New Mexico is known for a lot of great things, but unfortunately it is not known for bicycle friendliness. The League of American Bicyclists ranks all 50 states every year based on their friendliness toward bicyclists, and New Mexico ranked 44th in 2017. In the Western region, New Mexico ranked 11th of 13, outranking Montana and Hawaii, respectively.
Each state is ranked on five criteria: Infrastructure & Funding, Education & Encouragement, Legislation & Enforcement, Policies & Programs, and Evaluation & Planning. New Mexico does not rank higher than 25th out of 50 in any criteria.
Lack of street policies lead to accidents, fatalities
New Mexico’s greatest weakness in the eyes of the league is the lack of a complete, comprehensive street policy. The data used in the report card suggests a lack of design and access policies that ensure bicyclists are considered during roadway planning projects.
This may contribute to the number of bicycle fatalities in the state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports fatalities in a five-year period, and there were 8.3 fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters in New Mexico, according to the most recent data.
Improvements in New Mexico
That being said, there were positive changes in 2017. The state legislature adopted a complete streets resolution recognizing the complete streets efforts of local governments and the importance of complete streets to “connecting, supporting and building vibrant communities.”
The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) began creating a Statewide Prioritized Bicycle Network Plan, and the league hopes NMDOT will work with stakeholders and advocates to understand community needs.
The league further suggests better training for engineers and planners on how to plan, design, and implement bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. They also recommend New Mexico adopt a safe passing law with a minimum distance of three feet to accommodate bicyclists.
Hopefully, New Mexico’s recent efforts will improve bicycle safety across the state and increase its ranking in future years and will take the league’s feedback to heart. Bicycle accidents can cause serious injury and become fatal, and having proper infrastructure and policies can make a huge difference.