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Bike Networks in Tucson vs. Albuquerque: A Brief Analysis

Since beginning college in Tucson, AZ, I spend most of my time residing there. One of the main things I enjoy about living in Tucson is how bike friendly it is. There are bike routes that connect all of the major activity centers. There are always people biking, especially around the campus, and the city has invested quite a bit of money on the bike network.

However, it is not random that Tucson has high bike ridership. Tucson has quite a few advantages: it is flat, the weather is always nice, and there are no major barriers separating the the main core activity centers: Downtown, 4th Ave. (similar to Nob Hill in Albuquerque) and the University of Arizona. Also, there are no highways, rivers or any other major barriers dividing up the core of Tucson.

This is Tucson biggest advantage. Since few bridges needed to be built over major arteries or rivers, the cost for bike infrastructure was, and continues to be, relatively cheap.

In Albuquerque, the situation is a little different: there are many barriers. The city is divided up by the Rio Grande river valley, I-25 and I-40. To some extent, Tramway, Coors and Paseo del Norte are also barriers, but they all have plenty of signaled crossings and Tramway even has bike/ pedestrian bridges in many areas.

To give an example of how Tucson is more fortunate than Albuquerque when it comes to bike connections, I will focus on the “core” corridor: Central. Central includes Nob Hill (similar to 4th Ave. in Tucson), UNM and Downtown. The Silver Bike Blvd. is the city’s attempt at connecting all these districts, but at this point it is ineffective: it does not offer a consistent connection between these core areas. It is blocked by the railroad tracks and I-25.

The same area in Tucson is connected by a two lane road that has a “suicide lane” in the middle with biking lanes and car parking on the sides. This street configuration occurs along the entire stretch of road between the University and Downtown. This road is great for biking because it has little car traffic, has lots of space for biking and has a slow speed limit. The only barrier dividing Downtown and the University is the railroad tracks. This year, the City of Tucson completed a reconstruction of the underpass that connects the University and Downtown. It now has wide bike lanes and even wider sidewalks. Another advantage that Tucson has is that all of these areas are much closer together compared to these equivalent areas in Albuquerque.

These advantages, along with other bike friendly measures built by the city, lead to higher bike ridership in comparison to Albuquerque.

Let’s Review:

Tucson is blessed with certain natural advantages.

These natural advantages allowed the city of Tucson to cheaply and easily build a great bike network.

The ABQ bike network is restricted by three main barriers: Rio Grande, I-25 and I-40.

In future posts, I will address specific infrastructure improvements that must occur in Albuquerque in order to transform our current bike network (which is not bad) into a great network.

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