Please Help Me Write This Speech I Am Giving In 24 Hours

01.19.2015 | 12:59 pm

Someday, I’m going to learn to not procrastinate so much. Like, maybe I’ll put it on my calendar for 2016. Or possibly 2017. But right now, I don’t have time to think about any of that, because in 24ish hours, I am going to be giving a speech at the Annual Seminar for the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Utah Chapter.

No, I am not making this up. Nor am I kidding.

However, I do have twenty minutes to fill. Right now, here’s what I’ve got figured out on how I’ll use that time:

  • Introduce myself: 00:30
  • Acknowledge applause: 01:30
  • Speech (???): 04:00
  • Watch YouTube videos: 07:00
  • Announce that I’m letting everyone out early: 00:30
  • Acknowledge applause: 04:00

As you can see, I’ve got a pretty good plan here, except I’m not all that sure what to say during that third bullet point — you know, the part where I have to give a speech.

Now, I don’t want to waste this opportunity to talk to transportation engineers, because it’s not every day you get a chance to complain about the roads to the people who actually figure out how roads ought to be built. Hence, there are several highly topical issues I am considering talking about — ideas for the transportation engineers to get to work on.

  1. Fully-enclosed cyclist lane to block the wind, to isolate us from exhaust, and also to keep us from getting killed
  2. Singletrack alongside all major thoroughfares.
  3. Cars and roads include a system to administer electric shock to drivers as they get close to cyclists. Starts as a warning, becomes increasingly painful as drivers get closer
  4. My idea for a super cool new road sweeper that moves debris, scree, salt, rocks, and broken glass not onto the shoulder but actually all the way off the road
  5. My petition to make it required that people in cars and on the street also have to wear stupid hats, not for protection, but so that we’ll all have equally bad hair upon completing our respective commutes

Because they’re all top-notch ideas, I’m expecting them to be met with universal approval—and probably lots of funding—immediately.

That said, I believe it’s possible that there are more good ideas out there. Ideas that transportation engineers need to hear.

Post them here. I will pick the good ones (both the serious good ones and the ridiculous good ones) and include them in my speech.

Which I plan to record and post here, because you will not want to miss it.


  1. Comment by GJMAlcyon | 01.19.2015 | 1:07 pm

    This is a great opportunity for you to educate those folks on intrinsically safer roadway design for cyclists. One way to do so would be to highlight the differences between the Netherlands and United Kingdom: The Netherlands has a 4 times lower risk of death while cycling than the U.K.

    You might also want to share some snipe anecdotes, just because.

  2. Comment by Scott | 01.19.2015 | 1:21 pm

    Ask them to do everything they can to get rid of the Level of Service (LOS) measure of traffic. LOS favors single-occupant cars so much that eliminating a bike lane becomes a way to improve an intersection’s score on a supposedly environmental metric. The Streetsblog podcast, Talking Headways, just had an episode about LOS:

  3. Comment by Bill T | 01.19.2015 | 1:24 pm

    Talk about what you are passionate about. Describe your favorite trail. The work the engineer that designed it put in to make it your favorite.

    Then move on to road riding and how engineering and design can make that experience more enjoyable (and safer). Describe specific features and share pictures where you can.

    Leave plenty of time for applause at the end.

  4. Comment by MLB | 01.19.2015 | 1:29 pm

    I would tell them when they design a roadway with nice wide shoulders that are perfect for cyclists, dont ruin them with those grooves that wake up drivers before they run you over. Why cant they put the grooves in the same place as the stripe delineating the roadway/shoulder, leaving a nice slightly safer shoulder to cycle on.

  5. Comment by Tim | 01.19.2015 | 1:32 pm

    Rumble strips! Put them under the white line. I don’t want to ride on the strip or the line, so put them together and they are much easier to avoid.

