The nonprofit Bike Santa Fe had its first meeting four months ago at Second Street Brewery. Since then, President Lisa Miles and a core group of volunteers have brought noticeable energy to organizing for the rights of car-free commuters—the group's Facebook page has nearly 200 supporters. To put a friendly face on bike advocacy, Bike Santa Fe will inaugurate a "bicycle valet" program at the July 9-11 International Folk Art Market; market goers' bikes will be hauled to a "safe, covered place" while they stroll around. (Would-be valets: email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
SFR: Connect the dots for me between the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and bicycling around Santa Fe.
LM: The oil spill totally broke my heart. I really hope this is going to open people's eyes and make them ask what they need to have a fulfilled life: Is it really sitting in a car? Forty percent of the trips that are taken are two miles from your house, so it's completely ridiculous that people are in their cars for those rides, idling in parking lots and creating all this pollution.
I went riding in Albuquerque recently and wondered, 'Where are all the potholes?' Why is that city so much better for biking than Santa Fe?
They have support from their city and from their police. It's really shameful...they've been proactive and Santa Fe has not.
What are you doing to get the bureaucracy to pay attention?
It's getting better. I was just appointed to the city's Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee. We want to reopen the city's bicycle code. We want to add a five-feet-to-pass [cyclists] law [a]nd to ban 'distracted driving'—so if people are texting or on the phone at all, they lose their licenses for a period of time.
Most Americans learn to ride as kids, then stop at some point. Did you stop?
I stopped at about 12. I started again when I lived in Denver for a summer, at about 20. Then I went back to Boston and finished school; I wasn't keen on cycling there. It was when I moved to Santa Fe that I became car-free, and it changed my entire perspective on the world.
Why do I always pass cyclists who are going the wrong way?
I think a lot of people's parents taught them that they should ride their bike against traffic, and that's completely false.
Not a lot of people know about your employer, Bicycle Technologies International. What is BTI?
We sell parts to bike shops around the world. We have 40-plus employees. The Bicycle Commuter Act of 2009 gives any business the option to reimburse employees who ride bikes or walk to have an additional $20 a month. BTI has a more innovative program where if you ride your bike or walk five miles or more, you get $2.50 a day.
So there's money in this?
Absolutely. There's a lot of bike shops. And then there's people who are frame builders. The Adventure Cycling Association doesn't run tours here, which is really terrible for our economy. They might be the biggest cycling group in America, and they won't come to New Mexico.
Are you surprised that a cyclist riding cross-country was recently killed by an SUV on I-40?
I wish I could say I was surprised, but New Mexico ranks as the 46 th state in the union for bicycle friendliness. It's really disturbing to hear that news. If it was a cross-country cyclist, it's someone who knows how to ride the roads and take care of themselves.
Yet every time something like that happens, people say the cyclist shouldn't have been on the road.
There's a lot of hostility when a cyclist is slowing a car down, but we're traffic, too. The roads were paved for cyclists before cars even existed.