Somanaut's Blog

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Bicycle City: A Sustainable Future

When my great aunt Hildegard died, I headed off to the general store for some fixings for Jello molds and funeral potatoes. I got out the wagon, and hitched up my favorite team of oxen. When I had procured my comestibles, I set off again.  I was deeply grateful that Brigham Young had made the street wide enough for me to turn and head home without having to around the block. I hate extra travel when there is serious cooking to be done.

But since then, times have changed.

Salt Lake City’s 135 foot wide streets are as outmoded as President Lincoln’s beaver hats. Transportation research has made it very clear that widening roads brings more traffic, not faster commutes. What goes unmentioned is the collateral damage.

Big roads cost more to make, and more to maintain. More snowplowing, more painting and patching, more oil polluted rain runoff, faster driving speeds (meaning more serious injuries) and more traffic cops. Wide roads make our city less walkable.  They are more dangerous to cross, louder and scarier, much hotter in the summer, windier and colder in the winter, and more polluted and thus smellier. And they are just plain ugly.

High speed driving hurts local merchants who lose connection with customers. Signage is powerful and cheap advertising, but faster, denser traffic makes it hard to reach people.

Think  about biking past a bakery, or a side walk café. Wouldn’t that be more enticing that speeding by, or crawling by in bumper to bumper frustration?

bike commters

Stores on 300 South saw a significant increase in business when the new bike lanes were added.

“Business is up 20 percent since last year. I’m excited about the changes to the neighborhood,” said John Mueller, a business owner. “The bike lanes and lower speed limits help to calm car traffic and increase pedestrian traffic — all positives for my business.”

Our streets could be changed radically. Currently, we are under car law. Every decision about our city is made assuming that cars are the primary mode of transportation, and that this is a good idea. How 20th century!

Imagine a taking a down town street like 200 south, with 2 lanes in each direction, a center turn lane, and parking on the sides.  Start by replacing the turn lane with center strip of trees and gardens. It’s not that busy, and with more biking and less car traffic,  it will be way over-built. Parking on just one side (alternating every block) would be plenty. One lane for cars each way, make the other for bikes.

The bicycle lane could be ½ the width of a car lane. Pavement eliminated= 3 whole lanes, or over 40%! The street becomes safer to bike and easier to cross on foot, and prettier, while being a potential food source for the community (which is going to matter a lot if California doesn’t get some rain).

Some streets could be under bicycle rules. 15 mph max, and no passing a bike with a car. You want to go faster- simple, turn and go a block over to a car rules street. Living on a bicycle street would be much quieter, less polluted, and kids and pets would be much safer. The drivers would learn to relax, the bicyclist would feel safer, and everyone would be a bit friendlier.


Feeder roads into downtown could include bicycle only streets for rush hour traffic. You can put many, many, more bikes than cars onto a road. For suburbanites with long commutes, park and bike lots would be a good way to begin the changeover to modern transportation. Even better would be using Trax and buses more, possible taking a fold-up bike along.

There are many huge car dealerships in SLC, as in every city in the country.

car lot

Imagine ½ of them converted to bike shops. How big is a bike shop, and how much outside extra parking does it need? How many more trees, birds, bees, flowers, etc. would we have?


All shopping centers have gigantic parking lots, which are a frequent place for accidents, and an ecological disaster. How much paving would be eliminated by switching to mostly biking?  (Picture/drawing)

Safety on the street is a major issue for women. People on bikes are not anonymous like in cars, so they would be a lot less likely to yell inappropriate remarks, and infinitely less like to abduct anyone.

Mormons are famous around the world for biking. Here’s a new slogan: “Bicycles, they aren’t just for missions any more”.  SLC draws active people. We have a super fit population already. Why not focus on our unique strengths, especially the ones that fit both the religious and the non-believers?

Drunk bicyclist runs over 3 tourists, crashes into restaurant injuring patrons.

Not a very likely headline, eh? We could be the safest city in the country, with the prettiest streets. Tourism brings serious cash. We have the Wasatch Front, and it is gorgeous- when we can see it.  Having a legendary downtown would add significant revenue.

Older people fear losing the ability to drive. It’s often vision and attention problems. Biking would let them get around, and keep them healthier longer, while removing the danger of impaired drivers. Electric motor assists on their bikes would cover for loss of strength, and still keep speed in the safe range. In general, use it or lose it applies to aging and physical activity. More biking for everyone means healthier seniors.

Let’s talk about sex. Cars are a great American sex symbol. But actually that’s just a clever marketing strategy- all symbol, no real sex, love or intimacy. People who bike are fitter, so they look better, and are seen more. It’s way easier to chat with someone at a stop light when both people are on bicycles. Throw in the reduced stress and you have more opportunity, better attractiveness, and more ability to create romance. Oh, and since you aren’t spending so much on gas, repairs, and insurance, you have spare funds for great romantic adventures!

