Russ Holley: Planning and Assessing the Future

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By Lou Melini — For this month’s commuter profile I will move further north to Cache County. Russ Holley is a planner for the city of Logan, helping to create a vision for the city by studying the impacts and interrelatedness of land use decisions on their community’s future quality of life. He is also the father of 3, so assessing transportation needs of his one-car family is a daily event.

Cycling Utah: Russ, tell the readers a little about your self?

Russ Holley and family use bikes for much of their transportation needs. Photo: Courtesy Russ Holley.

Russ Holley: I grew up in Alpine, Utah and went to school at Utah State University. I spent a few years in Salt Lake City practicing Landscape Architecture and a year in McCall, Idaho working as a resort planner for Tamarack ski resort. For the last 6 years I’ve been working for the City of Logan as a Planner in the Community Development department. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Paige for 11 years now and we have three beautiful children.

C.U.: How did the bike commuting come to be?

R.H.: Ever since I received my first hand-me-down yellow junker bike when I was about 6 years old, bicycles have been a part of my life. As a boy, I was energetic, curious and free-spirited, probably the reason why the bicycle suited me so well. Early on, I was riding to school, riding to friend’s houses and crashing on the dirt jumps in the vacant field at the end of my street. Later, I started riding more for recreational purposes and less for transportation. Now, I guess I’ve come full circle, because the majority of my riding seems to be done for transportation purposes.

I’ve sporadically commuted by bicycle for the last decade or so, but 18 months ago I sold my car and started riding my bike to work every day. I live in Providence and work in Logan, which makes for about a 10-mile “round-trip” commute. It only takes me about an extra 5 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening to ride my bike rather than driving a car. I have a mountain bike for snowy conditions and a road bike for everything else. I prefer to wear a backpack for my essentials. A rear fender is really the only additional piece of equipment on my bike. As far as combating cold weather, it’s typically 10-15 degrees colder up here than where you are Lou. It’s all about layering up with good waterproof outerwear. I’ll just say ski goggles are awesome when it’s snowing. During red “unhealthy” air conditions I wear a mask. I’ve heard that if your mask is rated n95 or p95 or greater they can be effective against pm 2.5 levels. The mask is cumbersome to wear and difficult to breath in, but I wear it because the alternative of not wearing one seems more hazardous to my health

I have to admit that I get a little bit annoyed at people’s behavior and extreme over-dependence on the automobile sometimes. I’ll see people during a “red” air day idling their car while their inside a store or someone driving alone in a truck that is so large and excessive that it is most certainly way beyond a necessity for them. I wish we collectively cared enough about our environment and the pollution we produce that we could voluntarily solve our air pollution problems, but that just doesn’t seem to be the consensus. It’s unfortunate that in this amazingly beautiful state with such a proud pioneering history we’re unwilling to solve our air pollution problems by ourselves and that ultimately the federal government and the EPA will end up forcing us into clean air compliance.

C.U.: The readers of this column have heard a lot of reasons for bike commuting. What are your reasons?

R.H.: I choose to commute by bike for several reasons. Its great exercise, it’s doesn’t pollute our air, it’s an efficient and inexpensive mode of transportation, but I think it really boils down to the feeling I get when I ride. The wind in my hair, the hypnotic rhythms of the drive train all seem to invigorate my soul and clear my mind.

Also, I think it’s funny when people I know at work give me this kind of sorry look implying that bicycles are inferior and say “you have to ride your bike home today?” I like to smile and reply, “No, I get to ride my bike home”.

C.U.: Logan is smaller than Salt Lake City. What is the commuting like in Logan?

R.H.: In general, automobile drivers are courteous towards cyclists and vice versa, but our volumes are nowhere near Salt Lake so we have fewer conflict points. Cache Valley hosts some the State’s finest racing events, so we definitely have some beautiful routes throughout the valley, but urban areas typically lack adequate bicycle infrastructure and facilities that, in my opinion, would significantly increase comfort levels and the overall number of cyclist.

When you thing about it, a bicycle is one of the most efficient machines we’ve invented. They’re relatively quick, compact, good for the environment, easy to maintain and when it comes to mileage, they can’t be beat. I’m currently getting about 65 miles to the burrito.

C.U.: You are a planner for the city of Logan. Do you have any influence on the future of bike commuting?

R.H.: As a Planner here in Logan, I’m primarily focused on land use, but transportation and land use are often connected. In that sense, a well-planned community will have convenient and comfortable transportation options for its citizenry. I’ve provided research data associated with the overuse of the automobile and the effects it has on society, from land development patterns and the massive amounts pavement applied to the earth’s surface, to increased obesity rates and social behaviors. The role of the Planner is to forecast information for community leaders to be able to make informed decisions, not actually make the decisions ourselves. As we continue to struggle with poor air quality and the overall rising costs of automobiles, momentum seems to be building for viable, more environmental sensitive transportation options. It also seems to be a generational mindset, with studies showing younger generations more interested in spending money on personal electronic devices and apparel rather than on automobiles, tires, oil, air fresheners and gasoline.

C.U.: You have one car in your family and 3 children. That should provide some transportation juggling?

R.H.: My children range from 3-9 years old. We prioritize activities, proximity and schedules before committing our time. We car pool more, I have a bike trailer that we use and we walk to things like piano lessons. As my children get older and more activities become available, I’m sure it’s going to become more difficult, but by using clean alternatives as much as possible we will hopefully instill an environmental ethic in them that results in proper stewardship and preservation of the planet for their generation. I seem to have better balance and perspective on transportation when movement is predicated on human muscle power verses just pushing a gas pedal down to burn fuel through a combustible engine to move thousands of pounds metal and my body around. I guess my hope is that other transportation options continue to improve and more comfortable bicycle routes are developed so we can continue to juggle family life and all that comes with it as a “one-car” family.

C.U.: Bike commuters don’t receive a lot of attention in the “big league” bike magazines. Why is this Cycling Utah column an important contribution?

R.H.: I think it’s just a matter of time, as cities across the country continue to transform themselves into friendlier places to bike, we will see more and more commuters. When that audience becomes large enough a “big league” publication will step in to cover commuter interests. The articles may not be as exciting as competitive racing, but there’s passion in commuting and numerous issues to discuss. Personally, I’ve found it helpful and encouraging to read about others out there that regularly commute on a bicycle. It’s interesting to hear about their route selection, specific gear they use and their general perspective on why they commute.

In conclusion, I would just like to encourage people reading this to try commuting more. The benefits outweigh the perceived hassles and by parking your car a little bit more you’ll save money and have less impact on our environment. Plus, when you save your car for fun things like road trips, you tend to have more positive feelings associated with it rather than the negative feelings of being stuck in traffic on your way to work. Cheers.

C.U.: Russ, thanks for being profiled. Perhaps Cycling Utah should check-in with you in a few years to see how you are managing 3 kids with one car. You will be an expert for the readers of Cycling Utah.

This will be my last bike commuter profile for 2013. If you have any suggestions for me for 2014 please send in your suggestions to [email protected]

 

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