Recently, an experienced, competitive bicyclist was seriously injured while riding on Alameda Street (“Share the road, but pay attention,” Our View, Nov. 16). As an avid cyclist myself, this story has a special resonance for me. What can be done to reduce the likelihood of such accidents?
We obviously need more bike paths that are separated from roads. The Santa Fe River Trail is a good example. Unfortunately, that trail ends about a mile from the site of the accident. Meanwhile, the riverbed itself continues on, passing within about 500 feet of the accident site. There is no trail along this section of the river, which is unfortunate.
To those who think bike trails are expensive, you can be sure they are cheap compared to the cost of roads. I wonder how much trail could be built with the thousands of dollars that are spent to care for one seriously injured cyclist? Given the bargain-basement cost of bike trails, it is a bit surprising that Santa Fe has so few miles of bike trails compared to its many miles of roads.
While we wait for more trails to be built, we could be doing much more to make existing trails more accessible and inviting to cyclists. We do not tolerate bridges as rough as washboards for automobiles, and we should not have to tolerate rough bridges for bicycles, either. More bridges to make trails more easily accessible to surrounding neighborhoods also are needed. Such bridges would not only help cyclists but also pedestrians who might not be able to climb steep river or arroyo embankments.
Another desperately needed measure is better signage, directing cyclists and pedestrians to existing trails. There are some signs now, but they are often not very helpful. I tried to follow one sign on Cerrillos Road recently, to a trail in south Santa Fe, and ended up taking a pointless mile-long excursion down a side street, without ever finding the trail.
I had a similar experience when I first tried to access the Santa Fe River Trail from Osage Avenue. A signed directed me to the parking lot at Frenchy’s Field Park, but once in the parking lot, it was not clear to me where the trail was. There is even a map at the entrance to the park, but so far as I could see, it did not show the trail. I gave up and rode my bike on the sidewalk of Agua Fría Street until the narrow sidewalk became impassable in a thicket of weeds. Only later did I figure out how the Santa Fe River Trail intersects Frenchy’s Field Park. Though the map at Frenchy’s Field Park may be incomplete, it is at least legible. That is more than I can say for some maps I have seen along the trails. For instance, there is a map along the Arroyo Chamiso Trail near Avenida de las Campanas that is completely illegible. It is faded to nearly white by years of harsh sun, and what’s left of it is adorned with graffiti.
Every week seems to bring news of some impaired driver plowing into a tree, a building, another vehicle, a pedestrian or a cyclist. Creating more trails that are separated from roads is one of the surest ways to protect pedestrians and cyclists from such dangers. More trails also will have the added benefit of providing more opportunities for recreation and exercise at a time when Santa Fe and the rest of the country are in the grip of an obesity epidemic. The cost of more trails is easily justified by the health and safety benefits.
Dan Frazier, a small business owner, moved to Santa Fe in 2016 from Flagstaff, Ariz. He walks and bicycles nearly everywhere he needs to go in Santa Fe. His parked pickup was recently totaled by a drunken driver. He has not decided if he will buy another vehicle.