David Op’t Hof: Utah needs to make bike lanes separate from busy roadways

Utah’s state-of-the-art bike lanes look very nice — and very dangerous.

A recent article told of the death of a woman cyclist who was killed on Redwood Road in a crash with a semi. Think about that for a minute — a bicycle and a semi. Not a pretty picture. The cyclist always loses in a collision with a car or truck. We must do all that we can to keep those kinds of mishaps from happening — to keep people safe on the roadways.

The woman was described by her family as an avid cyclist who always wore a helmet. She tried to be safe. But semis are so large and have large blind spots.

The news article had an aerial shot of the crash. I have driven my car in that area and am familiar with the state-of-the-art bike lanes: very wide and painted green. They look very nice — and very dangerous, in my opinion. Those bike lanes put cyclists out in traffic, between the right lane and the turn lane. I know we are taught that bicycles should be on the roadways because they are wheeled vehicles, but to put cyclists out in traffic on a busy road is not the safest option. There are just too many situations where cars and bicycles can collide.

Another recent article told of two city planners from Lehi who went to the Netherlands to get some ideas about making Lehi more bike-friendly. They had studied online how the Dutch keep cyclists safe but felt they needed to go there to get a first-hand view.

The Netherlands really promote cycling. Bike lanes over there are not in the roadways. They are on the side of the road where we put sidewalks. There is little chance of a car-bike collision with that arrangement. The Dutch have traffic signals for the bike lanes. They even have massive bicycle parking garages because so many people ride bikes to work. It is a very bike-friendly country as we have seen when traveling there.

I was impressed with city planners who were that progressive as to start looking at ways to design the city to encourage bicycle riding. Bicycles cut down on traffic congestion — still a big concern in Lehi, even after the construction of Pioneer Crossing and other east-west roads. Getting more people onto bikes will also cut down on pollution, still a big concern in our valley. And think of the health benefits of riding a bicycle every day.

I think we need to make bike lanes separate from busy roadways. We put sidewalks alongside most roads and such sidewalks are a much safer place for cyclists as there is much less chance of a car versus bicycle mishap. Obviously, cyclists need to ride at a safe speed and be on the lookout for pedestrians. From what I have seen, most sidewalks are not used much for walking anyway. They should be used by bicycles and other slower travel options like scooters.

The accident on Redwood Road was tragic, and I feel sorry for the family that lost their mom and grandma. Roads should be planned well for the safety of all traffic. And they should have a lane for cyclists that keeps them away from cars, not out in the middle of traffic.

David Op’t Hof

David Op’t Hof is a retired educator, a college student, and a life-long bicyclist.