KUER 90.1 | By Emily Means
Published December 30, 2021 at 4:48 PM MST
Even though he really likes biking, Salt Lake City resident Austin Whitehead said he often used his car out of habit.
“If I was walking out the door, default mode was I had the car keys in hand and I was going to take the car there,” Whitehead said.
At the start of 2021, he made a resolution to limit car trips that were less than five miles. So, he hopped on his bike — to get groceries, run errands or go to the bar.
“I’d say the goal wasn’t to never drive, but just to switch that default mode of transportation from driving,” he said. “It was about asking myself, ‘Do I need to drive there? What are my other options?’”
Throughout his travels, Whitehead learned which city streets were most bike-friendly. He found new businesses and met people he said he wouldn’t have otherwise.
“Cars make people anonymous in a way that isn’t conducive to serendipitous run-ins,” he said. “So biking, I felt like I saw 10 times the amount of friends or acquaintances and was able to make a more human connection on a bike.”
Taylor Anderson, co-founder of Sweet Streets — a Salt Lake-based group that advocates prioritizing people over cars — said that Whitehead’s experience makes a compelling case for everyone to drive less.
“I can guarantee if more people made this New Year’s resolution for 2022, they’ll see their city in an entirely new way,” Anderson said. “You can figure out things that you like, things that you want to change, and you’ll start to piece together how the built environment works around you. You’ll find a voice for yourself in how you could change and improve or just do things differently in your city.”
A heat map shows all the routes Whitehead rode over the past year. He naturally spent a lot of time in his own neighborhood near Liberty Park, but he also biked along the Jordan River Trail and north to Rose Park.
One of my New Years resolutions for 2021 was to minimize car trips <5 miles. Not eliminate them, but try to reset the reflex of grabbing the car keys every time I was leaving the house. I've taken >300 incremental bicycle trips this year and learned a few things along the way.? pic.twitter.com/GdxUrsYTSJ
— Austin Whitehead (@maustinw) December 28, 2021
He also had some tips for making the bike his go-to option. He suggested keeping your bike readily accessible, dressing for the weather and having a solid lock and a sturdy basket.
In the end, he clocked more than 300 trips by bike in 2021.
Whitehead said he counts that as a success. But that’s mostly because he gave himself some wiggle room. He had another resolution this year to read a book a week.
“That did not happen,” he said. “But it’s not about perfection. It doesn’t have to be, ‘Read a book a week.’ It could be, ‘Read a book most weeks,’ maybe, or some weeks. We’ll work on it, though.”
As 2022 approaches, Whitehead said he’ll carry both resolutions with him — and get cracking on those books.