What Went Wrong With This Goofy Albuquerque Bike Lane?

A lot of folks in Albuquerque are scratching their heads about this unorthodox new bike lane. Photo:  Better Burque
A lot of folks in Albuquerque are scratching their heads about this unorthodox new bike lane. Photo: Better Burque

What do you call it when a city finally gets the message it should install a bike lane but can’t quite muster the will to follow through in a meaningful way? There should be a name for that.

Today’s example comes from the beautiful city of Albuquerque, where Scot Key at Better Burque has been trying to figure out what happened with the bike lane pictured above. He writes:

Since this photo first appeared, there’s been understandable ridicule in the “community” of the bike lane stripe interrupted to fit the bike lane stencil. Very understandable ridicule.

And from looking back at those drawings, and a bit of Google Mapping, I discovered something I certainly didn’t notice back at that meeting, but that seems to have been discovered by plenty of folks now, engineering firms and others involved in implementing the Girard Project included.

Key did some Google Earth sleuthing and found that while the drawings for the bike lane showed a 41-foot street width on Gerald Boulevard, the street is more like 38 feet across for at least some sections.

So instead of narrowing the car lanes to make room for an adequate bike lane, the bike lane got squeezed. The jarring visual of a bike stencil that doesn’t fit in the bike lane highlights how low cycling is on the city’s transportation totem pole, Key says:

Your humble blogger wishes he had known this way back when at the meeting with all the drawings on table-tops. He also wonders exactly when the far more important people in charge of designing and implementing this project discovered this fact.

We could put together a whole “bike lane bloopers” tournament — except we all know Cleveland is the hands-down winner and no further proof is needed.

More recommended reading today: A series of deaths prompts a Bike Portland contributor to consider what can be done about the dangers commercial trucks pose to cyclists. And Streets.mn shares a chart showing the increases in bicycling that followed the construction of bike lanes on a number of key streets in St. Paul.

24 thoughts on What Went Wrong With This Goofy Albuquerque Bike Lane?

  1. Having that deep crack where the concrete kerb meets the asphalt road right in the center of the lane is also destabilizing. Especially for those of us with narrow tyres.

  2. I cannot for the life of me understand why we build curbs this way. Okay, I do know: it’s from car-centric design that assumes this space is, as it’s called, a gutter. But when you have bike lanes, that curb design should be illegal. That space is essentially wasted. Why is it even needed anyway? I’ve seen plenty of curbs that don’t have it.

  3. Most of the bike lanes in Silicon Valley are like this. Including some which, like this Albuquerque example, are too narrow to fit the bike stencil, but instead of breaking the line they just stencil it onto the gutter.

    They are built like a gutter and so they are used as a gutter (full of debris, bins on garbage day, signs about upcoming construction in the left lane, etc).

    Often on multi-lane roads with 45mph speed limits (and 55mph traffic).

    Cities should’t get away with painting some bike stencils in a gutter and patting themselves on the back for creating “bike infrastructure”, but there it is.

  4. The stencil aside, this is the kind of bike lane that does nothing but reinforce the notion most American motorists have that bicycles need to stay the f*** out of the way and have no right to the lane.

    It’s a 100% gift to cars.

  5. I believe the gutter is needed because of flow of rainwater would damage the more delicate asphalt. Of course, there would not be such a need for water management if we didn’t need 12 lanes of 16 foot wide lanes.

    Of course, most insultingly, in my region, our engineers consider the gutter perfectly acceptable to meet the minimum bike lane widths, but car lanes must be the minimum width outside of the gutter.

  6. Overall, Albuquerque’s bicycling facilities are far better than you are likely to find elsewhere, but this one is truly deserving of ridicule. If the space is too narrow for a standard bike lane, it’s easy to put up a “Bicycles use full lane” sign and/or a shared lane marking for the narrow stretch. What we have here truly is out of negligence.

  7. Typical – A bike lane installed to get cyclists out of the way of motorists. Heaven forbid a motorist has to change lanes and pass a cyclist.

    Sharrows and BMUFL signs are appropriate. But that would mean the City of Albuquerque acknowledge that cyclists have equal rights to access the road.

