Of the many pandemic pastimes — baking bread, raising chickens or cutting your own hair — one that needs reintegration into whatever “normal” becomes is the surge in bike riding.

In 2020, when people began staying and working at home to reduce spread of COVID-19, cycling became a safe way to get outside for exercise. Gyms were closed. Biking was the go-to exercise, a pastime all the more fun because so few cars were on the road. Bikes ruled.

Tooling around on two wheels became so popular that bikes couldn’t be found. Shops sold out. No wonder, with sales up 120 percent over the previous year’s totals early in the pandemic, according to the Washington Post. Bike repair shops couldn’t always locate the parts to fix up old bikes. Everyone wanted to be atop a bike.

But biking is more than a way to exercise. It’s also is a way to move from point A to point B, traveling in a manner that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decreases vehicle traffic.

For some, biking allows them the ability to get around without having to buy a car or purchase gas. It’s more affordable.

A key to creating cities where people can bike to work or pleasure, though, is to ensure riders are safe and don’t feel endangered by cars and trucks.

In Santa Fe, where people ride bikes to and from work despite the traffic, there long has been an effort to encourage sharing the road.

It’s part of the city’s campaign to become more sustainable. Santa Fe County also has pledged to support bicycle transportation as a key to sustainability.

The city has created bike trails. It has created lanes so cyclists can be protected from vehicle traffic. The goal is to develop a network of trails that connect neighborhoods with places of employment, plus parks, schools, shopping and other services across Santa Fe.

City trails also connect with those in Santa Fe County, an important link. This is a countywide effort, one that needs further support and infrastructure.

Simply put, the goal is straightforward: Anyone who wants to use a bike for transportation — not simply recreation — can do that here.

The surge in biking during the coronavirus pandemic likely will stick around. As people return to work in offices or stores, at least some of them are going to want to use their bikes to travel to and from work.

Lessons learned from the pandemic about transportation can help in the transition as we open up. Across the globe, some 291 cities, regions and nations created people-friendly street initiatives. Called the Slow Streets movement, the initiative sought to allow people to explore their neighborhoods by walking, jogging or biking.

Understanding that most car trips are close to home — 46 percent of vehicle trips in the U.S. are less than three miles — the idea is to save cars for longer journeys and encourage alternative transportation when possible.

In Europe, where cycling already is popular, cities such as Paris and Rome repurposed roads to create additional bike lanes during the pandemic. Across France, the government is helping towns and cities make pop-up bike lanes permanent. Some countries are offering subsidies to help individuals refurbish bikes or buy electric scooters.

Closer to home, our leaders can keep working to reduce reliance on cars and trucks offers by continuing to support bike trails and building dedicated lines — separated by a barrier on larger roads — to make it safer and easier to commute by bike.

Employers can encourage bike commuting and the federal government can provide tax incentives to employers who support cyclists. Cities also can offer bike-sharing programs, known to increase the number of people who commute. These programs allow bike rentals for a short period at low cost.

Policy, in other words, can affect individual actions. That momentum, in turn, can create a healthier community, one where cycling becomes an important transportation component and a way to improve fitness.

There are lessons to be learned — and applied — from life during the pandemic. Let’s keep the bike enthusiasm rolling.

(7) comments

Khal Spencer

Some comments.


Rob Morlino

Full disclosure, I and other commenters serve on BPAC, the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. I have been remarkably surprised how little to none of the traffic projects we've reviewed consider protected bike lanes or other modern infrastructure for cyclists or pedestrians. Santa Fe is a nice, but extremely dangerous place, to ride a bike. This is not only a transportation or local recreation issue. Strong investment in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure should be considered an economic development imperative. The most bike-able cities in the world are some of those with the highest tourism revenues. The infrastructure provided for visiting and local cyclists also provides much safer routes to schools for Santa Fe's students as well. The positive effects of enhancing this infrastructure are far-reaching, easy to leverage, and would yield a quieter, healthier city for relatively little investment.

Diad Wheeler

I have to wonder if the author(s) of this actually ride a bike in SF. ..."Anyone who wants to use a bike for transportation — not simply recreation — can do that here." Yea, but you need to be VERY carful where you choose to ride.

