Big wheel: Salt Lake County hiring bike boss
With more cyclists taking to the streets, Salt Lake County has taken a step to help make riding conditions safer.
In its midyear budget adjustment, the County Council allocated $38,000 for the public-works department to hire a bicycle coordinator.
"It's a public-safety issue," said Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw, noting that 66 auto-bicycle accidents occurred in 2011 in the area served by the Unified Police District, whose coverage extends from Magna to Holladay, Millcreek to Riverton.
Up to now, bicycle issues have been handled by several individuals scattered throughout county government.
Members of Mayor Peter Corroon's staff have dealt with the county's Bicycle Advisory Committee and responded to calls from constituents. Various transportation engineers in public works have handled issues as they arise in designing or modifying streets to accommodate bike lanes.
There's also the sometimes-complicated issue of ensuring the county's plans for bike lanes mesh with those of the municipalities that surround unincorporated communities such as Kearns, Magna and Millcreek.
Just this spring, the county initiated a "connectivity" program in Millcreek, restriping several streets and installing signs to link Mill Creek Canyon and established bike routes in Salt Lake City.
"That takes a lot of work and coordination," said Bradshaw, whose council district covers Salt Lake City, which has four staffers assigned to its bicycle program.
"Unfortunately, the county has not been a trailblazer in this area," he added. "It is incredibly important that local governments promote bicycle safety as we build streets and sidewalks and encourage alternative forms of transportation to get cars off the roads and reduce pollution."
The county's plan to hire a bicycle coordinator drew praise from officials in neighboring cities.
"We're very interested in working with the county on creating seamless bike routes," said Salt Lake City transportation director Robin Hutcheson. "On routes where we are going to connect two communities, we can work together on design."
Added Aaron Crim, West Valley City's director of public relations and neighborhood services: "Ideally, if you're a biker, you would want to get on your bike somewhere in Draper and be able to ride north all the way through the valley and have coordination from one jurisdiction to another. Planning like this should help that."
Democrat Bradshaw's push for funding to establish the position encountered some objections at a recent County Council meeting.
Republican Councilman Richard Snelgrove worried that "once a government position is created, it seldom goes away," a line of thinking shared by Council Chairman David Wilde, also a member of the GOP. They both voted against the appropriation.
But Bradshaw was able to secure votes from two Republicans Michael Jensen and Steve DeBry to join the council's four Democrats.
DeBry was hesitant, but the Unified Police Department official went along, provided the position is examined closely when the council considers its 2013 budget.
Jensen, the Unified Fire Authority chief whose council district includes Kearns and Magna, was more sympathetic to the cause.
He noted that bicycle-safety issues were a key concern for Kearns Community Council members as they contemplated the reconstruction of 5400 South and limited space for bike lanes on 4700 South.