I biked into Albuquerque, scanning for the recently famed picture of a desert, an RV and blue smoke. I didn’t see this Breaking Bad scene, but instead I discovered an oasis in Albuquerque.
I was floored by the greenways maintained in and around the city. From the Biopark adjacent to the downtown concrete buildings to the Northern Valley, where buildings turn to grass, lavender, grapes and other crops.
Biking along the Paseo del Bosque trail, I felt miles away from a bustling metro setting. Cotton was floating in the air; I was engulfed in greenery; and I leisurely snaked alongside the river stumbling about Los Poblanos Organic Farm where I indulged in lavender gelato and played bocce with a peacock. A short 5-mile ride, and I returned to my downtown hotel completely renewed.
I think the urban harmony that I felt in Albuquerque is what Sidewalk Labs, a Google funded company focused on urban innovation, is trying to bring to cities around the world. As Larry Page mentioned, Sidewalk Labs is looking for solutions to urban challenges “affordable housing, better public transport, less pollution, more parks and green spaces, safer biking paths, a shorter commute…”
Albuquerque Sows Seeds of Green
I met Albuquerque Mayor Berry at the High Desert Rose Garden ceremony. I think Sidewalk Labs could profile this green mecca of 400 roses in 100 beautiful varieties. The sweet smell and visual eye candy of blossoms put a smile on everyone's face.
Mayor Berry highlighted three key advantages of the new rose garden:
- A gathering area for locals and tourists alike to relax in a natural, beautiful setting and host community events.
- An opportunity for schools to learn about conservation.
- A showcase of xeriscape, a landscaping technique that requires little to no water use. The selected rose varieties are suited for the high desert environment.
While at the Biopark, I chatted with a few individuals and we discussed the advantages of urban greenways:
- Plants reduce the urban heat island effect caused by buildings, asphalt, and concrete, which absorb solar radiation and then reomit it as heat, causing the air temperature of the city to rise.
- Parks address air pollution; as few as 20 trees can offset the pollution from a car driven 60 miles per day.
- Green space provides connectivity and allows the community an escape to reconnect.
Main Takeaway: Green Infrastructure is a Cities Red Blood Cells
As cities focus on expanding infrastructure (roads, utilities, fiber-optic internet etc.) there needs to be equal attention on upgrading green infrastructure. From protecting parks, planting trees, planning walking paths and bike lanes to preserving natural settings, we need interconnected systems of green space in our urban environments.
I tip my hat to Mayor Berry for building out the cities green infrastructure -- the red blood cells, recharging the community and delivering environmental and economic sustainability.