The second protected bike intersection in the U.S. is open and ready for use. On October 17th, representatives from the Utah Department of Transportation and the Wasatch Front Regional Council joined Salt Lake City leaders for a “Biketoberfest” celebration of the grand opening of the new intersection of the 300 South and 200 West protected bike lanes.
The 300 South protected bike lane, or cycle track, opened almost a year ago and was initially met with controversy as several local business along the corridor publicly criticized the bike lanes. The recently completed 200 West cycle track, the City’s second attempt at a downtown protected bike lane, opened to less public criticism.
“We’ve got to be very sensitive to how change is so tough for people and make it as easy as possible for people to adapt to these changing conditions,” said Mayor Ralph Becker in a recent episode of Salt Lake on the Streets. “We still want to have a complete street where we provide for cyclists, motorists, transit and walking. We’ve learned and we’re adapting.”
The new cycle track 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 200 West cycle track includes 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.
Salt Lake City is not the only local community building bike lanes. New bike lanes are emerging throughout Salt Lake County. The suburban city of Riverton recently opened a dedicated bike lane on 2700 West, a busy north-south thoroughfare in the growing city. According to Salt Lake County leaders, the Riverton bike lane is one of 18 new projects funded by Salt Lake County’s regional bikeway commuter grant program. The program’s goal is to make the existing network of bike routes safer and more connected Salt Lake County-wide.
“We’ve done a great job at implementing a transportation systems to move cars, but we need to bring together all of our transportation systems- our pedestrian system, bike system, car and transit.” Carlos Braceras, the executive director of UDOT. “Once we have that integrated transportation system, its going to help our communities flourish economically and in quality of life.”
Safety is another motivator for the increase in bike infrastructure. According the Utah Department of Public Safety, 777 bicyclists were hit by cars on Utah roads – of that number, 688 were injured and six were killed. The Utah Department of Transportation recorded five bike fatalities in 2014 and three deaths so far in 2015.
“Salt Lake City has been leading the effort to implement bike facilities throughout the entire city, but its now happening across Utah from St. George to Odgen,” said Braceras. “We are going to be doubling our population here along the Wasatch Front, but we be doubling our road miles; people are going to have to do more active transportation, use more transit.”