Christine Fraizer – From Running to Love of Bicycling

Chris Fraizer commutes in Salt Lake City and rides more than she drives.
Chris Fraizer commutes in Salt Lake City and rides more than she drives.

By Lou Melini

I first “met” Chris through some of her thoughtful posts on the MBAC list, a bike advocacy email list for Salt Lake City and County (to join, email [email protected]). That led to my asking her to be profiled in my commuter column. This conversation took place in November of 2013 when we were having some windy and stormy weather. So let’s hear what Chris has to say about her bike commuting.

Cycling Utah: Tell me about your entry into the bike-commuting world including why you commute by bike?

Chris Fraizer: Not taking up biking earlier is one of the few things I regret. I ran for 25 years, ruined my right knee, and decided to take the orthopedic doctor seriously when, after a “temporary” arthroscopic fix, he suggested giving swimming or biking a try to prolong the inevitable knee replacement surgery.

That was seven years ago and despite predictions of a “fake knee” sooner than later, my knee has kept its peace to the credit, I believe, of a bicycle. The bike commuting started four months after surgery and it’s a natural part of my routine. I put more miles on my bike each week than I do the car.

My love of cycling is not so much about the act of pedaling but everything else about it. I generally bike alone, although my husband occasionally joins me, because of the zone created by the inability to do anything else while riding a bike. I’m there with the bike and the weather and the time to concentrate without the usual interruptions of life. I have conversations with myself.

I also like “knowing” the seasons, which is something you don’t get behind a steering wheel in a sheltered car environment. I like the feeling of wind (except for exceptionally strong crosswinds of the recent weather) and sunshine and rain. I like seeing deer, birds, and the occasional moose (once up Millcreek Canyon). I like being century ride ready. Most of all, I like the freedom bicycling allows me.

C.U.: Tell me about your commute.

C.F.: I’m on my bike 150 to 200/miles a week during the fair weather months from March/April – October/November. In the winter my mileage goes down to about 100 miles a week in the colder and snowier season due to route selection.

When the days are longer and nicer, I follow an extended route leading from my home in Millcreek, around Hogle Zoo, up and around the University, along 11th Avenue to Gravity Hill. I then pass the Utah State Capitol building and drop into town to work. I leave early (6:30 a.m.) to miss most of the traffic.

Sometimes I take a shorter route, especially in the winter. This is about two-third’s of the distance. The shorter route takes me along 3600 South up 20th East to Sunnyside, and then to Guardsman Way. From there I ride along 4th South to 13th East and ride up Virginia to 2nd Avenue. I then drop into town on 5th East and go along 100 South to my office on Regent St.

C.U.: What do you recommend for commuter bike selection?

I ride a road bike most of the year (a Specialized ruby elite apex/54), switching to a studded tire hybrid (a Specialized Sirrus) when weather dictates. I use Innova studded tires for ice and snow. I’ve had great performance from the Continental GatorSkin tires on the road bike.

Comfort and confidence are major factors in my bicycle selection. There’s no doubt I’ve invested more money on biking attire than work/dress clothes. I lock my bikes inside where I work and even in the garage at home since I had a bike stolen downtown a few years back. I never leave my bike unlocked in public places. I have two sets of lights on each bike, a front/back light on my helmet, and a light on my backpack.

C.U.: What do you suggest for clothing when commuting?

C.F.: I find it is important for the colder commutes to start out cold so I don’t sweat as much. I layer in winter that includes cycling tights with chamois, long-sleeved breathable base layer, a mid-layer to wick sweat and keep the core warm – helps to have a zipper to vent – and a waterproof outer shell. A thick wool sweater I bought for $5 at Deseret Industries at least 10 years ago is the ultimate cold weather protector. That gets worn when the temperatures hit single digits. I have a layer under my helmet and earflaps. It is also important to keep my fingers and toes warm. I wear winter riding boots (great addition this past season) and warm gloves (with fingers).

In summer, I wear biking shorts, a breathable layer, and carry along or wear a cycling jersey. I bring rain gear on longer rides.

C.U.: What else do you commute with?

C.F.: I use flashing back lights, a bright front light. In addition I have lights on the front and back of my helmet. All of my lights are rechargeable. I have a rack for strapping a pack onto for winter riding though I wear the pack in warmer weather. My back fender keeps the skunk stripe to a minimum in the slush. I do have an iPod that I sometimes use in one ear only listening. The face warmer, sometimes full face and sometimes only a collar type wrap around my neck, keeps the cold air out, warm air in. I tried a device that's supposed to remove air particulates but found it uncomfortable and obstructive, so no longer use. I like the studded tires. I have two sets of wheels so I can easily swap. The tires are heavy but great for my confidence level. I think wider tires without studs would work, also, especially since the city tends to spread lots of salt on the roads. It's also important to clean the muck from the chains on a regular basis.

