This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
Jon Larsen, transportation division director for Salt Lake City, knows there’s still a lot to be done to improve infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit riders in the region.
“We’re constantly trying to learn and improve,” Larsen said. “That’s one message I try and share with people: we’re far from satisfied, we know we have a long ways to go, but we are a little better every year.”
And much has been accomplished in the past decade, too — from additional bicycle lanes to a broader cultural shift.
“Fifteen years ago, I’d be biking to work and people would throw trash out of their truck at me and tell me to get out of the way,” Larsen said. “That hasn’t happened in years.”
The Tribune recently interviewed Larsen, and others who are helping shape cycling infrastructure and attitudes in Utah, for a story. (You can read the full article here).
Here are three takeaways from the reporting:
1. Many big initiatives announced in the last year
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall adopted “Vision Zero,” a strategy “to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries,” in January and also resumed plans to build more traffic-calming projects.
On the state level, the Utah Legislature appropriated $90 million for an “Active Transportation Statewide Trails Network.”
2. Some protected bike paths and more protected intersections coming
Two big bike path projects are currently under construction in SLC: a two-way bike path along 300 West reconstruction and the 9 Line Trail, which will eventually run from This is the Place Heritage Park, near the mouth of Emigration Canyon on the east, and west to Redwood Road.
While fully protected bike lanes, i.e., lanes where cyclists are shielded from traffic by a line of parked cars, planter boxes, or concrete barriers, aren’t that common in Salt Lake City, the transportation planners did include a buffered bike lane on parts of 200 South. They are also planning on building more protected intersections.
“Some of these projects are making a pretty big jump forward as far as improving conditions for biking in this city,” Larsen said.
3. Better pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure means designing cities differently
According to cycling advocates, when it comes to improving infrastructure, it’s also important to think about creating neighborhoods where businesses, homes and parks are close enough to make biking or walking convenient.
It also means getting cars to drive slower. Initiatives like lowering speed limits from 25 to 20 miles per hour and setting aside certain streets as “bicycle boulevards” could all make cycling a safer and more enjoyable experience.