Protecting people on our streets

…pedestrians are 2-3 times more likely to suffer a fatality when struck by an SUV or pickup truck than when struck by a passenger car…The higher risk of fatality associated with being struck by an SUV or pickup also applies to a vulnerable population — children.  In a study conducted by Columbia University, school-age children (5-19 years old) struck by light trucks were found to be twice as likely to die as those struck by passenger cars.  The risk was even greater for the younger set (ages 5-9); their fatality risk is four times greater from SUVs and pickup trucks than from passenger cars.  –Detroit Free Press, “Death on foot: America’s love of SUVs is killing pedestrians

Although the title of this story from the Detroit Free Press oversimplifies the cause of the rise in deaths of people who are killed while walking in America, the story is very substantive, probing the complex causality associated with traffic safety for pedestrians.  The type of vehicle we are driving is a factor, but so is street design, driver awareness, driver training, vehicle mass and speed, and traffic culture.  One factor the article doesn’t address is exposure.  We don’t know how much people are walking or cycling because we don’t measure it systematically, like we do cars.

The good news is there is a lot we can collectively do to make our roads safer.  New York City reduced pedestrian deaths nearly in half in four years with a combination of enforcement targeted at driver behavior, lowered speed limits and training for cab drivers. Other cities such as Seattle have implemented ‘road diets’, also known as ‘right sizing’, to calm traffic and improve conditions for people walking and biking.  NHTSA (the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration) is planning to overhaul its vehicle-safety rating system to include a new score for pedestrian safety.  There is global innovation happening around designing vehicles to protect the safety of people outside of them, including modifications of the vehicle shape and material composition, as well as implementing new technologies such as automatic braking.  Creating great transit systems can be one of the most effective strategies, so people don’t feel like they have to drive, especially higher risk driving populations like elderly and younger people.

This is a monumental opportunity to advance traffic safety and take on the challenge of making transportation greater.  Designing healthy places is crucial for supporting public health and wellness and economic productivity.  The best way to get exercise is by integrating it into our daily routine, and nature has designed human beings with the mobility powers for getting ourselves where we want to go.  Buildings are wonderful and often the focal point of some of our most talented designers and architects, but the places in between–that circulatory system of paths, trails and roads–is the architecture connecting our worlds together. Reversing the trend of dangerous roads means designing places that inspire us to use our own powers, and interact with a reverence for life, offering people the freedom to choose the healthiest means to get where we want to go.

We are facing a global crisis today […] because of how our ethical systems function.  Getting through the crises requires […] understanding those ethical systems and using that understanding to reform them.  –Donald Worster, “The Wealth of Nature”

Credits and Resources:

The graphics, leading quote and most of the data are from this article:  https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2018/06/28/suvs-killing-americas-pedestrians/646139002/

The Mid-Region Council of Governments of New Mexico (MRCOG) has been working on a Regional Transportation Safety Action Plan:  https://www.mrcog-nm.gov/transportation/technical-services/safety-analysis

The New Mexico Department of Transportation has adapted a Road Diet guide:
http://dot.state.nm.us/content/dam/nmdot/Plans_Specs_Estimates/Design_Directives/IDD-2018-16_Road_Diet_Guide.pdf

The New Mexico 2040 Plan has goals to “provide multimodal access and connectivity for community prosperity” (goal 4) and “improve safety for all users” (goal 2), and goes on to say “Walking is an essential mode of transportation and a component of nearly every kind of trip…NMDOT will seek to make pedestrian mobility safe, enjoyable, and convenient…”
http://dot.state.nm.us/content/dam/nmdot/planning/NM_2040_Plan.pdf
more info. here: http://dot.state.nm.us/content/nmdot/en/Planning.html

The Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) is active in New Mexico:
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_4/step.cfm?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Catching the spirit of the Iron Horse

“the biking circle and community is great”.  –Howard Grotts, 2018 Iron Horse Men’s Champion

Durango, Colorado is a beautiful Western town.  This year’s 47th Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic celebrated Durango’s cycling heritage, and expanded the fun by weaving in new cycling events including BMX for the second straight year.  The atmosphere around cycling brings out such joy in people and the character of this place in an extraordinary way.  Cycling is a technology of contact, connection.  It’s simply amazing.  The Iron Horse is so fun it’s a pity it only happens once per year.

