Are you up for the challenge?

The inversions that occur annually in many of Utah’s valleys are a natural outcome of our topography. However, the pollutants emitted into the air aren’t natural. In fact, they are dictated by our decisions and actions.

No one wants bad air, but unfortunately our lifestyles and transportation choices add particulate matter to the inversion, resulting in poor air quality and contributing to worsening health. Let’s do something about it.

Throughout February, the University of Utah will compete in the statewide Clear the Air Challenge, which pushes for a reduction in single-occupant vehicles to reduce automobile emissions. If you’re wondering whether driving less can make a difference, the answer is absolutely, especially if we all make a commitment. Roughly half of the particulate matter that dirties our winter air comes from mobile sources like our personal vehicles.

Together, we can help clear the air. Here’s how:

  1. Sign up now for the University of Utah team, which is always among the top teams in the competition.
  2. Log all your trips from riding transit, biking, walking, scooting or carpooling into the challenge tracker to see your saved emissions, dollars and even calories.
  3. Win some cool prizes. Those who participate will be eligible for prizes provided by Commuter Services.

Technology is here to help

Two apps can help you be an all-star in the Clear the Air Challenge:

  • If you are trying out public transportation for the first time, download Transit to help with trip planning. This app can help plan trips on FrontRunner, TRAX and buses in the UTA system, and even sends you alerts if something changes. It also connects with other transportation modes, including GREENbike and popular rideshare services. Plus, it can be used in more than 200 cities worldwide.
  • To automate your trip logging in the challenge, we also recommend downloading Commute Tracker. The app will use your mobile phone to determine your transportation mode choices and log it in the challenge. Learn how to connect the app to your challenge profile here.

Find a commute companion

A picture is worth a thousand words. As part of the Clear the Air Challenge, the Sustainability Office and Commuter Services are sponsoring an Instagram Challenge. Taking public transit for the first time can be intimidating. If you are a regular transit user and have a friend who hasn’t made the leap, help them plan out their new commute and ride along. Post photos with your new commute companion (you know, your bus buddy, your carpool comrade, your train mate) to be entered to win prizes. Use #CommuteCompanion and tag @SustainableUofU in Instagram to be eligible to win. Winners will be selected each week in February.

Love your bike commute

Bicycling is an emissions-free way to commute (OK, except for exhaled CO2), plus it provides great exercise. On Thursday, Feb. 13, look for tents on your ride home with special biker giveaways. Not sure about your route? If your commute starts on the west side of campus, check out the new University to Downtown Bikeway, a mix of painted bike lanes, downhill shared lanes (also called sharrows) and special markings for crossing intersections. If your commute begins east, north, or south of campus, the Salt Lake City/County Bikeways Map is an excellent guide. Got a flat? Visit the Campus Bike Shop for all your repair needs.

Don’t forget your university services

The University of Utah has many tools to help you get out of your personal vehicle. Your UCard is your pass to ride public transit—make sure to tap on and off. Tapping off helps UTA determine how frequently buses need to run. Already on campus and trying to get around? Commuter Services’ shuttles can get you there. Go to uofubus.com for the live shuttle tracker. On nice days use the U Campus Map to find walking directions.

Pedaling through ’til spring

By Ginger Canon, active transportation manager, Sustainability Office

Utah’s climate is fantastic for year-round bicycling. Don’t let the colder weather stop you from riding to stay happy, healthy and upright while triumphing over the elements. Research shows you’re less likely to succumb to the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when you exercise regularly outdoors, and you’ll be ready to log those hard-earned miles during February’s Clear the Air Challenge!

Some tips for your winter bike commute:

1)      Start with what you’ve got and find what works for you. There are two big misconceptions about winter bike commuting – one, you need a bunch of expensive gear and two, that you’ll freeze out there (actually, you’ll probably overheat!). You just need a few basics and a little time spent on trial and error to see what works for you. Fenders make a huge difference in keeping you dry, and wider, knobby tires can help keep you upright in the rain and snow.

2)      Master the layers. Remember your face, feet and hands need the most protection, as those parts of your body get cold faster. You should always be slightly cold before you start your commute – you’ll warm up fast! Experiment with building layers to understand what works at different temperatures and keeps you warm and dry on your bike.

3)      Light up.  Be seen, be safe. Winter days are short and front and rear lights are required (by Utah law) for a safe commute in the morning or evening darkness.

4)      Protect your lungs. On bad air days, wear an air pollution mask to filter the toxic emissions coming from vehicles sharing the road with you.

5)      Park your bike in a covered, secure bike room. The U offers a number of secure bicycle parking spaces. Check out the map of secure bicycle parking for locations and contacts to access each area.

6)      You arrived. Now what? If you don’t have a shower at your destination, pack some wet wipes and deodorant – a little time in front of the bathroom mirror will do wonders, and you’ll find yourself humble bragging for braving the elements while others forsake their winter fitness.

