activity in downtown. Newly opened businesses include a book store, an outdoor store/bike shop, a brewery, and a new café. You often see bikes on vehicles from out-of-town parked outside these businesses or in front of our awesome food co-op, Quincy Natural Foods.

The trails and biking are certainly providing a small but real boost to our local economy and it helps locals see another use of the surrounding forest that is not extractive.

I have seen local kids out riding on the trails starting to fall in love with biking and they want to be in Grinduro someday.

Some may say “be careful what you wish for” and that we will have an influx of wealthy folks driving up our real estate costs… but I say we are far from that for now. So come on up to Quincy and lets go for a ride, or be poised by your computer when the registration opens for Grinduro and come have some bacon during a very memorable fall ride in the Lost Sierra.