Protected intersection is set for fall debut

A bicyclist rides pass the intersection at 200 West and 300 South. Photo by Isaac Riddle.
A bicyclist rides pass the intersection at 200 West and 300 South. Photo by Isaac Riddle.

Salt Lake City will have to settle with second place.  The City was poised to be the first city in the U.S. to build a protected intersection, but that recognition will go to Davis, California.   The California college town boasts a 20 percent bike commuter rate and quietly unveiled its new intersection last week.

Construction is nearing completion on both a protected bike lane on 200 West and a protected intersection at the intersection of 200 West and 300 South, connecting both protected lanes.

According to the City the protected bike lane will help in “creating a safer, more efficient and multi-modal corridor for residents, visitors and local businesses.”

The 300 South and 200 West protected intersection in downtown Salt Lake.
The 300 South and 200 West protected intersection in downtown Salt Lake.  Image courtesy Salt Lake Transportation Division.

The new bike lane runs on 200 West between North Temple and 900 South.  Between North Temple and 200 South, the protected bike lane will have a design similar to the 300 South bike lane with parallel parking providing a buffer between the bike and car lanes.

The stretch of bike lane from 200 South to 400 South will include a mix of angle and parallel parking as a buffer.  The bike lane then returns to the original design with parallel parking serving as a buffer until 700 South were it then converts to a traditional bike lane, with the bike lane separating parking from car traffic.

The finished project will include 1.5 miles of asphalt re-sealing, 32 new curb ramps for pedestrian safety and walkability, improved bike lanes, 34 new planters with murals by local artists and new pedestrian safety islands.

“We know that ‘protected’ is what people are asking for.  It creates safety and comfort.  We have the space. It solves some of our parking issues. We’re able to do so much with this one design.”  said Salt Lake City Transportation Director Robin Hutchinson in a May CityLab article.

According to the City, the 200 West bike lane has been well received by nearby businesses.  The City gathered feedback from the nearly 60 businesses in the area through public meetings and numerous door-to-door conversations and found that some 96 percent of respondents reported that they were neutral, supportive or very supportive of the street improvements.

Salt Lake is one of four U.S. cities building protected intersections.  Boston, Austin and Menlow Park, a suburb of San Fransisco, are all pursuing protected intersections in their cities.  Austin has already constructed two such intersections that won’t be open to the public until later this year.

According to Salt Lake City transportation planners, the design of the 200 West and 300 South intersection “aims to transform the intersection from a bypass route through downtown into a destination where visitors can easily park, walk or bike to the more than one dozen restaurants, breweries, bars and entertainment venues located within a half-block of the intersection.”

The protected intersection layout maintains separation between pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles through the intersection, while also supporting the addition of angle parking stalls for businesses along adjacent blocks.

Over the summer workers re-sealed 200 West to maintain asphalt quality and added new striping layout.  Remaining work includes curb ramp replacement to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability, installation of curb medians to separate parking from bike lanes and completion of the protected intersection.

According to City planners, the original street had excess vehicle capacity, handling only 7,000 cars per day or less on street configured for at least 70,000 cars per day.  According to the City, over one-third of all downtown trips are now taken on foot or on bicycle.  The purpose of the redesign of 200 West is better accommodate downtown transportation trends. 

The protected bike lanes are part of making Salt Lake’s streets more “complete” by accommodating various modes of transportation.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Complete streets make it safe and convenient for people of all ages and abilities to reach their destination whether by car, train, bike, or foot.”

In January the USDOT launched its Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative.  Under the initiative, city mayors are challenged to make local streets more complete by improving the safety and connectivity of pedestrian and bike routes.  Salt Lake City is the only city in Utah to officially become a Challenge City, under the USDOT’s initiative.

The USDOT has increased the focus on protected bike lanes as a means to making streets safer.  In May, the USDOT released official design standards for protected bike lanes and intersections.  Last week, the USDOT issued a clarification statement reminding city and state leaders that federal funds can and are encouraged to be used to construct protected lanes.

Construction of the 200 West bike lane is expected to be finished within the next month or so with a grand opening celebration scheduled for mid-October.

The southeast corner of the under-construction protected intersection at 300 South and 200 West. Photo by Isaac Riddle.
The southeast corner of the under-construction protected intersection at 300 South and 200 West. Photo by Isaac Riddle.

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Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.