Active Transportation

Beautiful sping magenta peonies flowers in a wicker bicycle basket.

(n): a form of transportation of people and sometimes goods that only uses the physical activity of the human being for the locomotion.

I laid the question down for my friend Eric. “What was it like riding your bike everywhere for a year and a half around Heber?”

“I got super fit!” he answered with a grin. “I would ride to work, then grab some groceries, and after dropping the groceries at the house, go mountain biking at Coyote Canyon.”

Eric more or less set the bar for getting around by bicycle. He was constantly riding his bike around the Heber Valley, in one direction or another — on warm, sunny days and in harsh winter conditions.

His bike was more for expeditious utility than pleasure. He easily put more miles on his mountain bike just getting around the streets of Heber and Midway than most of us ever do recreating.

More Than Going to Work

Eric told me that his health and fitness improved drastically once he started commuting by bike. And while bicycle commuting offers many personal health benefits, it is also a great way to reduce the number of cars on the road — which also helps improve air quality.

Since the Heber Valley is relatively small, bicycle commuting is very alluring and traveling within or between towns can be quick and easy.

At roughly 15 minutes apart via the Midway Lane bike path that runs along Highway 113, one can ride between Midway and Heber easily and safely. Frequented by pedestrians, runners and other cyclists, the path is free of motorized vehicles.

But bike “commuting” doesn’t have to just apply to traveling to and from work.

Are you headed to the grocery store, inspired by an impromptu dinner? Small trips like this can easily be done alone via bike, and larger shopping lists can be carried home by riding with a partner to help share the load.

Or what about a fun summer day around town? A visit to the city library is an easy ride. Maybe it would be nice to grab some fresh peaches from the farmer’s market at the Main Street Park. With a fresh book to read and some delightful fruit in your bike basket, you can leisurely roll back to the house for an afternoon snack in the sun.

The Commuting Bicycle

These days, there are many different bikes to choose from and there is no one right answer for everyone. From upright hybrid bicycles and e-bikes (electric assist bikes), to regular mountain bikes and cruisers, they can all do the job. E-bikes have become very popular and there are several commuting versions available. With e-bikes, as you pedal, the motor helps you turn the wheels. These bikes make for an extremely quick way of getting around — with a little less effort on your part.

When choosing a bicycle, it’s important to find a bicycle that is comfortable, can accommodate mounted racks or baskets for carrying your things, and will hold up to riding all over town on a regular basis.

For Your Safety

First of all, your bike is a vehicle and you need to be seen. White, red and orange reflectors make you visible in the low-to-no light hours of the day. A bright tail light will keep you visible to traffic approaching from behind, and your headlight needs to be bright enough to be seen by motorists, both oncoming and at intersections. If you want to see the road at night, consider at least a 450-lumen headlight.

No matter what time of day you ride, having a helmet fastened to your noggin is of utmost importance. In the event of an accident, wearing a helmet could save your life.

Plan a Route

Take advantage of “designated paths of travel” for cyclists. These include the bike paths along Midway Lane and Heber’s Center Street, and also along Mill Road or 1200 East in Heber.

Unfortunately, these routes only service certain parts of Heber and Midway. So, be creative and use side streets that don’t have as much vehicle traffic. For example, ride along 100 West or 100 East in Heber for north to south travel. Ultimately, experience and trial and error will determine the best route to your destination.

The Future of Cycling in the HV

I caught up with local UDOT engineer Matt Parker to discuss cycling infrastructure in the valley. “As a growing community, having active transportation alternatives to move around the valley are going to become paramount to reducing traffic and congestion in Heber and Midway,” he explained. 

While talking to Matt, it became clear to me that our need for more distinct and connected bike paths, as well as bike lanes on roads, will require more community involvement. Matt pointed out that attending city council meetings and discussing the need for more bicycle routes will demonstrate our desire for more active transportation options in the Heber Valley.

As we paint our own picture of the valley’s future, a place comes to mind where the local lifestyle is simple and active, our collective health benefits from just getting the chores done and we all enjoy quieter streets — all thanks to the positive impact of leaving the car in park and hopping on our bikes instead.