  6. Comment by Kristy in MD | 01.19.2015 | 1:37 pm

    Tell ‘em that you have been told it is impossible to put integrated bike lanes in.
    Tell ‘em that you stood up for your engineers and said they were the most brilliant around.
    Tell them it got ugly and you, uh, actually placed a bet that your engineers could figure out how to be the most multi-transportation integrated in the US.
    Then ask them how they are going to do it and how many years will it take.

    How can they back down from that challenge?

  7. Comment by Jeff Bike | 01.19.2015 | 1:59 pm

    We all hate chip-seal. Tell them to pave the shoulder with something smooth!

  8. Comment by CycloDavid | 01.19.2015 | 2:09 pm

    I’m for BillT’s approach. Combined with telling em what you’re going to tell em, and telling em what you told em, and a gratuitous Seahawks photo and story about living in Sammamish, you’re all set!

  9. Comment by PNP | 01.19.2015 | 2:21 pm

    I have friends who work for a state DOT and it’s clear from our conversations that, after almost 30 years, they’ve total drunk the “roads for cars” kool aid. How about reminding these engineers that roads should be for people, and that there are a lot of ways of getting around that don’t involve large metal objects with engines?

  10. Comment by TK | 01.19.2015 | 2:32 pm

    Large fans at the end of the fully-enclosed bike lanes = Awesome tailwind tunnels.

  11. Comment by John | 01.19.2015 | 2:51 pm

    Build Road signs that correspond to popular Strava Segments.

  12. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.19.2015 | 2:51 pm


    Please suggest that if they had the bike lane veer off the road a bit every say, 5 miles, and provide easy access to an elevated rocket launching tower, from which cyclists could obliterate offending automobiles, we could improve overall highway safety.

    They would only need to be little tiny 1-1/2″ diameter cruise missiles. I am thinking shoulder-held rocket launchers.

  13. Comment by GregC | 01.19.2015 | 3:00 pm

    Cool opportunity. You might remind them that like almost every cyclist you know, you also spend fair amount of time driving a car, and we all hate to be impeded in our travels- whether it be waiting for a train or slow vehicle or a bicycle. Their job it to figure out how to juggle all the users and come up with a balanced solution that doesn’t ignore one particular users needs (like safety for cyclists). And part of being open is to collect information on the users (like they are doing right now by inviting an avid cyclist to present). Whereas all cyclists hate chipseal, we all hate potholes more. I actually like the grooves in the road surface on the shoulder side of the highway as it provides a little more separation between me and the distracted driver (mental note- don’t drive too close to the grooves as it will vibrate your fillings lose, and also put you really close to vehicle hugging the strip). I also hate it when there is a vehicle parked on the shoulder of a highway and as a cylcist you are foreced to either ride into the traffic lane to safely pass or dismount and go around on the right. You might share your personal history of being subjected to road rage- actual impacts, near misses, things being thrown at you, screaming, etc. Good luck!

  14. Comment by Steve Bowser | 01.19.2015 | 3:03 pm

    Engineers are an integral part of energy usage in the future and transportation design that includes cycling and other forms of transportation will have an impact for many years to come. Communities that include bike lanes on every design and resurfacing project make their cities healthier and more energy efficient.

  15. Comment by Jason | 01.19.2015 | 3:22 pm

    Why aren’t there flying cars? Steven Spielberg promised that we would have flying cars in 2015. It is now 2015 so where are they?!

  16. Comment by Fellowfattychris | 01.19.2015 | 4:11 pm

    Fatty, I really like the enclosed bike lane idea to get us away from the exhaust! The bad air quality during Utah’s winter season is really getting out of control. I have a few alternate solutions that I would like you to present:

    1-If idling your engine while waiting to pick up your kids after school your enormous SUV or minivan will be required to pump your exhaust back into the interior of their vehicle.
    2-Warming up your car in the morning will only be allowed if you agree wear a recently used cyclist jersey during your commute.
    3-Activating a remote starter to lazily warm up your car will automatically release a small amount of concentrated essence of Fatty’s bike gear bag onto the driver’s seat, only a small amount is needed.

