By Charles Pekow
Little Cottonwood Canyon may get some bicycle improvements eventually. The Federal Highway Administration and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) plan to update their Environmental Impact Statement for traffic improvements on two-lane SR-210 between SR-190/Fort Union Boulevard in Cottonwood Heights and the terminus of SR-210 in Alta in Salt Lake County, UT.
The agencies aim to improve safety at trailheads. SR-210, the main route in and out of town, includes bike lanes for 3.7 miles but not out of town leading to resorts and recreational areas, where many bicyclists ride. “It is a decent grade up but pretty fun to ride down,” says Brandon Weston, UDOT environmental services director.
“Cycling the canyon has become a popular activity and is listed on several cycling websites as a challenging but scenic ride,” UDOT's draft statement says. But high traffic volume and narrow and unpaved shoulders force many cyclists into vehicle lanes. And Little Cottonwood Canyon Road does not include any designated bicycle facilities. “The 2017 Bikeways Map of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County identifies S.R. 210 as a low comfort bicycle route because the bicycle facilities (bicycle lane and shoulders) are on a busy street or moderate-volume road,” the draft states
It adds “bicycles must share the roadway and the limited shoulders with cars moving through the canyon. This can lead to conflicts on the narrow canyon road. Where shoulders are available, they're often in poor condition and are littered with road debris, which can be dangerous for cyclists. In other places, shoulders are narrow or are obstructed by cars parked on the roadside. In some cases, cyclists must move into the travel lane to avoid car doors or parked vehicles.When going downhill, some cyclists can reach speeds similar to, or greater than, those of motor vehicles. In some locations, the roadway curves are very sharp, and cyclists prefer (and might need) to use the travel lane to safely maneuver…When cyclists are traveling uphill and using the roadway on inclines or where passing is difficult, they can slow car travel substantially or lead motorists to pass unsafely. In part of SR-210 in the canyon, the shoulders are not wide enough to accommodate dedicated active-transportation facilities such as bicycle lanes.”
Parking along the road also impedes bicyclists, especially at White Pine Trailhead.
“There is no guarantee but we are looking at” adding bike lanes and other improvements for cyclists, Weston says.
Final action will probably require consultation/approval from other government agencies including the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers. An open house is planned April 9 in Cottonwood Heights City Hall and you can submit comments until June 14, 2019.
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