During 30 years of preferring to get to places in Santa Fe on a bicycle, I’ve seen great improvements and worked out a lot of ways to not have to ride with cars.

The Rail Trail, Arroyo Chamiso Trail, El Camino Real Trail and the evolving River Trail can generally, but not completely, be stitched together to travel car-free — better for the cyclist and the motorist. It will be even better when the River Trail is completed between Siler and the San Isidro Crossing, eliminating the bicycle-unfriendly Agua Fría stretch. Bike lanes and bike awareness have also improved but have a way to go. So, bravo for The New Mexican‘s April 19 editorial, “Support cycling to keep wheels turning.”

March was a terrible month for nonmotorists on St. Michael’s Drive, which already has a bad history. Though not publicized and less extreme than other March incidents, I experienced my own loss and injury, further illustrating problems with the interface between vehicles and pedestrians and bicycles.

My account is this: I got to St. Michael’s mostly on the Rail Trail to do business at two locations between Pacheco Street and Cerrillos Road, and planned to return home on the River/El Camino Real Trail. Getting to Pacheco via Osage in Casa Alegre by bicycle is tricky and dangerous. To do so, you have to ride through many parking lots or go down the broad sidewalk. Bikes don’t belong on sidewalks, but they really don’t belong on St. Michael’s. There is little safe choice.

As I was coming down the sidewalk, a car trying to go east on St. Michael’s saw a break in the traffic and was oblivious to the sidewalk he was crossing and smacked me and my bike to the pavement. The driver was contrite and even got me $100 to “fix” my bike, which I now know is nearly unfixable (repair estimate is $600-$700, bike now replaced at considerably more).

My list of woes includes four hours in the ER, stitches in ring finger and precious wedding ring cut off, broken middle finger phalanx, weeks in finger splint with further rehab needed, and bruising on shin and hip. I was well-treated at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center from triage to ER to hand clinic to hand rehab — for all of which I am grateful.

My bike is now a group of unrideable parts — bent strong front wheel (that wheel will never turn again) and crank, broken shifters and brakes, etc. Among the broken bike parts and a modicum of O-positive on the sidewalk, a less visible toll was a quantity of my confidence.

So March has demonstrated very clearly that an important further evolution of bicycle and pedestrian life, even on business-dense St. Michael’s, must be well-separated from cars. It will be a challenge but a worthy one. There is enough space, especially on the south side of the road, to accommodate both pedestrian and bicycle routes. St. Michael’s problems illustrate something else about Santa Fe’s evolving bicycle network: We now have some great bike routes, but they are like spokes from the center. Some links — especially those like St. Michael’s with many destinations — will be better and safer once they are more heavily used.

Wolky Toll is a retired archaeologist who gets around Santa Fe on a bicycle when possible.

(1) comment

Khal Spencer

Given the number of curb cuts on St. Michael's Drive, I would think sidewalks would be the worst place to ride. Motorists are looking for other oncoming vehicles on the street when making a left turn, not bicyclists on the sidewalk; that gets taught in bicycle Traffic Skills classes.

https://bikeleague.org/content/riding-sidewalk

The author is right in one respect, St. Michael's Drive ain't very welcoming to a bicyclist. I ride it from time to time to get to business locations along the route but a cyclist (or for that matter, a motorist) has to have one's situational awareness at 100%.

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