    Seriously people, turn off your engines if you aren’t actually driving, or deal with the consequences. Why should cyclists be the only ones to have to breathe the bad air?

  17. Comment by ClydeinKS | 01.19.2015 | 4:43 pm

    How about integrated cycling lanes and running lanes on the frequently commuted areas that include both. Okay, I’ll buy the runner’s argument for running toward traffic but aren’t we at the same risks? And if we come upon each other why must it be the runner who has a clear line of sight forces the cyclist further out into traffic? Elevated cycling/running tubes with provided tail winds, traveling above the traffic. Or bumpers on the roadside to eliminate any need for rumble strips, and a nice smooth garbage free lane to ride in beyond that bumper. And through the DMV, required psychological testing for all drivers after a simulation placing them at an intersection with a cyclist. Elevated HR = delayed licensure and sensitivity training. If anyone could achieve this, surely it is you Fatty! Thank you in advance.

  18. Comment by Ryan Kendrick | 01.19.2015 | 5:37 pm

    Some recent successes in Utah to celebrate:

    1. The planning around the infrastructure on the new Mountain View Corridor was done really well. Nice, wide shoulders with rumble strips in the correct location (i.e. doesn’t force me to choose whether to ride on the white line or in the piles of broken glass and nails). I hope they use MVC as a template for future projects.

    2. The infrared sensor light on Redwood and Porter Rockwell Blvd is another great example of thoughtful infrastructure planning. This allows cyclists turning left across Redwood to remain in the shoulder until it is safe to do so, rather than crossing two very high-speed lanes of traffic to get into the median.

    3. Shared lane markings (the green lanes found throughout SLC) are an excellent reminder to drivers about cyclists’ rights to use vehicle lanes.

    Some suggestions for improving cyclist and motorist safety:

    Better buffering at intersections. At the majority of intersections, cyclists have to line up on the white line dividing the right-turn lane and the through-lane. This regularly turns into groups blocking cars trying to turn right as the right-turning motorists are too nervous to drive by the group.

    No matter how well we build out an infrastructure, it is imperative to improve driver education. We can build buffered cycling lanes, shared lane designations, etc until we are out of tax money, but the single best way to protect cyclists would be to improve the level of awareness and mutual understanding between motorists and cyclists at the drivers education level. While not an engineering task, I would argue it would substantially decrease infrastructure costs if we simply had better relationships between motorists and cyclists. Both sides feel an absolute sense of entitlement to having unimpeded access to roadways, which inevitably puts us on a collision course.

    Can we please stop using the shoulder for Manhole Coverville? Putting these obstacles on the shoulder generally encourages sporadic cycling as people swerve to avoid them.

    Ability for cyclists to engage hidden tire-flattening devices in the road when a diesel truck late to their duck hunt decides it is funny to launch a cloud of nastiness into our cycling group so vile that it even makes the inversion blush.

  19. Comment by Cesch | 01.19.2015 | 5:46 pm

    I have noticed that drainage grate openings ten to be the perfect size to suck my wheel into them. A simple 90 degree twist would reorient the grate so that I could safely ride over it.

  20. Comment by Jenni | 01.19.2015 | 5:49 pm

    Discuss the need for “complete streets” which include consideration all users. You could use the phrase “vulnerable road users”, which is pretty much everyone who’s not a car.

    Discuss the difference between as far right as possible (which is where all non-cyclists think we belong) with as far right as PRACTICABLE (which is the lawful term for where cyclists have to ride) and that if they stick a slick painted green bike path all the way to the right of the road, it will not be practicable for use.

    Repeatedly promote (in all seriousness) how far and wide you are willing to publicly thank them and recognize them for their amazing work and efforts. I learned in the world of advocacy it’s about summoning numbers of supporters to help those who make the decisions to know we are behind them, so try to include some humble brag about how many people you reach or you can reach.

