By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Bulletin 7/26/19
Marc Wright walked along Valley Drive in amazement. He hadn’t been back in Las Cruces for 25 years, and while he expected changes, he didn’t expect the bike lanes on Valley. The street holds a special meaning for him: back in 1986, his father, Clayton D. Wright, was riding a bicycle along Valley Drive when he was struck by a truck and killed, in front of Fire Station 3.
“In February 1986, Dad had retired and moved back to Las Cruces. After moving back, he preferred to go everywhere by bike,” said Marc. “On March 12, 1986, he went out by bike to do errands. I woke at about 8:30 in the morning - it was spring break and I was a junior at Las Cruces High School - and noticed the truck sitting in the driveway and wondered why Dad didn’t take it. About 9:30 or 10:00 a.m., the police arrived to tell me what happened.”
Clayton was riding on the right side of the right northbound lane and was hit from behind by a pickup truck. He died instantly.
“The driver was ticketed, but I think we all agreed it was an accident,” he said. “I believe that had a bike lane existed, or even a decent shoulder, the accident wouldn’t have happened.”
Now, with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) road reconstruction, Valley Drive does have bike lanes for those who may choose to use the road in their commute by bike, or to run errands like Clayton did.
“Back in 2004, I started biking every day on my commute to work,” said Marc. “I think about my Dad almost every time I get on my bike. I’m overly sensitive to the small minority of drivers who don’t give us 3 feet of space or otherwise ignore the legal rights of cyclists to be on the road. Bike lanes help create safe spaces.”
As part of the NMDOT project, the construction builds in more safety and bicycle accommodation. NM 188 (Valley Drive) is one of the key corridors through the city. As Las Cruces has urbanized over the past 20 years, Valley Drive has seen its importance to the community grow as well.
After the construction of Interstate 10 and Interstate 25 around Las Cruces in the 1960’s, travel demand on Valley Drive took a sharp decline. However, within the last 15 years, the traffic on Valley Drive has rebounded and is expected to grow even further into the future.
“When I finally came back to Las Cruces last week, it was to bury my Mom’s [M. Elaine Wright] remains next to my Dad at Ft. Bliss Cemetery. During the trip, I took my family - my wife Sally and 9-year-old twins Helen and William - to visit my old schools and of course the location on Valley where Dad died,” said Marc. “That’s when I was so excited
to see the installation of bike lanes. On behalf of my family, we thank you for helping make Las Cruces a safer city. I won’t wait 25 years to return – next time with my bike.”
The City of Las Cruces encourages residents to continue to support local Valley Drive businesses, and work with our local Chambers of Commerce in their efforts to provide support. For the most up-to-date information please visit www.valleydrive.net.
PHOTO 1: A local cyclist enjoys an evening ride on the completed portion of Valley Drive, outside Las Cruces Fire Station 3. The completed NMDOT road reconstruction ensures that drivers and riders have safer paths to travel throughout the city.