C.U.: If you were “Queen for a Day” what would you consider for cycling safety? Should we be building segregated bikeways or more on-street bike lanes?

C.F.: I ride in traffic every day. I believe bicyclists belong on the road – alternative mode of transportation – and as such, bicycle and bicyclists must be considered in traffic planning.

If I was “Queen for a day,” I’d say “no” to segregated bike lanes (for example, the kind with the parkway and parking spot on either side of the lane) and go with the white striped bike lanes and cautionary signs reminding drivers to share the road. Physically segregated bicycle lanes discount us. It’s like showing we really don’t belong.

I think we need a public awareness campaign that, also, encourages people to bike (it’s fun, it costs less than driving, and it’s a reliable method of transportation). The campaign must emphasize the rights of bicyclists. While everyone – bicyclist and driver – should follow Rules of the Road, I believe it will take more than that for drivers to respect a cyclist’s right to the road.

I also believe in consequences. It’s not okay to injure/kill a cyclist. Negligent driving that results in hurting or killing a cyclist must have consequences. A part of the problem, I believe, is the lack of traffic enforcement, in general. “Pedal to the metal” to run a red light is common here, the same with pulling through an intersection or corner without so much as a head snap over the shoulder from the driver. We need to look at bicyclist safety performance standards. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/pedbike/11039/11039.pdf):

The goal of this project was to identify medium to low cost pedestrian and bicyclist engineering countermeasures that will improve safety and operations for pedestrians and bicyclists. An additional goal was to provide guidance for practitioners on how to properly conduct evaluations of traffic control devices.

Finally, I encourage more cyclists taking to the road. As had been noted many times, the more cyclists on the road, the greater the awareness we’re there to stay.

C.U.: Are there any particular challenges for women commuters?

C.F.: I don't think there are tips exclusive to men or women. There is one difference that might be the result of a husband like mine, who wants to fix things to make sure everything about the bike is safe for me to ride. His over-indulgence tends to make me more reliant on his mechanical abilities and – let's face it – more likely to leave the bicycle maintenance to him. Despite that, and I am grateful for his help, I think it's important for everyone to know how to repair flats (that I can do), adjust gears and brakes, and position lights for optimal safety. Never leave home without a spare tube, bike tools, identification (just in case), and a few bucks or plastic.

C.U.: As an “older” generation rider, how has that affected how you commute.

C.F.: As far as the older generation – I'm a cautious person by nature. I have actually become less conservative with increased experience. For example, I used to avoid the roads at all costs and followed the Jordan River Trail as much as possible when I previously lived in Murray. Now, I ride roads only. I started riding a road bike three years ago and it took a while for me to clip in with confidence (you might remember the first few tipovers!) and now I would never go without shoe clips.

C.U.: Do you have a favorite bike shop?

C.F.: I purchased my road bike from Bingham Cyclery in Sandy as I try to buy local. However since I work downtown, Salt Lake City Bicycle is a great place for tubes, gel shots, clothing, locks, and all bicycling accessory needs. The staff is exceptionally helpful and friendly. I’ve taken my bicycles there for tune-ups and the time a new tire was necessary following a mid-day puncture accident. They gave me great service.

C.U.: Any closing remarks?

C.F.: I rode up Millcreek and City Creek for the first time this year (I love City Creek) and I rode five century rides during this past summer. I’ll plug the GLMR Century ride – the route is fabulous, it’s well organized, has ample food and drink at the pit stops, and benefits the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

As experience increases, I push myself in distance and routes. Maybe that has to do with the realization of having only so much time left for doing this. I respect vehicle traffic but firmly believe that bikers are part of the road system. T-bone intersections in the dark can be disturbing. I am cautious in traffic although I try not to worry about it. I see a lot of lousy driving (running red lights, swerving into the bike lane, racing right or left at a T-bone intersection, and just plain inattention to the road), and that tends to provoke some “colorful” language during the commute. I don't road rage.

Overall, I think Mayor Becker has done wonders to increase the visibility of bicyclists. I applaud him and the many bicycling advocates in the city and county for increasing that visibility. The big job is convincing non-bicyclists that cyclists are a vital part of transportation planning; we’re here to stay and it’s the road we share.

However I must say that I used to take the Jordan River Trail, which I did a lot when I lived in Murray, that the goat-head problem and flat tires got so bad that I took alternate routes. It’s a great trail, but useless to commuters if they have to fear flat tires in the summer and deal with snow and ice in the winter. This trail really needs to be looked at for better maintenance.

If you have a suggestion for a commuter profile, have a commuter question, or other comments, please send it to [email protected]

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