One of the folks I talked to for the article I'm writing for our July-August 20 issue was Salt Lake City Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Becka Roolf. She's a hardcore commuter and rides her bike to the SLC Transportation Department nearly every day, year round in all types of weather. I asked her to advise me on a good route from Midvale to Trolley Square. She sent me this cool Google map.
The trouble with cycling out in the county and towns like Midvale is that they are the Land of the Cars. Cycling in the urban center of Salt Lake is dreamy and pleasant with a bounty of bike lanes and quiet side streets. Out in the sticks it's Thunderdome. One bike, amid a sea of cars on busy roads is a daunting prospect. Stick to the sidestreets you say? Well none of them, until you get into the grid proper, really go all the way through. So 900 East it is.
My commute starts near Wheeler Farm, at about 6600 South and 900 East. At this point 900 East is a four-lane highway with a speed limit of 45 mph that everybody pretty much ignores. There is a wide shoulder which is helpful BUT utility and shoulder work closes much of it off, making for a very dangerous and scary "take the lane" move to go around the orange barrels. That got my heart pounding.
The intersection where 900 East crosses Van Winkle is also a throat tightener. Who are all these people in these cars? Where did they all come from? Where are they going?
Things got pretty cruisy after the Van Winkle Crossing, nice wide shoulder. Pretty flat. But at around 4500 South those wide shoulders go away and it's quite the daredevil feat to pass parked cars, which grow more numerous each mile north. I will say that all the "Share the Road" stuff seems to be paying off with drivers. When I jumped out into the lane to avoid a parked car, drivers gave me a wide berth, crossing into the center turning lane. At this point, I was rethinking the 900 East but stuck to it. At 2100 South I was able to get off of scary 900 East and onto the pleasant, bike friendly 800 East and to our offices at Trolley Corners.
The whole excursion took me one hour from door to door but I wasn't really pushing hard, mostly just trying not to get killed. I imagine if I did this ride more regularly I'd become more confident in cycling alongside cars. But on Saturday I kept thinking how it would only take one distracted driver to turn me into chiseled Spam.
I know there are bike commuters who do a ride like this everyday, perhaps even for longer distances or from farther out. (I knew a guy who would ride from SLC to Brigham City) and I hope to join the fold sometime maybe after I don't live in Midvale any more.