    Maybe it’s good to discuss that skinny tires and mountain bike tires should be considered, mountain bike tires can take more debris, but skinny road tires will cause a cyclist to ride further from the edge to avoid the crap.

    Ask for more share the road signs and promotion of cyclist’s legal right to take the lane.

    Tell them they’re all incredibly sexy.

    Ask (or show) them videos of the door zone so they can realize a bike lane smushed up against a row of parked car is a possible death sentence for us. You can illuminate how huge some doors are.

    You could talk about any number of road hazards- long parallel cracks that catch tires, metal plates, sewer grates, wind wash from huge trucks passing us at high speeds, etc.

    You can discuss that cyclists need to have enough room on the road to ride far enough away from the side of the road (ditches, etc) and have enough room to be away from passing cars… cyclists need enough clearance from passing cars to be able to safely fall if it happens and we don’t end up under the tires of the car.

    Tell them more cyclists mean better air quality and easier acquisition of federal air quality standards.

    You could show the video of the guy in NYC who repeatedly rode directly into each hazard that was parked in the bike lane (It’s hilarious, he launches himself into delivery trucks and onto a police car)

    Tell them I said hi.

    Tell them there is a pie under everyone’s chair and hop around and say, “You get a PIE, YOU get a pie!” ala Oprah.

  21. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 01.19.2015 | 6:37 pm

    Haul your stable of bikes down there and have them ride around for 10 minutes (you pick the route). That would be better than any speech for making a point. If that’s what you’re trying to do.

    Otherwise, just regale them with your comic wit.

  22. Comment by Paula | 01.19.2015 | 7:24 pm

    Explain that if they have to end a bike lane, do it in such a way that the cyclist is prepared, not just suddenly merge the bike lane into traffic in a way that is unsafe. The same goes for signage or direction changes. Also, if they are detouring bike traffic, the detour needs to be the same size as the bike lane or a reasonable size that a bike can navigate.

  23. Comment by El Gato | 01.19.2015 | 8:01 pm

    1. They are engineers – catch their attention early by teaching them how to bunny hop on a recumbent bike.
    2. Berms. We want big swoopy berms on all corners.
    3. Jumps. We definitely need more road side jumps. Table tops would be nice.
    4. Anti-road rash roads. How can they create roads that actually make skin softer and more supple upon crashing, rather than just shredding it off in large swaths.
    5. Anti squirrel crash guards to prevent rodents from sprinting across roads and throwing themselves between our spokes.

  24. Comment by Christina | 01.19.2015 | 8:42 pm

    As an actual transportation engineer, I’d suggest starting off with a comment about how sexy the audience is looking today. The laughter will cover you for a bit.

    If the audience goes quiet, make a joke about that last bit lagging and maybe it should be leading (arrow joke).

    Finish up with a Seinfeld “what is the deal with radar detection?”

  25. Comment by Bee T | 01.19.2015 | 9:53 pm

    Start off with a “never suffered so much” story from road biking, and then tell them how they could make your life better. You also need to include the regular stations at stop signs and other appropriate intervals that will have a tool set for quick fixes and a machine that dispenses ice cream. I bet that highway crews get ice cream all summer long, don’t they? THere must be a secret ice cream machine somewhere.

  26. Comment by Justin L | 01.19.2015 | 9:59 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks a lot for the whole wahoo kicker, trainer road, issue i got now. I ordered one and it helps tremendously, riding is safer indoors during the week, doesn’t matter if its dark outside, or i feel tired, it is right there begging me to ride. I did find a iPad, iPhone, etc app called Fulgaz. This is pretty sweet as i can ride a actual course and it records all my data and makes the wahoo adjust automatically to the terrain, but if you mark the ride as private, it shows up in your starva segments as where ever that ride is in the world. It is a great time killer, i am loving trainer road with sufferfest videos and Fulgaz, eventually maybe we will get a chance to ride zwift. Indoor training is becoming awesome except for the whole not being able to have wind cool me down, and my wife is getting made throwing those damn gel root beer wrappers on the carpet, LOL. You need a commission on this product stuff.

