ADVOCACY

1998 is pivotal year for legislation

BY ROB MACLEOD

Last year cycling utah published a series of articles des-cribing the bike clubs in Utah so I assume that by now you've all joined one and we can move on to other topics for 1998.

cycling utah will hopefully continue to support bicycle clubs by providing the Utah club roster and schedule for 1998, so please use this information to shop around and find the club that makes your pedal rate climb (and your resting heart rate descend).

cycling utah ended the 1997 season with an issue dedicated largely to bicycle advocacy. But one issue of any magazine is never enough to deal with all the complexity and challenges of something as big as bike advocacy, even in the placid state of Utah. As good as that issue was, it could only whet the appetite to learn more.

1998 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for bicycle advocacy both in Utah and across the entire country so I want to use some space each month to fill you in on the process. This year will see the renewed debate in Congress of the next version of "ISTEA." This is the bill that for the past six years has provided billions of dollars not only to construct federal roads, but also to build bike lanes in Moab, put bike racks on buses and install racks in front of Salt Lake City businesses. I'll tell you all about ISTEA and what might replace it.

In Utah, we are the only state in the nation without a statewide bicycle advocacy organization. Yet cycling has become a major industry in Southern Utah and cyclists appear on about half the covers of Bicycling and as two-page spreads in Sunset Magazine. We do, finally, have a bicycle planner in the Utah Department of Transportation. Is she getting anywhere? We'll find out in a future article in this series.

Salt Lake County has made its first move into supporting cyclists by widening and striping part of Emigration Canyon. This is probably the most popular stretch of road for cyclists in the entire state, but also a hotbed for housing development. Will the county continue its promising start? Will car and truck traffic increase to unacceptable levels? And what about access to mountain trails within Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Summit counties? How secure is continued access to the mountains for bikers? I'll ask the people in charge.

Salt Lake City boasts the only bicycle advocacy group in the state, yet has also lost the services of an alternative transportation coordinator. We've seen massive expansion of bike lanes, bike parking facilities and a Bikeways Master Plan. But many projects have fallen behind schedule and we continue to loose usable road to construction related to the I-15 project. Has the University of Utah stopped all development of new bike facilities? How will the $120 million Olympic Village/Student Housing project affect bike access and usage on campus? We'll look at many of these questions and you can decide whether cycling is going toward boom or bust in the state capital.

Off the road, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail is becoming a reality and will soon stretch from Emigration Canyon to City Creek and hopefully Ensign Peak and Bountiful. This month there is a crucial meeting before the Salt Lake City Council that will decide whether big money can stop a trail project (see related story for details). Where does the Bonneville Shoreline Trail go from here? Stay tuned.

Bike advocacy also includes bicycle safety and this may be an important year for a cold, hard look at the risks we face. Over the past seven years, Utah is ranked eighth in the U.S. by the rate of cyclists killed per year. Our rate was 4.02 deaths per million inhabitants, about 30% above the national average. The death rate for pedestrians was 19.4 per million (21st in the nation), and for motorists, it was 160 (26th place). And all this was before the I-15 construction!

We've also seen roads fill up with frustrated motorists, leading to a rash of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians. The state is evaluating a bill that would establish a State Traffic Safety Task Force (HB 410), but there are no bicycle representatives in the proposed legislation. Why not? Some have proposed a mandatory helmet law for Utah. Is this a good thing or a waste of time and enforcement money? You will be surprised where bike advocacy groups line up on this question.

So at all levels, cycling will not be the same a year from now. The good news is that through advocacy and involvement, we can change the future. The goal of this series of articles will be to provide you with the facts so that you can get informed and hopefully get involved! This is our sport and our health and lives on the line and only we can determine whether Utah becomes cycling heaven or a place where people used to ride bikes.

Don't touch that dial.

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