At the Iron Horse everyone gets involved somehow.  Like many people in attendance, over the weekend I was both participant and spectator.  On Saturday I raced the classic road cycling event from Durnago to Silverton, and on Sunday I watched the BMX action up close on main street and cheered the mountain bike racers as they passed through town and the Steamworks Brewery.  The festivities excel at community engagement so well the Iron Horse is in a league of its own, much like the San Juan mountains are perhaps the most spectacular range in the lower forty-eight.  It’s an event that matches the landscape!

There’s such a diversity of events there is something for everyone.  The road ride on Saturday is the most accessible event, and it’s on one of the most beautiful courses in the county.  There are races for women and men in all different age groups and categories.  The most popular road ride is the Citizen’s Tour to Silverton.  But don’t be fooled, even though the tour is not an official race, many of the participants are trying to set a personal best or even beat the Iron Horse train that departs downtown Durango at 7:15a.m. and steams up the canyons to Silverton.  I bumped into my friend Rose from Albuquerque on Sunday in Durango, and she did the Quarter Horse ride, which is a shorter road ride with less climbing that goes to Purgatory ski area halfway between Durango and Silverton.  Over the weekend, there is the La Strada La Plata Gravel Ride, MTB (mountain bike) race, BMX, Cruiser Criterium, Kids Race, bike parade and things beyond cycling–a running event, a triathlon, a Veterans Memorial Ceremony, and lots of vendors with art, food, and cycling offerings.  It’s incredibly fun.

I had a pretty good race by my standards.  I was sitting eight overall on the road as we headed over the final pass, Molas, for the final descent into the old mining town of Silverton.  Cycling legend Ned Overend was just a few minutes in front of me, and I basically had a front row seat to see him and other stars in racing action.  What a learning experience!  As I flew cautiously down the steep grade, two riders caught and passed me, and out sprinted me in the slightly uphill drag down Silverton’s main street to the finish line.  One of the riders I knew well, Ben Sontag, a mountain bike pro for Cliff Bar.  The other I wasn’t so sure of, but man can he race and is he fast!  As soon as we crossed the line conversations began, and I met the other rider, Todd Wells, three time winner of the Leadville 100 and USA Olympian.  He just retired and said this event kept him motivated to stay in shape.  I ended up in 10th place, but hey, when Todd Wells is just in front of you, is that so bad?  I was a happy finisher, like everyone!

Over the weekend, visitors soak up the local Colorado vibes and learn more about the many things we can do with bicycles.  And residents get to pinch themselves and be reminded how lucky they are to live in such a special community.  When people come together around bicycles more great things happen.  The cool thing about Durango is that having Olympians and cycling champions living next door is not really remarkable, it is just normal.  They represent the possibilities of human expressions through the bike life.  The event itself normalizes cycling.  The bike is the way to get around town.  The mainstream planning community is starting to respond to that.

I think it’s time we start referring to active transportation modes for what they are, our most basic and primary modes.  –Michael P. Sanderson, Professional Engineer (P.E.), “Leading the way to make active transportation safe, while improving health”, ITE Journal May 2018

I’ve grown up in a world where bicycling is seen as alternative or unconventional.  Planners and engineers today are working to make walking and cycling flow more naturally, like a mountain stream.  Every street in front of every house is a bike route.  Our street system connects us to where we want to go, our schools, work places, our friends’ houses, recreational assets, our business districts, health facilities.  Making the street system accessible and welcoming bicycles is key for healthier and sustainable lifeways.  The Colorado Department of Transportation has made big strides, putting bike lanes in on the main route through town, Highway 550.  This is where the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic begins, right in front of Durango High School.  They are trying to making it convenient for people to ride a bicycle everywhere we need to go.  It’s not perfect, though.  Vallecitos Road has a typical sign as you leave town that says “bike route ends” and the wide shoulder tapers down, but that doesn’t mean people stop bicycling there.  People that live in the country want to ride their bikes to town, too, and certainly town residents love to ride their bikes to the countryside.  When we change our paradigm and view cycling as conventional, we expect bicycles everywhere.  And at the Iron Horse it is like leaping into the future.  Softly, gently, joyfully…cycling dreams will come.

