Senator Weiler Advocates for Cyclists in Utah Legislature

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By Turner C. Bitton – Senator Todd Weiler has served in the Utah State Senate since his appointment in January of 2012. Since that time Senator Weiler has distinguished himself as a unique and enigmatic member of the Utah Senate demonstrating both an independent streak and a commitment to the conservative principles that he has repeatedly cited as a reason for seeking elected office.

Senator Weiler represents district 23 in the Utah State Senate, an area that includes Bountiful, Woods Cross, and Northwestern Salt Lake City. In his time representing district 23 Senator Weiler has proven to be interested and generally supportive of efforts to support cyclists and has supported increased bicycle education programs as well as increased funding for bicycle infrastructure and programs. I recently discussed bicycle issues with Senator Weiler.

Sen. Todd Weiler with his wife Elizabeth. He often brings forward bike bills in the Utah State Senate. Photo courtesy Sen. Weiler

You have a reputation for being a cyclist and supporting cycling issues on Utah’s Capitol Hill. Is it accurate to say so? Can you share your personal experiences with cycling?

Well, I rode 19 miles to work today and I commute by bike to work as much as possible. I enjoy cycling because of the health benefits and I love listening to books or music while I ride. I usually ride along the Legacy Trail and along trails in Kaysville. I used to ride more on streets but have been hit by several cars, no joke! Most of the accidents are fairly minor but a few have had the potential to be more serious. I’m a bit unique in that I ride a mountain bike even when I commute on streets because I like the feel of a mountain bike as opposed to commuter bikes. I like that a mountain bike offers me more control and safety than the thin wheels and tires of a commuter bike, especially given that I’m often riding across loose gravel when I commute by bike.

Have you commuted to Capitol Hill by bike before? If so what route do you take, and what is your motivation for commuting by bicycle?

Yes, during the session I typically don’t ride every day because my schedule during the session is too hectic to allow me to ride every day.

I was actually motivated to start commuting because gas prices skyrocketed and my wife put my bike in a pile headed to be donated to charity and so in a defiant moment, I started commuting. I learned quick that I was out of shape because I missed the FrontRunner train the first time I took a bike. Since then I’ve grown to love cycling and a few years ago I began organizing mountain biking groups on interim days. We’ll go up for a few hours during interim session and ride the trails above the Capitol.

You were on the Woods Cross City Council prior to being a State Senator. As a councilmember, much of your work involved the improvement, repair, and construction of transportation infrastructure. One of the key areas of interest to cyclists are the so-called “Bicycle Networks” that are included in the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). How has your role as a State Senator integrated with the work of the Wasatch Front Regional Council and other local governments?

To be honest with you, I was on the Woods Cross City Council from 1999-2003 but I didn’t begin cycling until after that. Much of my planning at the time focused on getting a FrontRunner Station in Woods Cross. At the time, my city council work didn’t involve much work with bicycling as it relates to the WFRC.

I haven’t had a lot of WFRC interaction other than when I was on the board of the ULCT and we pushed for bike paths and trails.

You sponsored SB121 “Electric Assisted Bicycle Amendments” and during the process facilitated dialogue between cycling advocates and the so-called “ebike” industry. During this process several substitutions and changes were made leading many to believe you had balanced different interests in a positive way. Can you share your experience with this effort and provide some insight into what SB121 will do?

I was approached by several stakeholders and we made several amendments and during the process we attempted to balance the various interests and people. I’ve been surprised by the antipathy I’ve gotten from cyclists that are upset by ebike users on trails. I hope that cities with use the categories we created during the session to better implement bike trails and balance the interests of both ebike and traditional cyclists.

I believe that balance is needed in this and other issues. That is what we tried to do with SB121. We attempted to strike a balance with all stakeholders. Ultimately, we want to encourage as many people as possible to get on a bike that works for them and enjoy our state.

At the end of the session, your Bike Utah Clean Air for Kids funding request ultimately did not receive funding because of timeline issues. Do you plan to reintroduce this request?

Most likely yes. I was disappointed that my funding request didn’t pass and believe the program deserves financial support from the legislature.

Lastly, are there any issues or legislation you expect to see in the 2017 session? Do you plan on sponsoring any specific legislation related to cycling? Is there anything you would like to share with your constituents or our readers?

Well, I’ve had 5-6 bikes stolen from me over the past decade so preventing bicycle theft is of particular importance to me. In fact, I had a $1,500 bike stolen from me in Salt Lake City. After it was stolen I started visiting pawn shops to try to find mine. I never did but I did end up purchasing several bikes over the years in the process. Preventing bike theft is important to me and I would welcome the opportunity to address the issue further.

I do expect that Representative Lee Perry and myself will work to allow cyclists to “roll through” a stop sign or stop light if it is safe to do so. This would be similar to yield signs for vehicle and I believe it balances the responsibility of cyclists with our goal of letting people commute in an efficient and timely manner.

 

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