 

Active Transportation August Update

New on campus

  • The Autonomous Shuttle is here! Beginning fall semester, a 15-passenger autonomous shuttle will be on campus undergoing testing with our partners UDOT and UTA. Be on the lookout for signage and stops along Student Life Way.
  • Buy an E-bike and 2 years of maintenance for your University department to travel around campus today – visit Bingham Cyclery to choose your model and accessories!
  • Need a place to park your escooter or eboard? The south entrance of the Student Life Center is evaluating a new dock to securely park these types of devices. Try it out and send us your thoughts!

 

Safety Tip

What does the Green Paint on the road or path mean?  Bright green paint with a bicycle symbol indicates a bicycle-only path. A bicycle-only path exists for east/west travel from Fort Douglas Boulevard, across the Legacy Bridge to the Law School. Remember to wear a helmet and slow your speed to avoid a crash and injury to yourself or others.

 

Construction and Commuter Updates

  • The pedestrian crossing on the East side of the Foothill Drive and Mario Capecchi intersection is COMPLETE.  Use the push-button indicators to safely cross at this location, especially in the early evening hours.
  • The 2nd phase of rebuilding Wasatch Drive is about to begin – be aware of construction detours as the roadway is rebuilt. The separated walking and bicycle path to Medical TRAX from the Wasatch Drive roundabout remains open during Phase 2 construction.
  • In August, the parking lot east of the Union Building will undergo construction to better accommodate UTA bus and campus shuttle stops.  Raised pedestrian crosswalks, ADA improvements and drop-off zones will improve safety and flow for commuters at this transit hub.

 

Mark Your calendar

Save the Date! U Bike Week is September 9-13. More details will be posted soon.

 

Active Transportation Updates

Events. Need a free U-lock? APRIL 10 is Earthfest on the Marriot Plaza – bring your bike and register with the Campus Police to receive a free U-lock.  Find a rack, lock it up, and thwart the thieves!

Infrastructure. The state of Utah owns and manages major roadways surrounding the University. These roads include Foothill Boulevard, South and North Campus Drive, and Mario Capecchi Drive. In 2018 the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) resurfaced the roads they own around the University. Beyond smoothing the roadway surface, this project added:

  • New bicycle lanes on Mario Capecchi Drive between Foothill and South Campus Drive
  • New bike ramps in both directions on Mario Capecchi Drive that allow safe access for cyclists from the bike lanes onto the sidewalk approaching the intersections at South Campus and Foothill Drive
  • Shared lane “sharrow” markings that added to South Campus Drive west of the roundabout to University Street in both directions
  • New radar detection to change the light for bicycles waiting at intersections
  • New pedestrian ramps compliant for ADA at all major intersections

 This work improves the University’s active transportation network and improves safety for our most vulnerable road users. Stay tuned for more improvements on our roads this summer!

HUMANS OF THE U: MARTIN CUMA

Originally posted on @theU on February 8, 2019.

“I’ve enjoyed bicycling since I was a kid, back in the Czech Republic. It provided the freedom to move around without depending on either public transit or my parents. When I moved to Salt Lake in 1998 for my postdoc it felt natural to continue riding. I save on a parking pass and car costs and it forces me to get up on my bike every morning and ride to work.

Our older daughter is 5, and she goes to the Child and Family Development Center here on Presidents Circle. We have been commuting together for about 3 years. We ride my old road bike and a used $200 Chariot trailer. When it is warmer, we switch to the Weehoo. It takes us about 25 minutes to get up here, about three miles.

Weather doesn’t impact our commute much. It’s all in the equipment. In the winter, I dress our daughter in snow pants and a warm jacket. I wear what you see in the picture with an extra sweater for the downhill ride home.

I consider myself a fearless bicyclist but riding with a kid, I’m much more aware of my surroundings. I am very sensitive to people giving us space, so please don’t pass us too close on 1500 East or Guardsman Road or block the bike lane or crosswalk.

It is a commitment to commute by bike. Sometimes I think that it would be much easier to sit in a car and drive. Still, the benefits outweigh the troubles. My exercise is that 30-40 minutes a day ride. Our daughter will grow up used to car-less transport. And I feel like I’m doing something for the common good. I see the lines of cars every morning and I wish at least a few of them would hop on a bike. That would help our air and make the streets less busy and more livable.”

—Martin Cuma, computational scientist, Center for High Performance Computing. Cuma is part of the majority of U commuters that live within a reasonable walking or biking distance to campus. Active transportation, such as biking, represents 13 percent of commuting trips. Source: U. Office of Sustainability

Active Transportation Improvements: Federal Heights Drive and North Campus Drive

Some minor intersection changes at this location are being constructed in January / February 2019 by UDOT in collaboration with Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, as a follow-up to last summer’s repaving of North Campus Drive.  The purpose of these changes is to provide a bicycle crossing of North Campus Drive while also slowing motor vehicle traffic into and out of Federal Heights Drive. The project was recommended as a high-priority improvement in the University of Utah’s Bicycle Master Plan (2011) and also in Salt Lake City’s Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan (2015).

 

This project focuses on bicycle and pedestrian safety, and includes:

  • Concrete islands to slow traffic on Federal Heights Drive, improve pedestrian safety, and also provide a bicycle waiting area for the North Campus Drive crossing.
  • A bicycle-specific cut in the concrete median, and a bicycle ramp to the University’s multi-use path on the south side of North Campus Drive.
  • A new, painted pedestrian crosswalk across Federal Heights Drive, just north of the new islands. 

