They'll be showing up soon, uniformed volunteers passionate about helping cyclists safely navigate Salt Lake Valley streets.
Salt Lake County's new bicycle ambassadors will have another goal as well: To help the general public understand that bikers will be an ever-increasing presence as the county's population doubles in the coming years, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said Monday in launching the county's Bicycle Ambassador program.
"They will answer questions and lead the way. They will show residents how they can incorporate cycling into their lifestyles," he said during a news conference at the Grandeur Peak trailhead along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. "This is an opportunity to change the way we think, the way we travel."
George Deneris, the county's "active transportation" manager overseeing cycling issues, said the program will begin May 7 with a core group of about 10 already-identified volunteers under the supervision of Jack Lasley. All ambassadors will know the area's desirable bike routes, understand safety issues and have completed two days of training in road skills and interacting with the public. He hopes to double the number of ambassadors before long, getting them out into the community promoting biking and in uniforms bearing Salt Lake County's brand.
"They travel by bicycle, promote bicycle use, serve as positive examples of responsible bicycling and serve as community resources for bicycle-commuting support and guidance," added a statement on the program's website, activetransportation.slco.org. They will do so by organizing rides, maintaining bike lanes, handing out educational materials at events and offering advice to riders.
An important component of the ambassadors' work will be to highlight the potential interplay of bicycles and mass transit, McAdams said, noting the Utah Transit Authority is co-sponsoring the program. Salt Lake City, which has an advanced cycling program of its own, also is participating.
Matt Sibul, UTA's chief planning officer, said studies clearly show that mass transit and the bicycle community "are inextricably linked and can work together. We're really focusing on the cycling community as a key to growing our ridership."
Cooperation is vital because riders rarely know where one local government's boundaries ends and another's begins, said Colin Quinn-Hurst, of Salt Lake City's transportation division. He will provide his county counterparts with educational materials developed for the city's program, which should help the "well-served, passionate volunteers" get the message across.
"Promoting diverse modes of transportation is needed if our future holds less traffic congestion, improved air quality and healthier lifestyles," McAdams added.
Check it out
O Additional information about Salt Lake County's Bicycle Ambassador program, including details about volunteering, is available at activetransportation.slco.org.