Bikeways a glimpse of Salt Lake City's two-wheeled future
Experimental bicycle lanes along 300 East in Salt Lake City are drawing lots of feedback from residents, most of it positive, from what city officials say.
With the blessing of the city council and Mayor Ralph Becker, an unabashed cycling enthusiast, the city is about a month into trying out the two new lane configurations, designed to test ways of making biking on urban streets safer for two-wheeled traffic.
Depending how the pilot project goes, residents could see similar lanes being added throughout the downtown in future years.
A so-called buffered bike lane runs between 800 and 900 South on 300 East, amounting to a striped buffer painted on the pavement on either side of a conventional bike lane.
City workers are also trying out a cycle track, between 600 and 800 South, which locates the bike lane next to the curb and puts a buffer and parking spaces for cars between the bike lane and the main roadway.
Both provide more protective space between bikes and moving cars and have been shown in other bike-friendly cities to make would-be cyclists more comfortable with riding, said Robin Hutcheson, the city's transportation director.
"There's a lot of support that we are hearing right now for the greater separation," Hutcheson said, based on comments submitted so far, primarily through bikeslc.com, the city's new website devoted to bicycling.
And as the city's focus on promoting the alternatives of walking, biking and public transit use instead of driving advances on several fronts, Hutcheson said bike planners try to shape their programs and new infrastructure to the needs of riders of all ages and abilities. Boosting safety encourages those otherwise wary of riding, such as families with children, senior citizens and new bike commuters less confident of their skills.
"It's not just for the road warriors," she said.
City council member Luke Garrott said he was not surprised at the positive reaction to the lanes.
"The No. 1 reason people aren't riding bikes is they don't feel safe in the streets," said Garrott, who is himself a devoted cyclist.
A primary purpose for the pilot project, according to city officials, is to solicit and act on input from the public. The separated bikeways have already been tweaked, for example, in reaction to concerns the parking restrictions on the cycle-tracks stretch weren't clear enough.
That stretch of 300 East was chosen because it's close to downtown, already popular with bicyclists and doesn't carry a lot of car traffic. The lanes were funded in part with a grant from the Colorado-based nonprofit Bikes Belong and outdoor retailer REI.
In addition to being cost-effective, the bikeways are thought to be compatible with other city operations, such as snow removal and trash pickup.
Public response in hand, the city will consider incorporating the lanes and similar ideas into broader plans, particularly as elected officials and city staff begin an overhaul this fall of the city's bicycle-pedestrian master plan, last revised in 2004.
Salt Lake City saw a 28 percent increase in bicycle travel last year, and city planners are anticipating a similar rise again this year when a new batch of surveys and other data also is compiled in the fall.