I live out OSFT, 4 miles from town, and yea, there is a bike lane for most of that ride - but NOT all. Cyclists ride it often, as did I, but I won't any longer. The only thing more dangerous than a road without a bike lane, is one WITH a bike lane that's UNRIDABLE. Too many SF bike lanes are totally gritted and unsafe for anything other than a mountain bike, which forces cyclists to ride adjacent to the lane. A crazy-dangerous situation for more than half the year. To suggest SF is working to be more "bike friendly" is simply not accurate... we're decades behind progressive cities in this area. We have precious few bike lanes, and the ones we have (and many shoulders) are unridable for too much of the year.

Khal Spencer

Dan is right. This editorial is too generic. We need to talk specifics.

The trail system, for example, often doesn't go where you need to go, at least in an efficient manner. Much of retail Santa Fe is built up along major corridors such as Cerrillos Road and St. Francis Drive. Where are the dedicated bicycle accommodations along these corridors? The Rail, Chamisa, River, and Acequia Trails are great resources but depend on having relatively safe streets in order to knit them together with the road grid to get from point A to point B. I can take the River Trail from Casa Solana to Frenchy's Field and then get on a quiet road to get to the Ace Hardware, but to get to Rob and Charlie's, must negotiate St. Michael's Drive.

While the City has been trying to improve conditions for cycling, the State has made sure its jurisdictions (Cerrillos, St. Francis, and St. Michaels) are intimidating, having gone so far as to deliberately rebuild St. Francis to eliminate any possibility of bicycle accommodation in the worship of Motor Vehicle Level of Service. As Dan said, slapping a pair of bike lanes on Cerrillos doesn't make it bicycle-friendly when the high speeds ensure any crash will be gruesome and the width/number of lanes ensures a bicyclist is sure to be missed by turning and crossing traffic.

Vision Zero principles tell us that short of an entirely separate infrastructure (which is almost impossible to retrofit into such a tightly built old city), the best thing to do in a city is lower the speed limit to a point where a crash is not gruesome. For example, Albuquerque has put in a "bicycle boulevard" with a speed limit of 30 kph (18 mph).

Finally, not a peep about urban planning. If you sprawl a city, a bicycle, even an e-bike, may become impractical. Infill is a good idea not only to ensure there is plenty of tax base per acre but to ensure that using a bicycle is not such a time sink that it becomes untenable for someone on an actual schedule. Rather than building out, we should be building in and up. Such as zoning the Midtown Campus for residential housing at a density commensurate with the center of a city.

Khal Spencer

Two additions.

One, when I was in Amsterdam and Bremen, I didn't see any urban superhighways like St. Francis or Cerrillos cutting through the center of town. Cities were emphatically for people, not cars. Cars and small delivery trucks were there, but not worshipped.

Two, cities were compact. I landed at Bremen Airport and it was two miles to the city center where I stayed. The Thermo-Fisher factory, where I was working on a project for LANL, was at the airport and reachable via a light rail line. Taking the train involved walking a block from the hotel to the station and a block from the other end to the factory.

You have to design a city to be car-lite, not design it for car travels and then wonder why people drive.

Paul Groh

Without adequate bike trails and bike lanes, riding a bicycle in Santa Fe is a life-threatening activity. Narrow streets often don’t allow “sharing the road”. I only bike for transportation in places where adequate safety is employed. If the city would fix this, many would use this wonderful form of transportation.

Dan Frazier

This editorial is so generic and non-Santa Fe specific that I wonder if it was downloaded from an AP server or something. As someone who bicycles in Santa Fe almost every day, I have a few comments. Yes, Santa Fe has more bike trails and marked bike lanes than some other towns its size. No, I have not noticed an uptick in bicycling on those trails and lanes during the pandemic.

However, I did have one experience during the pandemic when I visited a bike shop which suggested that bike shops were having trouble keeping up with demand. The proprietor seemed less than excited at the prospect of repairing my bike, and in fact never bothered to order any parts for the repairs. He did make some make comments about how busy he was.

I definitely think there is room for improving Santa Fe's trails and bike lanes. For instance, there are many pavement cracks along the Arroyo Chamiso Trail. Appropriate signage warning of steep grades is also lacking in some places. The crossing at St. Michaels remains an accident waiting to happen, with no pavement markings or crossing lights to aid cyclists and pedestrians. The Cerrillos Bike lanes seem ill-conceived and under-utilized due to the high volume of high-speed vehicular traffic. Somehow the lanes need to be protected, marked or repositioned to better protect cyclists.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.