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Editorial: Bike safety in Santa Fe? Good luck with that

Will painting bike lanes green make travel safer for bicyclists in Santa Fe? Some roads already have markings in place warning motorists to watch out for riders. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Will painting bike lanes green make travel safer for bicyclists in Santa Fe? Some roads already have markings in place warning motorists to watch out for riders. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Some people want to paint the town red. Santa Fe’s mayor wants to paint it green – or at least put bright ribbons of the color down the city’s streets.

The thought is that the color would be used to bring visibility to designated lanes for bicyclists. Such an effort has reduced biking accidents in cities that have them, such as Milwaukee, San Francisco and very bike-friendly Portland, Ore., according to the mayor.

The resolution in which Mayor Javier Gonzales proposes these changes calls for a five-year capital spending plan for the project.

We’re glad he’s willing to give it some time, because we’d be interested to learn more about how this actually would work in our fair city.

It’s good that Gonzales is thinking about trying to make Santa Fe more bike-friendly and is willing to put city resources into the idea. In concept, it makes sense to make designated lanes and paths through intersections for bicyclists stand out – particularly on Santa Fe’s few major thoroughfares. Maybe a bright color would catch the eye of motorists who are busy texting or talking on their phones or otherwise preoccupied.

But in Santa Fe, where else would those painted lanes go? The big problem for cycling here seems almost intractable – many streets in our historic town are too narrow to accommodate a decent-sized bike lane.

And some streets have been changed over the years to make them more dangerous for bicyclists. Rodeo Road’s once-roomy bike lanes shrank in size as medians were installed and turn-only lanes were created. The bump-outs added at corners on Guadalupe look good and designate pedestrian crossings, but for bikers they’re just big obstacles that push them out in front of traffic.

And the traffic-calming island on Avenida de Las Campanas near Monica Lucero Park, combined with posts used to keep motorized vehicles off the Arroyo Chamisos Trail, created a difficult, twisting maze/obstacle course for cyclists using the trail as they try to cross the street.

But the growing trails system is a great alternative for bicyclists (at least the ones who are considerate of pedestrians who share those trails) and continued expansion would be a great idea and should be the focus of any major program to help make cycling in Santa Fe safer. They separate bicycles from the increasingly bulky vehicles that hurtle down our streets.

But, still, trails can’t take riders directly to most destinations. Bikers have to hit the streets at some point. We support ideas to make the ride safer and more inviting for these two-wheelers. But we also hope probing eyes are turned to the cost-benefit questions and a good analysis is done to see what steps would create the best outcomes.

Before embarking on an extensive street-painting project, we need to make sure it’s something that will work in Santa Fe. And look out for howls of protest if streets painted bright kelly green show up in the city’s historic districts.

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