The dogs of the cul-de-sacs of Albuquerque’s South Valley

A recent South Valley ride. Blue bits are streets I’ve not ridden in “the GPS era”. Note the stubs.

Apologies that I don’t have any pictures of the dogs.

Via the wonderful Wandrer, I’ve been playing a new cycling game that involves trying to ride on all the streets. For a modest fee, you can connect Wandrer to a cloud-stored archive of all your GPS-recorded bike rides, and it’ll keep keep track of which roads you’ve ridden, and which you haven’t.

I’ve long been somewhat catholic in my cycling (in one of the old senses of the word – “entire, without exception”), trying to ride everywhere. When I first signed up for Wandrer, it told me I’d already logged 25 percent of the ~5,000 miles of roadways in Bernalillo County, where I live. But boy howdy, had I been missing the stub streets in the valley!

Late 20th century urban design would call them “cul-de-sacs”, the primary purpose of which is street basketball hoops. But Albuquerque’s valley floor communities, overlaid on a web of irrigation ditches, has had them for far longer. Bridging the ditch is expensive, so lots of streets just stub when they reach it.

I’d already been riding these streets, because often the stub will allow the pedestrian or cyclist a connecting path to walk or ride on the ditchbank. (Urban planners seem to call this “filtered permeability“.) But with Wandrer, I’ve a new motivation to seek them out.

The best part? The dogs!

On a street with regular bicycle traffic, the dogs become blasé. We are ordinary. A few desultory barks from behind the fence, or a glare and snarl from the driveway if they’re loose.

But on the stub streets, my presence is a source of delightful excitement, dogs given the chance to pursue their prime directive, which is to chase me away. They race frantically up and down their front fences, a riot of righteous barking.

Occasionally I’ll encounter an unfenced dog – far more frequently than on through streets, but still rare. This requires great care on both our parts, but the dogs seem clever enough to put on the show without actually running the risk catching me.

I have, on occasion, been happy for the filtered permeability of an escape route on the ditchbank, so that I didn’t have to run the gauntlet of a loose dog riding back out of the cul-de-sac. I’ve only had one encounter on the ditchbank itself.

Apologies that I don’t have any pictures. The modest illustrations on this blog are a point of pride. I hope you can understand that the delicacy of the encounters doesn’t really leave time to stop and pull out my phone.


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