The entire community supports the Iron Horse, including the outstanding independent bookstore on Main Avenue, Mariah’s Bookshop

Credits and Further Reading:
Thanks to our team, sponsors and partners for getting us to the Iron Horse for the second straight year.  Go Team CSP-SBI!  https://bikeinitiative.org/sponsors-partners/
A special thanks to Sansai Studio for most of the great photos (the better ones!) in this post.
https://sansai.photoshelter.com/index
Visit the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic to sign up for 2019 and learn more about the history!
http://www.ironhorsebicycleclassic.com

Artful living in the East Mountains

This year I realized how much I rely on riding, for my socializing even.  Half the people I know are the people I wave at and say hi to on my bicycle.  I miss being out there.”  Brud Grossman, “The Art of Simplicity”, East Mountain Living magazine, Fall/Winter Edition 2017/2018

The mountain communities east of Albuquerque are beautiful for cycling.  The Fall/Winter Edition of East Mountain Living magazine has a nice story on resident Brud Grossman, who makes himself at home there pedaling his bicycle.  Brud is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and we always say hi to each other when we’re out cycling.  He took some time off the bike while recovering from injuries last year, but he’s back out cycling daily.  I just saw him last Saturday when we stopped and joined him for a  break on South 14.

Cycling the roads in the East Mountain communities is fun.  If there’s one thing better than experiencing places by cycling, it is sharing the pleasure with lovely people.  As we leaned on the guardrail alongside the road on South 14, we talked about the small backroads we’ve explored that lead to neighborhoods with unexpected charm, stunning vistas, enchanting swaths of forest.  Brud uses cycling as proof of life.  Every year he makes it a goal to cycle up the Sandia Crest to the top at over 10,000 feet above sea level.  It reminds me of the David Budbill quote from the Sun Magazine.  “What I’ve put in the place of religion is the way I live my life now.”  Cycling has become part of Brud’s identity.  He is also a woodcarver, but at some point years ago his cycling practice became his main thing.

I look up to Brud.  Here’s a man who is following his own heart, and living his dream.   Living is a language for him, and the joy that comes from living he shares kindly.  The pleasure expressed through simple acts of living is a thing of beauty, and inspiring.

If you see Brud cycling, take time to say hello.  He’s as much a part of the East Mountain landscape as all the natural features.  I always learn something.  He’s seen so much through his cycling, and his words are loaded with life.  Thank you Brud. Keep on pedaling!

Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind.  –R.W. Emerson, “The American Scholar”

References:

View the magazine here:  https://www.eastmountaindirectory.com/LIVINGMAGAZINE/

Link to PDF of current issue:  https://indd.adobe.com/view/586fc0ac-3f67-4078-a478-5708f6ec0b7c

Related Facebook site:  https://www.facebook.com/EastMountainDirectory

Movement is life, and more reasons to cycle to work

“Imagine if a team of scientists devised a drug which massively reduced people’s chances of developing cancer or heart disease, cutting their overall likelihood of dying early by 40%….That drug is already here, albeit administered in a slightly different way: it’s called cycling to work.”  —The Miracle Pill

“The benefits of physical activity are just so overwhelmingly large.”–Cycling to work means better health and a longer life.  Here’s how to get started.

On September 8 the Washington Post published an article on cycling to work in their Health & Science section.  It relates scientific evidence of cycling’s amazing benefits to the real life experiences of six bike commuters, making the benefits palpable.  One commuter, Carlos, says he’s saved $7000.  Another, Tricia, says cycling helps you see your city “in a way you’ve never seen it before”, and cycling to work clears her head.  “It’s exercise, there’s sunshine and it’s really cheap. It makes me happier.”  All of the commuters interviewed for the article “said they liked how biking built exercise into their day.”  It makes exercise come naturally and easily.

