Santa Fe is blessed not only with good weather, but with great ways to take advantage of it. Among those is the city's 100-plus-mile urban trail system. It's designed around bikes—but chances are, if you've found a dedicated path for bikes, you've found a safe pedestrian path, too.
The most eye-catching of the latest improvements is the underpass beneath St. Francis Drive at the intersection with Cerrillos Road. It opened in late 2017 and provides a much safer way to avoid the busy road above. The 150-foot long tunnel also opens up access to the Acequia Trail.
The trail, which roughly parallels Cerrillos Road, is "a combination of trail and mellow roads," says Tim Rogers, who manages the trails program at the Santa Fe Conservation Trust. The route makes it possible to bike from the Railyard to Casa Alegre without much hassle. Or, if the mood strikes, to Rowley Farmhouse Ales (1405 Maclovia St., 428-0719), right nearby.
In June 2018, the El Camino Real Trail is set to open, providing bike access from the Southside to the Municipal Recreation Center at Caja del Rio and beyond—even out to Diablo Canyon, via a 10-foot wide soft-surface trail. Here, too, there's a tunnel below a busy road, letting riders avoid Highway 599.
The River Trail, a vital connector to the heart of town from the west side, will have a mile-long extension between Frenchy's Field and Siler Road completed this year.
Even the new diverging diamond interchange at Cerrillos and I-25 has nearly a mile of urban trails and tunnels, making Rancho Viejo and Turquoise Trail more accessible for riders.
And the Rail Trail, which runs more than 10 miles from downtown through Eldorado and nearly out to Lamy, is in the final stages of improvements to both its soft surface and paved paths.
This is all well and good for the recreational rider, and if you're from out of town, it means there are plenty of non-lungbusting options for biking in and around town. Santa Fe's compact size and picturesque neighborhoods make for excellent urban biking.
But it's designed to do much more than allow you to tool around town. It's supposed to provide an alternative way to get to work or to basic services like grocery stores, doctor's offices and entertainment. With trails rideable for nearly the entire year, local governments think it makes sense.
Erick Aune, a senior planner with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, points out that this is no accident. Aune arrived about five years ago to find that the local governments have been smart about their approaches to creating a two-wheeled transit network. "The county and the city have dedicated bond funds over the years, which means there's a strong planning and design ethic, and then operations and maintenance," he says. There isn't always a ton of money, but it's been spent wisely enough to win grants to pay for trail improvements and extensions. Within a couple years, the agency will leverage federal safety funding to build another Rail Trail tunnel below the six lanes of traffic on St. Michael's Drive.
What's more, the city is now requiring developers working on land that has mapped-but-not-built multi-use paths to complete them.
All the improvements got a formal boost with the Bike Master Plan, developed in 2012. It's being updated this year.
If you don't have a bike, there are programs for that, too—foremost of which is the Chainbreaker Collective (1515 Fifth St., 989-3858). The group's bicycle resource center is open on Sunday afternoons and teaches bike maintenance and how to rehab a used ride for those who are looking for a cheap, easy way to get around. Because you can give a man a bike and he'll learn to ride, but if you teach a man how to fix a bike … well, you know