The potholes are fresh and the bike lanes are iced over. But you can still see determined pedalers around town, whether because they’re trying to save on gas, they can’t afford a four-wheel drive with seat warmers or they like the feeling of ice in their lungs.
“The number of bikers all over town has skyrocketed,” Shelley Robinson, a member of the city’s Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee, tells SFR.
This spring, her committee plans a survey to find out how the city can make life easier for cyclists and drivers alike.
We didn’t want to wait. Back in November, we queried you about the problems bicycle commuters face in Santa Fe. Now, with the holiday hangovers fading at last, we’ve gotten around to tallying the results.
Half of the respondents claimed to be regular bike commuters, so naturally the answers favor their points of view. “What kind of progressive capital city doesn’t have a sufficient public transit system or sufficient support for bikers???” one respondent writes.
Most of the rest were solo drivers. Only one driver took our bait and admitted that “cyclists just get in my way.”
Many cyclists took the survey as an opportunity to vent about the city’s “pathetic” bike infrastructure and “the ‘kill’ attitude of drivers.”
Many shared the sentiments of Kathy Chamberlin, a former professional cyclist, who complains that Santa Fe’s attempts at bike-friendliness are “a joke.” Chamberlin heaps scorn upon the “arrogant, mean spirited people in cars” who “go out of their way and try and take me out. It’s like these people are bitter that I can get around faster than they can.”
Anne McLaughlin, strategic planning bureau chief with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, responded to our survey with a lengthy e-mail that could serve as a PhD thesis on the perils of cycling in Santa Fe.
She favors bike licenses for adults, after passing a riding-skills and written test—a controversial position among cycling advocates, who fear it would discourage new riders. To McLaughlin, the blame for bike-car
conflicts is shared.
“Drivers fail to yield to cyclists all the time…They think honking at you lets you know they’re coming up behind you and want to pass. Bad idea. We know you’re there. Don’t honk at us! But when cyclists pull random stunts all the time, typical of novices who haven’t ridden since childhood, no wonder drivers are confused and hostile,” McLaughlin writes. “Unfortunately, the cyclist is always the one at risk of suffering grievous bodily harm, never the driver.”
True that: Approximately one-third of bike commuters say bad drivers are the biggest problem they encounter.
“Drivers should be well-trained on the laws of the road involving bikes and ped[estrians] and there should be plenty of relevant questions on the [state drivers’] exam. There aren’t,” McLaughlin writes.
Another third of our respondents were vexed by a lack of bike lanes and paths, and said these should be the city’s top bike-related spending priority.
The next most-cited problem was “scary intersections,” which also featured heavily in nominations for the most dangerous spots in town.
Not surprisingly, Cerrillos Road emerged as the leading “death wish” for cyclists. St. Francis Drive came in second. Even McLaughlin, who works for the agency that maintains it, calls St. Francis a “badly designed arterial.”
Other nominees included “Old Santa Fe Trail before Paseo de Peralta,” “the little section between Cordova and Coronado on Old Pecos Trail” and “the NEW and IMPROVED GUADALUPE STREET!! What were those chumps thinking??”
As for the non-cyclists, only a handful conceded that they were too lazy to ride. Man-made hazards aside, the top reason people gave for not commuting by bike was beyond anyone’s control—the weather.