Here’s someone talking about how it has been done!




March 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Teaching and touching

I’ve taught yoga, Feldenkrais,  Contact Improvisation and seminars for massage therapists- teaching in both private classes and university settings. The rules and expectations vary in each sub-culture.  Teaching is a great privilege, a great joy, and sometimes a great heartache.

We know touching can deliver tremendous amounts of very  useful information to our students. For many of us, touch is a favorite mode of communication. Just dropping it would be such a loss.


What are we responsible for?

We commit to teaching to the best of our abilities. We put aside our ego needs, get as present as possible, and deliver what we advertised. Our responsibilities include creating a reasonably safe space for learning. Safety and comfort are not the same. Reasonable and perfect are also not identical. Our imperfections are an intrinsic part of our lessons. We can not escape them, but we can own them in increasingly healthy ways.


We are not responsible for others’ experiences.

As much as I might like to think otherwise, the truth is that I have no control over what a student assimilates, or how she uses that. Non-attachment is valuable when we teach.


We are not obligated to fulfill any particular need or want.

Once, I had a student angrily declare that I had violated his boundary by not doing something. I explained that it is impossible to violate a boundary through non-doing. What I had done was not fulfilled an expectation. If I had been a better teacher then, I might have been able to help him grasp the difference, and he might have benefited in a lasting way.


How do we cope?

Simple strategies for dealing with touch include creating consent, staying on task, and receiving feedback. Staying on task requires mindful touch- touch that is specific to the lesson, specific to the student, and specific to the moment. Prior exploration of one’s own embodiment makes it easier to be clear. This needs to be regularly updated, if only so we can have a fresh memory of the vulnerability of somatic pursuits.


Here are some comments from others:

“And there are those of us who believe we are ok with touch. Wanting to be liked.”

And the other side-

” …even without trauma in the past there is nothing like the shocker of doing a movement lesson and all of a sudden having someone touch you!”

I think as a teacher I can examine what part of me wants to be liked, reassured, and acknowledged.  Contemplating how that best could happen for me, and then allowing for it to be similar or different for others.

” …ask permission, and indicate the hand placement. I also generally refrain from doing manual adjustments to students with whom I’m not familiar. It’s never perfect, but better to try and fail, and learn.”

“In adjusting, first, try verbal adjustment; second, demonstration. Hands-on adjustment should always be the third and last option. Using that set of priorities also makes me a better teacher, and helps the students learn more independently.”

“I also appreciate it when teachers start the lesson or session by what I can expect and what we’ll do, and during this mention that if I feel uncomfortable at any time, or am not OK with it, and want to pause or take a break and process, just to let them know. Periodic check-ins whilst working on or with me is very much appreciated too. That tells me they’re serious and are listening, and I can relax a bit more and trust as well.”

“One of my friends and yoga students back in the day had the idea to have a little colored piece on the front of your yoga mat…. each student could flip it to green if they’re open to being touched or wanting “adjustment” and red if they’re not into it for whatever reason.”


This post is a response to a great blog from a trauma survivor who talks about how being touched in class can feel. You can read her thoughts here-


If you have more suggestions, please comment!

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Invisible Bicycles

I got hit once. I could see the driver’s eyes, and I knew he did not see me. He was looking for cars, not for a bike. By accelerating quickly, I avoided getting hit on my body, but the car still hit my back wheel, launching me into the road. While we waited for an ambulance, the driver and I chatted. He was a really nice guy, and a bike enthusiast. He felt bad, and was questioning how he could not see me.


How did that happen? Years later, I read The Invisible Gorilla. It is an amazing book that explains why I got hit by someone who theoretically could easily see me. The authors write about how we see what we are looking for, and, more importantly- why we don’t see what we aren’t looking for!


The book was born from a psychology experiment. A video was made. Two groups of people, one dressed in red, one in blue, were filmed bouncing basketballs to each other. The video was shown to subjects who were told to count the number of time the blue players passed the ball to each other.  Simple enough, huh?


Except..  in the middle of the video, a person dressed in a gorilla suit walks through the scene. After subjects watched it, they were asked if they saw anything unusual. Half did- so half did not see a big hairy gorilla person cut through the middle of a basketball court. Were they just not very smart? No, they were all Harvard psych students, so while they might be privileged and arrogant, they were not dumb.


Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons wrote about some other bizarre instances of people missing the obvious, in ways that mattered. It’s a fun book, written in clear easy language, so you don’t have to go to Harvard, or put on a gorilla suit, to read it. You can also see some cool videos they did here


Back to us marvelous bike riders! Until bikes are common on the streets, riders have to assume that car drivers are not really watching for us, even if we are ridiculously visible.

Be very careful, please! Ride defensively, wear safety gear, get great lights, and as much as possible allow yourself room to escape.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment