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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cyclers enjoy the spring like weather as they ride in Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah Tuesday, February 25, 2014.
County to study bike safety in Emigration Canyon

Confrontations » Assessment to look at reducing conflicts between motorists, cyclists.

First Published Feb 26 2014 04:21 pm • Last Updated Feb 27 2014 03:56 pm

Salt Lake County is looking for ways to make the Emigration Canyon road safer for motorists and cyclists — and to assess its potential designation as a "recreational facility."

The County Council unanimously approved a joint resolution with the mayor’s office to "spearhead a motorist/cyclist study group to review and produce recommendations for canyon improvements similar to successful efforts undertaken in communities such as Boulder, Colo."

At a glance

Trib Talk » Bicycling in Emigration

12:15 p.m. » Emigration Canyon is a popular spot of recreation for bicyclists, canyon residents and motorists. Conflict and tension between the three groups are on the rise. To improve safety and harmony, the Salt Lake County Council unanimously approved a joint resolution with the mayor’s office to “spearhead a motorist/cyclist study group to review and produce recommendations for canyon improvements similar to successful efforts undertaken in communities such as Boulder, Colo.” On Thursday, Bike Utah Executive Director Phil Sarnoff, Emigration Canyon Community Council Chairman Rick Raile and Township Services Director Patrick Leary join Brennan Smith to talk about the joint resolution and where the plan for Emigration Canyon goes from here. Send questions and comments to #TribTalk on Twitter and Google+, or submit comments in the comment section below this story. You can also text comments to 801-609-8059. > sltrib.com

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An assessment is supposed to be given to the mayor and council no later than October.

"This has been a huge safety issue for the six years I’ve been involved with the [county’s] Bicycle Advisory Committee," said Megan Hillyard, a council administrative assistant before becoming the associate director of administrative services last year.

"Community dialogue is needed," she added, noting that motorists and cyclists have had conflicts across the nation and "there is no one example around the country where you can say they figured it out perfectly."

But county officials have high hopes that this assessment will help here, citing the involvement of both canyon residents and the cycling community in getting the resolution before the council.

"We’ve had a confrontational relationship with bicyclists in the past," said Rick Raile, Emigration Canyon Community Council chairman. "I want to get rid of all that … It will be a wonderful thing for bicyclists and residents to coexist."

Phil Sarnoff, executive director of Bike Utah, agreed.

"This is a step in the right direction," he said. "This resolution and the resulting assessment will create an environment that will better suit all user groups."

Raile concurred with Sarnoff’s perception that Emigration Canyon "is a gem for riders of all abilities," a route whose appeal attracts increasing numbers of cyclists.

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At the same time, however, more homes are being built on its rolling hills, creating more opportunities for conflicts between cars and bikes.

The county has tried to reduce safety risks in the past couple of years by cutting back roadside hillsides or planting grasses and shrubs on steep slopes to reduce bike-lane rubble that often prompts riders to swing into traffic lanes.

This assessment will help identify infrastructure improvements, such as road widening that includes broader bike lanes, and other means of making the road safer.

The resolution also said the county is willing to review its ordinances to ensure they "promote safety for all road users" and is "committed to ensuring law enforcement and the district attorney’s office have the tools they need to enforce existing law and prosecute offending motorists and bicyclists effectively."

For county Bicycle Advisory Committee Chairman A.J. Martine, "it’s really important now to follow up with a process that will help reduce future acrimony in that canyon and other canyons."

The assessment should help the county deal with bicycle-safety issues in Mill Creek and the Cottonwood canyons, said Joan Gallegos, Raile’s community council colleague.

"I hope we can bring best practices forward for the County Council’s consideration," she added.


Twitter: @sltribmikeg

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