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October 30, 2014

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Six Questions:

Scott Nowicki, who bikes from Boulder City to UNLV

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Scott Nowicki commutes from Boulder City to UNLV four days a week on his bicycle a 23-mile trip.

For three hours a day, four days a week, Scott Nowicki gets a view of Las Vegas few ever see: from a bicycle. That’s his method of commuting from his home in Boulder City to his classroom at the Department of Geosciences at UNLV, where he teaches geographic mapping and modeling and studies transportation systems.

Nowicki moved here in August from the biker-friendly Portland, Ore. He plans to push for better roads for bikers, as he did for 10 years in the sprawling suburbs of Phoenix.

What were your first impressions here?

I expected Las Vegas to be more like Phoenix. I’d seen Phoenix change so much. Now they have a big bike community and a light rail and coffee shops and bars. But I showed up in Las Vegas and it was obvious that we were starting again. At the same time, anything I can do here is an improvement.

What’s it like to bike in Las Vegas?

Green Valley is OK and some parts of Summerlin are OK. The core of Las Vegas is pretty tough. The arterials are so big. Everyone is going so fast. When we first got here, it was a pretty big shock to my wife and I. We thought, “This is dangerous. We’re going to die here.”

You have a huge commute ...

We decided to live in Boulder City because of the outdoor amenities. It’s a 23-mile ride to UNLV. That’s a little ridiculous, but I think it’s OK. I also get to test other routes and I’m finding more and more bits and pieces. I see what infrastructure needs to be changed to make it more friendly.

What needs to be done?

With the Transportation Research Center at UNLV, we’re mapping what’s in the city and what we need to do to progress. The idea is to connect the community colleges and the university so you have all those little nodes, and that will serve the rest of the city. Fifty percent of the roads connect pretty well now. There are just a few major problems. You can fix those relatively cheaply and it’ll be a whole better system.

What are the best places for biking in Las Vegas?

Red Mountain loop at Blue Diamond Highway. It’s spectacular. You’re riding on relatively quiet road and the geology is just there in front of you, all splayed out. On the other side of the valley is River Mountains Loop. It’s a paved road within this almost natural environment with huge vistas, great landscapes, and it’s safe. No cars. Those are two world-class road-riding situations, in addition to the area’s world-class mountain biking.

What about the worst?

I’ve ridden all over the world, and the scariest place ever was crossing the Strip. That is actually one of the major barriers to cycling in Vegas. For that five-mile stretch you’ve either got to take your life into your own hands or ride around it, which isn’t very satisfying.

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