Collaborative Process Needed For Local Bicycle Infrastructure Planninig

Los Alamos

 I write regarding the proposed mountain biking projects in Pueblo Canyon. I hope this disagreement does not cause too much of a schism between user communities that share 99% of the same goals.

Name calling certainly does not help, and I’m seeing a fair amount of that from mountain bikers in favor of the projects. For example, Chris Collord, president of the Tuff Riders local mountain bike club, recently published a letter to the editor in which he called the petitioners a “vocal minority” with arguments “so specious it’s difficult to even begin to dissect them”. Club Facebook discussions are worse; local bikers call petitioners a “closed-minded, unimaginative, and selfish (but vocal) minority of objectors” and writing a petition asking to be heard is “despicable tactics of the minority”. (The latter comment was supported by Collord: “Very true, agreed completely”.)

I’m skeptical that this is how the bulk of our local mountain bikers feel (and to be clear, I’m on my bike 5 days a week), but certainly it’s what that community’s leadership seems to be presenting.

I did sign the petition. I do support a skills park and some of the MTB infrastructure — just not the details of this entire proposal, and not using an opaque process that excludes my input. I have deep concerns about the Pueblo Canyon skills park location. The petition is broad because we were told by the county that there was no opportunity for any nuanced feedback, that if we wanted any participation in the planning at all, we had to oppose everything.

I won’t explain my detailed concerns with the plans, as of the June 2022 consultant presentation, but highlights include the following.

(1) Only four locations were considered, all in the woods.

(2) The selected location below the aquatic center is justified using vague and, in my view, dubious terms: “close to existing youth / public services” (what does close mean? what services?), “access to parking” (the Aquatic Center lot is 1000 feet away as the crow flies and 100 vertical feet up a steep hill, which I wouldn’t call close, especially for something being pitched as toddler-friendly), and “close to infrastructure” (again, what does close mean and which infrastructure?).

(3) The survey responses on page 24 give no methodology; why should we believe they are representative? Based on what I’ve learned from others, they almost certainly are not.

(4) Impacts on the Pueblo Canyon trees appear not to have been considered at all; keep in mind that our ponderosas have shallow, extremely wide roots that are highly vulnerable to trampling and related impacts.

(5) Dispersed camping of any non-trivial density is wildly inappropriate (page 32); if there’s camping in lower Pueblo Canyon, it absolutely must be a proper campground.

I hope local mountain biking leadership changes tactics, putting in the work to understand and work with their neighbors’ and fellow trail users’ on their concerns, rather than becoming angry when they don’t get what they want. I also hope that Council will take this opportunity to restart this effort with an actual, serious public input process, and that staff who executed the current bogus process will be properly coached so it doesn’t happen again. I’m confident a strong majority of citizens and local trail users will support bicycle infrastructure planned using a truly collaborative process.