Adventure: Santa Fe Cycling Rank

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There is room for improvement. People for Bikes, a sizeable, organized and truly established organization here in the United States, has a ranking of best biking cities in the country. No surprise, Boulder Colorado, the home of People for Bikes, comes in at number one.

Santa Fe, not so much. Albuquerque actually came in higher than Santa Fe which isn’t surprising considering the layout and scale of The ABQ in comparison to the ancient and tiny streets of Santa Fe. However, there is SO much room for improvement.

Getting people on bikes isn’t easy. There are SO many excuses/reasons not to ride, some of which I understand completely. I might not agree but I understand.

“I don’t want to arrive at work sweaty.” “I don’t feel safe.” “I carry too much stuff.” “We don’t have bike lanes.” “I don’t own a bike.” “I don’t have time.” “The distance is too far.” “I’ll only ride if someone pays me.” “I’m an American and I have a right to drive a car.” “Bikes shouldn’t be allowed on the road.” “Bikes are causing all the traffic.” “Bikers are entitled and I hate everything to do with them.” These are just a few of the sentiments I’ve heard over the years.

You can’t force people to ride, you can’t shame them into riding. We have to make it safe and we have to make it feel like a first option, and frankly, here in the United States, sadly perhaps, it might revolve around nothing more than finance. Can I save money by cycling? I believe the answer is yes, but making this work on a grand scale will take investment on the front end, and this is where things go sideways here in the good, old US of A.

Oil and gas and the auto industry are two of the most powerful lobby groups in the world. They are not keen on bike lanes or cycling. Insurance is another quagmire. I attended a city council meeting in Newport Beach in regards to adding roughly fifty feet of bike lane to an existing path. The bill for the procedure was $2,000,000 due to the proposed path being under three different insurance policies. Federal, state and local. For the path to be completed someone had to pony up to pay the insurance. I left Newport knowing there was no incentive for the city council members, none of whom rode bikes, to move forward. Newport is one side of the story while the Boulders of the nation are the flip side.

Here in Santa Fe, I believe the future is about bike tourism. In the past three weeks, I’ve seen more bike-packing rigs around town than the entire twelve years prior and it’s not even close. The vast majority of these cyclists traveled here from other parts of the US. Some are doing the Tour Divide, some are doing sections of the Tour Divide and others are just mining the site. (This is a great site.) Santa Fe needs a hub for cyclists. Infrastructure, accommodation, cuisine, and community. And it’s TOTALLY doable here. It really is.

We are always going to have the guy in the Dodge pickup who lives out Old Santa Fe Trail who rolls coal on every cyclist he passes. He’s a mess. He’s angry. He hates the world and is never going to come around, but most people are neutral on bikes and if the cycling community brings solid, interesting, committed, paying members of the public to town they will remain neutral or might even tilt toward becoming cycling fans. (Not that they will ever ride but they will be open to you and me riding.)

I’ve been in Santa Fe for three weeks. I’ve used 1/4 of a tank of gas in my truck. (Scouting a gravel ride oddly enough.) The rest of the time I’ve commuted and shopped and trained by bike. Just by using my bike I’ve saved at least one hundred dollars in gas, not to mention I stay in better shape which also lowers my likelihood of health care cost. (Except for my kidney stone.)

I just put my bike in storage for the next few weeks and I actually felt genuine sadness. I think I would be more upset if someone stole my bike than if they stole my truck. We have nowhere to go but up here in the US. Something like 1% of all trips are made via bike. Sure, that’s entirely lame but I try to focus on that big, fat, 99% and think, “What’s the trick to unlocking this little puzzle.”

Now, go ride.

Comments 7

  1. When my favourite bike was stolen in 2017 it felt like loosing a leg. I am still not over it. I own 3 bikes but none of them are like the one that got stolen. That one was an extension of me. Like the best camera that becomes invisible.

    Something like 60% of commuting, shopping etc. in Copenhagen is done by bicycle and the reason is incredibly simple: It is by far the fastest and most convenient way. And this is an old city with narrow streets. We are creatures of comfort. If you provide the infrastructure, bike lanes etc, and prioritise bicycling and public transport instead of cars, and make it always always always the best fastest option then guess what….people will bike!

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      Bike theft is the worst. I wish cycling in the US was that easy but remember, our distance scale is very different from yours. The design of our entire culture, post-WWII, is based on subsidized gasoline. The suburbs were created for this reason. So, it’s routine for people here to travel by car for an hour to an hour and a half to get to work. And, with oil and gas and the auto lobby looming over our elected leaders, the idea of public transit to bridge the gap isn’t a reality. So, we face massive hurdles to ever get this going. 1% of travel in the US is by bike.

    2. I hope there is a special hell for bike thieves.

      Yeah I mean naturally the US as a whole face mad difficulties in turning it into a cycling nation. No one wants to bike to Hollywood from Costa Mesa. It will take a long time to implement a combination of public transport where you can bring your bike on the train and then bike the last kilometer or so to the office. Most people live in suburbs here too but trains and train+bicycle is again the easiest option. A city like Santa Fe though should be ideal for being a bicycle city I would think. Copenhagen was a car city up until the 80s though, so decades of political will and public pressure has made it change.

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      We are SO far away from any of this. Again, oil and gas and auto are so powerful and they do what they can to make sure we stay in our cars. I’m amazed by how many Americans don’t know our gasoline is subsidized. This is what allowed us to create suburbia after WWII. This is what allows for an hour commute. This is what allows for no public trans. But, I just came up with an idea….

  2. Hi Daniel,
    I have been riding bikes, on and off, for over seventy years now and get in a hundred plus miles a week, so I I am pretty much pro bike.
    From my perspective there are some things we need to push that I really don’t see being done. To me one off the major hazards are other bicyclist riding totally irresponsibly. And I cringe every time I see bicycle or gear ads that feature riders in dark clothing that has the effect of perfectly hiding them in the surrounding landscape, but makes them, I guess, look cool.

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      Just saw a woman blow through a stop sign, force an oncoming car to hit the brakes and then rode in the middle of the road holding up traffic. You are correct, this does not help. People are idiots. Have I said that before? And selfish?

  3. FBJ, living in Belgium on the flat western side gives lots of bike culture roughly the same as in the Netherlands, go down south in a 300km country and toghether with the hills the bike culture as mean of transport disappears. It’s mere a 100km difference. Humans are lazy, they always choose the less effort or the lesser cost. It’s that simple. I was a optimistic endurancd cyclist in the 90ies, promoting cycling as much as possible, we couldn’t win from the lobbies though, government subsidies on cheap corporate car use has been winning drivers for decades, now we all stand still in our cheap cars for most of the working day. Minds are shifting though. Electrical bikes are taking over. Less effort and cheaper costs. Back to square one, lazy and less costs…

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