  8. I’d prefer to see the concrete area increased by several feet to encompass the entire bike lane so it creates a single, smooth surface while still resisting rainwater damage. Plus, it would better prevent asphalt damage at bus stops, I’d think.

  9. P.S. I can never figure out how Google Maps embedding works here, so here’s a screenshot. As a bonus, notice the shitty ugly plastic fencing they put in to keep people from walking across the grass (which I suspect was really an attempt to force people to stick to the paths that guide them to crosswalks).

    And as a double bonus this is right by the bike lane utilization counter they made a big deal of unveiling: http://la.streetsblog.org/2016/12/20/santa-monica-to-open-real-time-bike-traffic-counter-on-main-street/

    It’s just baffling how consistently Santa Monica gets these details wrong.


  10. Yup. Without that “lane” I’d be riding to the left of where the bike lane stripe is placed. With the lane I’m expected to be a gutter bunny. As much bashing as there is of AASHTO on this blog, that lane doesn’t meet AASHTO guidelines even remotely. This is a clear case of clueless engineers/planners/designers implementing a project.

    I will note however, that I’ve had advocates claim that even that design is better than nothing (when in fact it is worse).

  11. The gutter pan can actually be a benefit to the bicyclist IF the designers abide by standards/guidelines. AASHTO explicitly states that the longitudinal joint presents a hazard and unless it can be maintained flush and uniform with the pavement edge (it can’t over time) more width should be provided (4′ of rideable surface). Thus, with a typical 2′ gutter pan and 4′ of pavement, a standard bike lane should be 6′ from face of curb, as opposed to the typical 5′. The gutter accumulates debris, so the extra foot provides that space, and also allows more separation from the adjacent travel lane.

  12. The gutter pan has a greater cross slope to collect water and direct it to inlets. With a road paved to the face of curb the stormwater capacity will be less and typically more drop inlets are required to prevent water accumulating in the lane (bike or standard vehicle lane) during a heavy rainfall.

  13. Yes, this the main point. If the motor vehicle lanes need gutter, fine, do whatever need to be done. But the bicycle lane should be thought of as a second sidewalk, i.e. elevated with a curb above the height of the motor vehicle lanes. Not only does this provide protection, but all the debris from the road stays in the road and doesn’t end up in the bike lane. This is actually one of the most overlooked reasons for having curb-separated bike lanes. This is the standard in place like the Netherlands (e.g. https://bicycledutch.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/reitscheweg-4.jpg) and there is no reason it can’t also be the standard here.

  14. “understandable ridicule”? — i think it might actually be more honest the way they did it in Albuquerque. No one i know of has been ridiculing this BL which appears to have the same dimensions…. and that’s placed on a 45mph posted multi-lane arterial. The BL in Albuquerque appears to be on a low and slow street, making me wonder why it “needs” a BL at all.

    see more about bike lane usable width at http://azbikelaw.org/usable-width-and-bike-lanes/


  15. Yeah, but I’ve never seen one where that longitudinal joint isn’t exactly where I’d otherwise want my wheels to be. And I’ve nearly gone down a few times thanks to that seam.

  16. I’m flabbergasted that anyone still sees sharrows as ‘appropriate’. In my experience, they are nothing more than checking off a box for a municipality to become ‘bike friendly’ while achieving not a shred on the road.

  17. There are other commentators that agree with my points (See below). The key is the white regulatory sign, “Bicycles May Use Full Lane”. Studies have shown the BMUFL signs reduce harassment towards cyclists.

    Here is a classic example of a bike lane benefiting motorists more than cyclists. Thankfully, New Mexico is not a mandatory use state.

  18. Do you really think most cities can afford another million dollars per mile for 2 way, wide, elevated, painted, bike lanes? Fix all the ADA sidewalks and curb ramps first. If anything is left over for bikes, fine. ADA was passed 27 years ago and is Fed law.

  19. The gutter is provided to increase the flow capacity of storm drainage so there will be less storm water spread into the travel lane. In my experience, the gutter capacity is minimal, however, and not necessary. Bike lanes add additional distance between the car lanes and storm conveyance at the curb anyway, so it more than makes up for just having the asphalt extend to the curb without a gutter.

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