Tour des Suds 2017 – Park City, Utah

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Tour des Suds is an annual mountain bike race in Park City to raise money for the Mountain Trails Foundation which builds so many of the trail in the area. Some treat it as a real race and some as a costume party and some try to do both. The race is a 7 mile climb to Empire Pass and we were blessed with great weather this year. One of the highlights for me is the knowledge that the return to the party back in City Park means a fun descent on Park City’s excellent singletrack.

I chose to start in the middle of the pack and enjoy the climb up rather than pretend to race. I chatted with other riders and enjoyed the creativity of the costumes. Occasionally we would stop on the singletrack and wait a minute or so while riders got moving again but everyone was chill and not aggro about passing where I was riding. There was even a beer/whisky hand-up about 5 miles up the mountain which surprised me for Mormon Utah.

This guy below carved a ‘helmet’ out of a watermelon and somehow rode all the way up. He told me it was very hot but he didn’t have time to cut vents.

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We all convened back in City Park for race and costume awards. One of the awards was for the oldest finisher – he was 79 – and he finished just a little bit behind me. Even more impressive was the youngest finisher – the boy who won this was only 6!

Thanks Mountain Trails for a great event.

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Below is the author at the top of the race

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Ten Seconds of Kindness

2017-09-11 11.22.29Not only does the Mountain Trails Foundation in Park City do a great job building and maintaining trails in the area for hikers, bikers (both dirt and snow), skiers and dog walkers, they also do an excellent job educating users without a lecturing tone. This 10 Seconds of Kindness is a great model. I’ve always thought it is just as easy for bike riders to leave  a good impression as a bad one. If I’m on a great descent and things are feeling great I hate to stop but in the grand scheme of things stopping for another trail user just isn’t that big a deal. I stop, chat a bit and start again and I’m having fun again just like that. Thanks Mountain Trails for all that you do!

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.

Terrifying Two

I’ve had bike commutes from 6 to 20 miles before moving to Utah – some on narrow mountain roads around Santa Cruz and some on busy Silicon Valley streets both with and without bike lanes. I’ve ridden after dark on narrow 2 lane roads and some of my best memories are the ride back from Watsonville to Santa Cruz at 7 or 8 pm in the Winter with just a few cars on the road and a bit of a chill in the air. Larkin Valley on a crisp winter morning is particularly memorable. Even commuting this narrow road late at night wasn’t scary since the traffic was light and with my bright lights on I was probably more visible than in daylight. Plus I always assume drivers thought I was a bit deranged and gave me just a bit more room.

Larkin Valley serenity

Larkin Valley Morning

I’ve ridden busy Silicon Valley roads mostly with bike lanes but some without. Some drivers seemed unconcerned with my safety and drove too closely or pulled out in front of me but mostly I felt fairly safe. I think the reasonably large number of cyclists was a constant reminder to drivers that we were out there and although they might not have liked us they figured they had to accommodate us.

So I’m fairly comfortable around cars in a variety of conditions. But I still surprise myself with the level of trepidation I feel every time I do my 2 mile commute to work. I finally understand the fear that others feel when riding in an unwelcoming environment. I also realize the importance of numbers – just having more bike riders on the road makes us all more visible and I think drivers pay a bit more attention.

 

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6+ Lanes Crossing under the Interstate

The main road to work is a 6 lane feeder to Interstate 15. There is a bike lane but speeds on the road are 40-50 mph and I’m just one lone kook in the way. In California, I felt like drivers actually acknowledged me and acted with some sense of caution. In suburban SLC, I feel like I’ve gone back 20 years where car drivers have all the rights and cyclists just need to stay out of the way.

Just past the highway overpass shown above is an exit ramp from the Interstate. Those lucky drivers have their own lane coming onto my road but that is right where I have to move right to re-claim my bike lane. I’ll slow down in my lane before getting to the ramp then signal right – sometimes people give me a break and sometimes they don’t. Then the next issue is the disappearing bike lane below (ironically right after the ‘Right Lane, Bikes Only’ sign where my bike lane disappears into a right turn lane right where the right-hand car lane behind me disappears at the same time. I’m not really clear what the message on the sign means since the right turn lane is clearly meant for cars. So I have the occasional idiot using the disappearing lane to pass drivers in the middle lane all the while my bike lane is being consumed by a right turn lane. So I carefully take the lane while signalling and just hoping people look up from their phones long enough to see me. Once I make the right turn I do a quick u-turn so I can use the traffic light to cross my busy road. The thought of using the left turn lane in this direction of travel would be suicide. So then I get to sit at the light for a minute or 2 and count the red light runners – there are always a couple.

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The old disappearing bike lane trick

So that’s it. Literally not even a 2 mile commute but it’s a hairy one.

In defense of Utah government, I do have to say that one of the pleasant surprises moving here is the large number of bike lanes on arterial roads and the seeming willingness to include them on new construction. However, as regular riders everywhere know, we rarely have continuous bike lanes and mixing uses on very busy roads is off-putting to many. A separated bike lane would go a long way towards encouraging others to get on a bike to commute and run errands. As the roads are today, the barrier is pretty high for many people – thus the low participation rates in Utah compared to California.