Bikes and Bruises
Cyclists say roads aren't safe for two-wheeled travelers
By Simon McCormack
Larry Kepley was peddling south on Tramway near Spain.
As he approached the right turn lane, Kepley suddenly lost control of his bike, flying over the handlebars and landing on his shoulder, hip and face. He walked away with a bad bruise that didn't require any major medical attention. Though the accident happened last year, he still remembers how he felt when he landed. "I was pissed off," he says. "It was as if someone had reached underneath me and pulled the bike from under me."
Kepley says the cause of his crash was uneven paving on Tramway, which created a ridge in the road that sent him sprawling. Diane Albert, president of the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, says stories like Kepley's are all too common. She says the state Department of Transportation (DOT) must do a better job of keeping roads suitable for cyclists. "These types of crashes dissuade people from biking because they perceive it to be unsafe," Albert says. "These road conditions are all over the state."
Albert mentions parts of Edith in the North Valley, several sections of Coors and Route 66 near Tijeras as examples of poorly paved areas. She adds that many road shoulders aren't wide enough to accommodate bikes, and that puts two-wheeled commuters in a bind. "I like to have a bike lane, but I will use the regular lane if I have to because I bike everywhere," she says.
Members of the bicycle coalition voiced their frustrations to Gov. Bill Richardson at a meeting at the end of the summer.
“It was as if someone had reached underneath me and pulled the bike from under me.”
The governor's spokesperson, Gilbert Gallegos, says Richardson asked DOT to check into the matter.
Max Valerio, DOT's deputy secretary of programs and infrastructure, says his department will listen to the coalition's complaints. "We're happy to work with the bicycling community to find new ways to improve.” That said, Valerio maintains his department must weigh the wants of drivers and pedestrians, as well as cyclists. "It's a delicate balance that we're always having to meet.”
The Bicycle Coalition will sit down with the Department of Transportation on Wednesday, Sept. 30.
Valerio says he's spoken with drivers who aren't crazy about the idea of widening road shoulders. He says doing so on all roads, as the coalition recommends, would come at a hefty price. "If you take a broad-brush approach and say, We want to do this on every single highway, that does become a cost issue," he says. "We don't have endless revenue to go out and address everything."
On a case-by-case basis, Valerio says, DOT and the coalition should be able to work together to improve some streets. "We can start chipping away at them, one at a time."
Santa Fe and Las Cruces passed resolutions encouraging DOT to pave roads in a bicycle-friendly fashion. Albert says she plans to lobby Albuquerque's City Council to take similar measures. She's already spoken to Council President Isaac Benton, who says he would support such a resolution. Benton cautions that anything passed by the Council would not have the force of law. In general, DOT and the governor have the final say on how roads are built in New Mexico. "The city can weigh in in limited ways," Benton says. "We really need to go to the state on this issue."
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