SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A bike lane bill from state lawmakers could require cities to consider making for more space separating cyclists and other road traffic when reworking city roadways. The proposal also calls for millions of dollars in support of what are called “protected bike lanes.”
Sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Abq.) and Sen. Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D-Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance & Valencia) are sponsoring House Bill 408. It calls for New Mexico cities with over 10,000 people to work toward installing permanent barriers between bikes and cars “when a roadway improvement is made within the limits of a municipality.” Attached to the bill is $5 million in funding for the work.
“It’s really part of a shift in the zeitgeist,” bill co-sponsor Hochman-Vigil explained to the House Transportation and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, February 28. The idea is to “start considering all modalities of travel.” I.e. the idea is to start making cities like Albuquerque less car-centric, Hochman-Vigil said.
Technically, the bill would force the state’s Department of Transportation to review municipal roadway improvements in each state transportation district to see if protected, or “buffered” bike lanes can be installed. A buffered bike lane could have physical barriers, like plastic posts, or non-physical barriers, like road paint, to separate bikes and cars. The bill also details several exemptions to the requirement.
Supporters told the committee that the bill could help New Mexico become more environmentally friendly as it would invite more people to bike rather than drive cars. They also say it could make biking safer in places like Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
“It’s pretty easy to protect our bike lanes. It’s not rocket science. It’s traffic science,” said, Susan Hering who told the committee they lost their loved one to a vehicle crash while bicycling. “This bill is not yet perfect. It’s a start though.”
Legislators in the committee expressed support for the bill, but wanted more clarification on the details. For example, there’s still work to be done to decide exactly which parts of the state the bill might apply to.
After discussion, Hochman-Vigil decided to pause the bill in order to work out more of the details before the next legislative session. If the bill continues to move forward next session, Hochman-Vigil said the funding for bike lanes could also come from the federal government.