  27. Comment by Tim | 01.20.2015 | 11:13 am

    You all have shoulders to ride on? Does 2 inches on the other side of the white line count as a shoulder?

    That’s all I’ve got in Georgia.

  28. Comment by MattC | 01.20.2015 | 11:22 am

    Have them design all roads going downhill. Nuff said…you’re welcome.

  29. Comment by Liz M. | 01.20.2015 | 12:04 pm

    Tell them how prestigious it is for a municipality to get a League of American Bicyclists bronze/silver/gold/etc. designation. They should do everything they can to aspire to that. Indeed, they are all in competition with one another for regional superiority. So Provo should go out there and load up on bike infra lest Ogden get superior bragging rights, and so on. (Feel free to change the names to Utah cities that would be appalled to be compared to one another).

  30. Comment by GenghisKhan | 01.20.2015 | 12:48 pm

    @Jason, they’ve been around for quite some time, actually:

  31. Comment by PNP | 01.20.2015 | 2:55 pm

    Make diesel fuel illegal. Failing that, throw the freight movers a bone and make private use of diesel fuel illegal. I will never understand the appeal of driving something that’s noisy and stinks.

  32. Comment by MattC | 01.20.2015 | 3:53 pm

    @PNP, part of the diesel appeal is getting 50mpg+ in my wagon (which fits 2 adults AND 2 bikes INSIDE). And the new model diesels (VW) are QUITE clean…not the black soot-belching beasts of years past (don’t go comparing passenger car to big rig trucks…apples and oranges). Another appeal is the torque…my measly 4cyl 1.9L- 90hp car (w/ 150ftlb torque) goes up steep grades in 5th gear (running 2050rpm) holding exactly what speed I put in cruise…whether that’s 55mph or 75mph. My wife’s old Dodge Stealth (Mitsub 3000gt) w/ a 3L dual OH cam v6 putting out well over twice the horsepower couldn’t do that. Then add the fact that diesel engines will last practically forever (I truly expect to get a million miles on mine)…well, I’m sold. Just test drove a 2014 Passat TDI SEL last night (to replace my wife’s Stealth). What a car! I’ll take a diesel car over a gas ANY day of the week, and twice on Sunday. I get better mileage than most any hybrid, even at 75mph (especially at 75+mph I mean). They only beat me in heavy stop and go traffic. Coming up on 230k miles, lifetime avg mpg is near 50.

  33. Comment by PNP | 01.20.2015 | 5:21 pm

    @MattC: I’m glad that you’re happy with your cars. I’m just tired of stench of diesel exhaust everywhere I go. Having said that, you definitely get better fuel economy than I do, since I drive a car with a 4.3L V8 that requires premium gas!

  34. Comment by MattC | 01.21.2015 | 9:30 am

    PNP, they’ve made HUGE progress cleaning up the diesel exhaust in the last 5 years or so (just NOT on the all the big rigs sadly, which is where we need it most). The newer diesel cars all meet the 50 state emissions which is pretty tight. VW had stopped making diesels from 06 thru 08 until they had their new engine that could meet the new EPA emissions here in the US. But sadly yes, my older 03 diesel puts out some nice puffs of soot when I stomp on it (which I hardly do…I drive it like grandma, which is how I get the great mileage).

    And even my exhaust pales in comparison to the oil-burning gas cars…everybody’s seen those…leaving a block-long blue smoke trail. They are actively trying to get those off the road here in CA (my wife’s old Stealth was a victim of that…couldn’t pass smog here anymore due to oil burning…so it’s gone). But I do hear ya on getting ‘gassed out’ by passing vehicles while riding.


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