 

What to expect:

  • Motorists turning onto Federal Heights Drive from North Campus Drive will need to slow down for this turn, as appropriate to entering a neighborhood.
  • Bicyclists crossing North Campus Drive will yield to cross traffic.
  • There are no additional changes to motor vehicle traffic patterns.

Taking the Lead

Originally posted on May 15, 2017.

By the Sustainability Office.

Ginger Cannon is no stranger to working in complex systems like the University of Utah. An experienced city planner, Cannon is the University of Utah’s first active transportation manager. Brought here through a unique partnership between Facilities Management, Administrative Services, Health Sciences, Student Affairs, Research Park and Land Administration and the Sustainability Office, Cannon will work to integrate active transportation into campus life.

Active transportation is self-propelled, human-powered transportation, such as walking, biking and skateboarding. Improving infrastructure for active transportation modes of travel to and on campus has the benefit of improving physical health, reducing road congestion and positively impacting air quality in Salt Lake City. Cannon’s goal is to help the U achieve its sustainable transportation goals, while increasing access to safe, convenient transportation options.

Cannon sat down with the Sustainability Office to talk about her new role and the ways in which she hopes to improve the active transportation experience for the U community.

Congratulations on your new position.

Thank you. Since my arrival, I’ve been impressed with how welcoming and helpful people have been. I look forward to meeting more students, staff and faculty and learning more about the university.

The active transportation manager is an innovative role involving partnership between multiple departments on campus. Which units have helped to make this position possible?

After hearing from students about the need for biking and walking improvements, a number of departments worked together on a strategy and funding mechanism for institutionalizing this work. These departments are Facilities Management, Administrative Services, Health Sciences, Student Affairs, Research Park Administration, and the Sustainability Office.

In creating the position, they agreed that there is wide consensus and support for a university-level manager charged with coordinating the U’s active transportation efforts. I happen to be that fortunate person and hope to exceed expectations in this new role.

It is exciting that so many departments are invested in sustainable and active transportation on campus. What are your future plans to improve campus mobility?

Active transportation is not new to the university; there are components in the Campus Master Plan, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, and the new Parking and Transportation Master Plan that are specific about goals, priority projects and related implementation phases. The university also supports innovative programs to increase student, faculty and staff transportation choices to and from campus.

When you look at these plans and the transition to more on-campus housing, there will be increased demand for a robust active transportation network that serves to attract and retain high-performing students who call this campus their home. I envision a campus that has leveraged transit, strategic redevelopment and the arts to become a connected and vibrant place that’s a magnet for future generations. I realize it will take years to achieve that vision, but every physical change is an opportunity to improve mobility and move the U toward its sustainability goals.

You recently moved to Utah from Minneapolis. What drew you to the University of Utah?

I was born and raised in Salt Lake and spent most of my teenage summers on campus at basketball camp (I can still hear Elaine Elliot’s voice yelling ‘run faster!’ when I enter the Huntsman Center).  I wanted to work at the University of Utah for many reasons – the learning environment, the diverse culture and workstyles and a myriad of challenges for active transportation on and around campus.

It is an added bonus to live near my parents and siblings again (all U of U alumni) while enjoying an active commute to campus every day.

Your resume also includes an impressive array of experience developing long-range strategic plans and maintaining and building new public infrastructure. How will these experiences inform your approach to this new role?

Like many people, I have a diverse work history involving multiple professions – most of that work is related to urban design and planning, or what I like to call ‘the art of creating great spaces.’ I’m trained as a designer and horticulturist and most recently worked as a planner for the award-winning Minneapolis park system. It’s the people and placemaking of that city that taught me how connected active transportation is to my personal values regarding health, community and environmental sustainability.

Working out of the Sustainability Office is a great fit as I have led past projects that align with the department’s many functions, whether the topic is urban agriculture, energy efficiency, green building, waste management or public engagement. There are too many projects to list, but I am happy to have been involved in all of them, as each has contributed to a depth of experience that led me to this work opportunity.

When you’ve worked for a large city like Minneapolis, you really get a feel for how complex systems function and what you can do to best effect change in your role. I see the university campus as its own city with distinct boroughs. I am motivated by helping a project or initiative come to fruition, and then quantifying the positive impact of that effort on people’s lives. I can’t think of a better place to do that work than here at the U, where physical and programmatic transformations are shaping the campus experience now and into the future.

What do you find interesting or exciting about active transportation?

I observed Minneapolis change for the better due to a coalition of people who pushed for active transportation improvements, including the funding to maintain new facilities and expand biking and walking programs. My built environment provided a safe and enjoyable way to live life without a car, and getting places on my own two feet doubled for exercise, so I started to think there was something interesting about this active transportation world. You can’t observe people committed to biking and walking in Minnesota’s subzero temperatures and not wonder what kind of magic they are experiencing during their daily commute. Through this new role, I hope to champion and improve campus mobility, safety and access for all people who move through our shared spaces.