Idle Thoughts

2016-12-23-13-08-47

The only thing more common than lifted diesel pickups and car washes on every corner in suburban Utah is the sight of cars idling. They idle at the drive thru’s, in front of businesses, houses, schools – everywhere. They idle in all weather – hot, cold and perfect. They idle with people inside them and with people running an errand.

When I first got here from the San Francisco Bay Area it was summer so I thought it was just the heat that was getting to people and they just had to keep the AC running. But I soon realized it was just custom. People in Utah just don’t think about the environment the way they do in California. I think a lot of people in California believed that their individual actions did have an impact. Maybe it was years of dealing with water shortages or seeing LA go from a smoggy disaster in the ’60’s and ’70’s to having relatively clear air today that led people to think they had to do something. Well, living in Utah is like stepping back 50 years in time. Car culture is big here. People spend big money on their cars and they take care of them. Within a mile of me there are at least 4 car washes (or Auto Spa as some are called) and they are always busy.

And talk about going back in time – there are more drive-thru’s here than the set of ‘American Graffiti’. I could see it if it was a time saver but when you see 10+ cars lined up I KNOW it takes less time to park the car and actually walk into the store to order. So, it’s not about convenience – there’s something else going on here – people just love being in their cars.

You see these signs all over SLC but I don’t know if they are having any impact at all

idle-free

Doesn’t anyone make a connection between their actions and the pollution we get here along the Wasatch front? Utah is a pretty red state so there is a lot of blather about being business-friendly, but isn’t individual responsibility one of the (supposed) attributes of the Right? If so, when are the drivers in Utah going to take some ownership for the pollution they cause and our terrible air in the Winter months?

 

Incubating

Interesting first visit to The Startup Building co-working space in Provo today to attend a Million Cups event. I met the building owner, Tom, and his family who seem to have made the space quite successful in the 4 years that they have owned it. Surprisingly, ‘Startup’ is the name of the family that started a chocolate company in the building 100+ years ago, and are still producing today.

I got a quick tour after the Million Cups event and was impressed by the number of entrepreneurs and students who have made this building in Provo their home.

One of the great things is the location. Right across the street from the Frontrunner train stop. Sure made getting to and from the event easy!

Meeting space:

Startup meeting room.jpg

Along the Wasatch Range you almost always have a view:

Startup building with view.jpg

More information on the co-working space is here Startup Building

10 Rules for Utah Drivers

I moved here from California just over a year ago and was surprised to find that Utah drivers are worse than California drivers. They are more aggressive, less careful and more dangerous to other road users. The ONLY good thing is that it’s very rare to see someone get flipped off – I’m guessing that is mostly due to the old adage of ‘An armed society is a polite society’.

If you are new to the Beehive State here are some rules that will help you fit in:

  1. Speed – all the time. It’s your right.
  2. Don’t slow down for congestion. See #1.
  3. When entering the highway, merge IMMEDIATELY to the fast lane. Those drivers in front of you are too slow.
  4. Is there someone in front of you? Pass them no matter what speed they are going.
  5. Are there double lines on the road? See #4
  6. Are you pulling a trailer? See #5 then #4
  7. Turning left across a road? Just do it – that approaching driver will slow down.
  8. Stop in the crosswalk. Pedestrians are wimps.
  9. Right turn on red after stop in Utah? Yes. But drop the ‘after stop’ part.
  10. Driving a pickup? Jack it up. Then jack it up again.

Somewhere New to be Annoyed

hillbillies

I’ve lived in California for over 30 years except for a 2 year stint in the West of England and now I find myself moving to the Salt Lake City area. I’m curious what I’ll find there for commuting cyclists. There seem to be a few long distance bike paths and a fair amount of bike lanes especially in the newer developments so I get the feeling that the folks in Utah are investing in some bicycle infrastructure as they expand. As a mountain biker I’m pretty well covered. I’m stoked to see quite a few trails in Corner Canyon just east of Draper very close to where I’ll be working. And of course, Park City is renowned for some 400 miles of trails and just a few hours south are Moab, Fruita and other destinations for mountain bikers.

Along the Wasatch Front, there is an Amtrak service as well as light rail that seem to run fairly frequently so that will give me some options for getting around. Still, I don’t see any dedicated bike/ped crossings over Interstate 15 in the Draper area so getting across may be challenging as the interchanges crossing I-15 are wide and very high speed.

Have you lived in Utah? Any comments on how cycling will compare to the Bay Area are appreciated.

When Seconds Count

use full lane get over it

awesome sign courtesy of http://cyclingsavvy.org/hows-my-driving/

Riding through downtown Mountain View the other night I had an encounter with an aggressive motorist who just couldn’t lose a few seconds behind me. I was ‘taking the lane’. It’s an expression that many of us cyclists know but I would wager that only a small percentage of dedicated motorists have heard. I started midway through one block as the road narrowed due to parked cars on either side. I signaled as I moved over and when he came up behind me at the first stop sign he honked a couple times. When I didn’t move over after leaving the stop sign he laid on the horn continuously. So at the next stop sign I put my bike down in the middle of the street and walked back to his car (yeah I’m one of those guys without a kickstand). His window was open so I yelled ‘The law says bikes have the right to the full lane’. His incredulous response, ‘The whole lane?’. ‘Yes – the whole lane – read about it’. I then walked back to my bike, picked it up and rode the 20 feet to my destination. His parting words, yelled through the window – I kid you not – ‘Share the Road’.

So it’s been a couple of days now and I can’t help thinking about this. Mostly drivers aren’t that aggressive around here. I get clueless drivers, distracted drivers, but rarely threatening drivers. When someone is honking at you just a few feet behind your bike you can’t help but think that the next step the driver will take is to push you aside. If you drive a car please understand this.

Besides the obvious threat to me, I was riding in a fairly dense urban area where pedestrians are constantly crossing in the middle of the block and I would guess the average speed of a car is only 10-15 mph due to all the starts and stops. So even if he got past me he would be stuck behind another car at the next stop sign and I’d probably be riding HIS bumper for the next few blocks.

Here’s a street view shot of the stop sign where our ‘discussion’ took place. The blocks are about 100 yards long and at 7 in the evening there are cars parked in every available spot – sort of like you see here. It’s a 4-way stop sign so everyone should wait his turn and in the next block is a stop light where he will likely get caught again.

Villa streetview

So I have to wonder – How much time would this driver have saved if I hadn’t been ‘in the way’? This line of thought lead immediately to the realization that he didn’t care. He was doing something important and I was on a BIKE so I must not be doing anything as urgent. He owns a car to GET FROM POINT A TO POINT B AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE and I was interfering with his plan. So my not-very-fast-moving brain then thought, ‘I wonder if a sign could fix this?’. We’ve all seen the ‘Share the Road’ signs

share

And we see the occasional ‘Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign’ like this

Use full lane

However I realize that the problem with the sign above is that it implies to many motorists that it is an exception that applies only where the sign in posted. If they don’t know the law, how would they know that bikes are allowed to use the full lane when the cyclist deems it to be the safest option?

So my little brain then said ‘Maybe we need a new kind of sign posted at various places around the city’

That sign would look like this

full lane everywhere