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 »

  1. Reblogged this on BikeFitr and commented:
    Thoughts for the future, and the future is now.

    Comment by bikefitr | March 22, 2016 | Reply

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