The 10 best things about biking in Santa Fe

by Tom Sharpe

1. Santa Fe’s climate
It’s almost a shame to celebrate Bike to Work week in mid-May when the weather is at its best. Santa Fe’s climate is great for bicycling year-round.

I recall a story about a bicycle commuter in Minneapolis, Minn., where wintertime weather means layers of high-tech fibers. None of that needed here. Regular clothes will suffice every month of the year. With long underwear, a ski mask, mittens and a wool sweater under a nylon jacket, you will be comfortable on the coldest night of the year. Ice, snow and freezing rain will put a damper on your riding no more than two or three weeks out of the year.2. Plowing bike paths.
After heavy snows, city park crews clear bike paths with snow plows mounted on all-terrain vehicles. With New Mexico’s intense winter sun, this means trails should be ridable days after snows.3. The city bus system.
Most city buses have a rack that holds two bicycles. A few buses, mostly those on the busiest route, No. 2, have three-bike racks. During Bike to Work Week, the racks are often full. But the rest of the year, this rarely happens.Using the bus/bike combination, I can make it from one side of town to another in about the same time it takes in a car — often less, considering the time it takes to park a car. Riding the bus, where Spanish is spoken as often as English, gives you a different perspective on Santa Fe.

4. The Arroyo Chamiso Trail underpass at Rodeo Road.
Used to be, when southbound cyclists reached Rodeo Road, between Sam’s Club and the Arroyo de los Chamisos, they were forced to come to the sidewalk, cross busy Rodeo Road and get back on the bike trail again. But about a year ago, the city completed a trail underpass using a box culvert. Now you can simply dip under Rodeo Road and continue south along the arroyo toward the Santa Fe Place mall.

5. The cut-through from the Rail Trail to Santa Rosa Drive.
A semi-secret shortcut known to experienced local cyclists, this cut-through leads to the Kaune or Casa Linda neighborhood. It also serves as a connection between the Rail Trail and the Acequia Trail. City planners are looking into widening this narrow passage. Until then, you may need to walk your bike through it.

6. The evolving Acequia Madre Trail. (Previously mentioned in item No. 1 on the 10-worst list.)
Even though this trail remains in three pieces, the eventual connections will open a new shady route through the near-west-side neighborhoods.

7. The new section of trail connecting Pen Road with the corner of Cerrillos/St. Francis, behind Brewer Chevron. (Also previously mentioned in item No. 1 on the 10-worst list.)
Originally to be paved with asphalt, it ended up as concrete to prevent prairie dogs from undermining it.

8. The new Rail Trail crossing at Alarid Street.
Previously, when you crossed Cerrillos/St. Francis coming into town, you rode along the sidewalk to Alarid Street, dismounted and carried your bike across the roadway and over the curb to reach the Rail Trail through the Railyard Park. Recently, a new trail has been built parallel to the Acequia Madre so that it crosses Alarid Street at a new curb cut, then turns sharply right to cross the railroad tracks perpendicularly to reach the Railyard Park.

9. Proposed regional bike trail extensions.
The Rail Trail has been paved south of Interstate 25, and there are plans on the drawing boards to continue the paving all the way to Eldorado with a cutoff to Santa Fe Community College. Someday, you will be able to ride all the way to the Amtrak station and Lamy.

Other drawing-board plans call for extending the Arroyo Chamiso Trail south to El Rancho de las Golondrinas and to make the Old Las Vegas Highway safe for bicycles all the way to Romeroville, following the path of the old Route 66.

Land contouring is just getting started along the Santa Fe River between Camino Alire and Frenchy’s Field Park. Within a year, a new bike trail will be completed here. As I understand it, the original plan for the Santa Fe River Park called for extending it past La Cienega. How about a bike path there?

10. The Closson Street entrance to the River Trail.
I wasn’t sure whether to put this on the best or worst list. At the north end of Closson Street, a ramp leading to a footbridge across the Santa Fe River to the River Trail looks like an M.C. Escher optical illusion.

There are 10 90-degree turns in this ramp to allow for a slope gentle enough to meet wheelchair specifications of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s almost impossible to maneuver a bicycle through, but it’s funky enough to make you smile.