Not exercising is definitely risky.  Humans are designed to move.  But is cycling perceived to be safe?  Even though cycling crashes resulting in a death are relatively rare, Southwestern cities—Albuquerque, Tucson, Las Vegas, and Phoenix—led the nation in cycling crash rates in 2014-2015.  The growth boom of Southwestern cities after WWII produced a “transportation infrastructure focused almost exclusively on the private motor car” (from the FHWA doc. linked below). This is definitely a wake up call that we need to prioritize cyclist safety so the public feels more confident making healthy decisions.  Southwest Bike Initiative focuses on improving traffic safety and service for all travelers here in the Southwest US so citizens can share in the prosperity of cycling’s restorative effects.

One super cool thing about cycling to work is it shifts our perspective.  By changing behavior, changes in attitudes follow.  When I’m cycling I feel more connected and compassionate.  Our city’s purpose is to nurture our citizen’s collective well-being. We don’t want to be fit into a system that doesn’t make us fit or enhance our fitness.  Choosing independent movement through a self-powered vehicle like a bicycle makes us fitter, and is therefore very fitting.  It takes a new vision and education to positively change our social norms and habits, and leadership from the community.  It’s a matter of conscious choice and free will.    Carol says in the Washington Post article: “I think a lot of people have this idea that ‘real cyclists’ will look down on them if they only bike some of the time, or only for short distances, but there are no ‘real cyclists’; there are just people who put on their clothes and get on a bike.”  Cycling really is for everyone.

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2017/sep/17/the-miracle-pill-how-cycling-could-save-the-nhs

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cycling-to-work-means-better-health-and-a-longer-life-heres-how-to-get-started/2017/09/08/b48d13f2-72ed-11e7-9eac-d56bd5568db8_story.html?utm_term=.509d666c2b0e

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2017/apr/20/its-good-to-hear-cycling-to-work-reduces-your-risk-of-dying-but-thats-not-why-i-do-it

Kenneth Burke—“people may be unfitted by being fit in an unfit fitness.” quoted in The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F.P. Rose

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/other_topics/fhwasa09027/resources/Design%20Guidance%20Accommodating%20Bicycle%20and%20Pedestrian%20Travel.pdf

Cycling makes a better life

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”  –Leo Tolstoy

Although changing ourselves may be the hardest thing, a lot of people are putting their imaginations to work through cycling.  The positive effects of cycling are astounding.  62-year-old Geoff Whitington gained a new lease on life after taking on the challenge of doing the Ride London event in 2014.  Geoff had diabetes before he committed to training.  Now, three years later, he’s transformed his life by losing 98 pounds.  He’s diabetes-free.

Geoff was part of the “Fixing Challenge” in the UK, where families are encouraged to change their lives and share their stories to inspire others.  Geoff’s story “could be the story of millions” who are suffering from imbalanced eating and sedentary lifestyles.  The truth is when we try to change ourselves we get a lot of support from others.

We need to hear more of these good news stories.  And they go well beyond diabetes.  Cycling helps us improve our mental health, freedom and independence, and gives youth a chance to explore their world while discovering their inherent mobility powers.  Cycling can also give us a sense of fullness that comes with a purposeful life filled with meaning and joy.  Cycling helps us experience beauty and satisfaction in our everyday lives that we can share.  This is on top of all the social benefits such as savings on healthcare, freed up space, and creating more livable cities.

Here are links to Geoff’s story, and a few more.  Cycle on!
The Prudential RideLondon Fixing Challenge, Geoff’s story:
 https://www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk/events/100/entries/ballot/fixing-challenge/
An article in the NY Times today about veterans re-centering their lives with outdoor activities:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/us/finding-some-peace-after-war
Lael Wilcox on why she tackles long distance rides by herself:
http://www.bicycling.com/rides/why-i-choose-to-tackle-really-long-rides-by-myself

 

A view of Durango from Ft. Lewis College earlier this year at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic