Editorial: It’s Time to Repeal the Ban on People Riding Bikes on Sidewalks in Downtown Salt Lake City

Bicycling on Salt Lake City Central Traffic District Sidewalks – It’s time to repeal 12.80.160: CENTRAL TRAFFIC DISTRICT BICYCLE RIDING RESTRICTION

June 20, 2016 – Editorial by Dave Iltis • Editor

If you spend anytime in downtown Salt Lake City, you will come across many people on bicycles riding on the sidewalk. GreenBike, the highly successful bike share program, is ubiquitous on the sidewalk and in the street. People riding to and from bike racks and those who just don’t feel comfortable mixing it up with downtown traffic ride on the sidewalk. Pedicabs park on corners waiting for fares. Messengers ride from street to business for their next pickup.

Yet, it’s still illegal for people to ride a bike on the sidewalks of downtown Salt Lake City.

Thankfully in recent years, the Salt Lake City Police Department hasn’t been enforcing this ban. If they did so, out of town tourists using GreenBike would go home with a ticket, and a disdain for Salt Lake City’s law.

Salt Lake City’s streets are much more welcoming to people on bicycles than they were 10 or 15 years ago. Great progress has been made with the opening of new protected bike lanes and a nation-leading protected intersection that have increased retail sales along the corridor and invited more cyclists to ride. But, they are not safe enough to force inexperienced cyclists to always ride in the street.

What’s the solution? Easy. Repeal the ban on riding on sidewalks in downtown Salt Lake City.

Vehicular cyclists (those that think bikes should always act like automobiles) will no doubt hate this idea, but what is the alternative? To send people from ages 8 to 80 on bikes that don’t feel comfortable riding in the street out in to the traffic on State Street, 400 South, South Temple, or 100 South? All these streets are heavy with traffic, and have no bike lanes! Who would send an 8 year old out into State Street or 400 South or 300 West in their current shape?

The goal is to remove the ban so that people are not ticketed for this offense. Cyclists should still be strongly encouraged to ride in the street in all areas of the city, not just the downtown, and to yield to pedestrians if they are on the sidewalk. (Editor’s Note: This is from the section of the article below, and has been added here too for emphasis.)

This does not mean that riders shouldn’t be educated that they must ride slowly on the sidewalk and act in the same manner as if they were a pedestrian, and also yield to all pedestrians. It is also a city law that bikes must yield to pedestrians.

Even streets that have bike lanes feel unsafe to some, and those folks choose to ride on the sidewalk. For example, the 2011 Salt Lake City Bike Count shows that 33% of cyclists at 200 S and Main St. chose the sidewalk over the street. Both of these streets have bike lanes or greenlanes!

Pedestrians too should have a safe place to walk, and cyclists can cause problems if they are riding too fast on the sidewalk. Salt Lake City does have in place a law that gives pedestrians the right of way over cyclists – this law should remain in place.

As far as we know, Salt Lake City is the only city in Utah that bans riding on the sidewalk. St. George had a ban, but this was repealed in the fall of 2015. Utah state code leaves it up to the municipalities to allow this or not. (Correction: It is illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks in downtown Provo, South Salt Lake, and American Fork . South Salt Lake and American Fork’s laws are exactly the same, and both appear to have been in place since horse and buggy days. )

Pedicabs waiting for fares in downtown Salt Lake City. Photo by Dave Iltis
Pedicabs waiting for fares in downtown Salt Lake City. Photo by Dave Iltis

Until each and every street in downtown Salt Lake City has a protected bike lane (yes, a protected bike lane) like those on 300 South and 200 West, many people will no doubt choose to ride on the sidewalk instead of the street. And, until that day, riding on the sidewalk should be made legal.

Mayor Biskupski recently participated in the Mayor’s Bike to Work day. The new mayor is a mountain biker, and we hope that in time becomes a road commuter too. We hope that in time, she will learn more about the issues facing cyclists, and about bicycle safety so that she works to allow cyclists to ride on the sidewalks and expands and completes the bicycle network.

The former MBAC (Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee), and the current Bicycle Advisory Committee have both voted to support the repeal of the law, but to no avail.

The Salt Lake City Council too has been aware of this issue, as was former Mayor Ralph Becker, but neither chose to do anything about it. And so the outdated law remains on the books.

For Salt Lake City to continue its upward trend towards welcoming people on bikes, the ban people riding bikes on the sidewalk should be repealed as soon as possible.

 

Summary and Complete Analysis:

Submitted to the Salt Lake City Council by Dave Iltis of Cycling Utah, and former chair SLC Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (MBAC). January 10, 2014.

Summary: The current ban on bicycle riding on Central Traffic District sidewalks should be repealed (SLC Code 12.80.160). Bicycle riding should be encouraged for all user groups. Additionally, a safety and education campaign should be implemented to remind cyclists that pedestrians have the right of way.

 

The goal is to remove the ban so that people are not ticketed for this offense. Cyclists should still be strongly encouraged to ride in the street in all areas of the city, not just the downtown, and to yield to pedestrians if they are on the sidewalk.

 

Why we need a change

  1. Bicycling should be encouraged for all user types and groups everywhere in Salt Lake City.
  2. 80.160, the current ordinance is not functioning:
    • Lots of people ride on downtown sidewalks currently.
    • The fine is high ($40). (see fine schedule here: http://www.slcdocs.com/courts/traffic/forms/Traffic%20Web%20SLCPD%20Codes.pdf ) Many of the people who ride on the sidewalk are those who can least afford this fine.
    • There already is an ordinance (80.105) that gives pedestrians the right of way and requires bikes to ride in a safe manner on the sidewalk.
    • There are no signs (or few) indicating that one shouldn’t ride on the sidewalk, nor are the boundaries of the area clear to the public.
  3. Lots of people ride on the sidewalks downtown currently with little incident. If you spend any amount of time downtown, you will see lots of people riding on the sidewalk, many of whom don’t look like they would be at all comfortable riding in the street. The 2011 SLC Bike Count shows that 33% of cyclists at 200 S and Main St. were on riding on the sidewalk. This is a huge percentage.
  4. Most Bike Share stations are on the sidewalk. People naturally ride to and from the station. And, many people ride the Green Bikes on the downtown sidewalks.
  5. People should be encouraged to ride bikes. Large fines for riding where many people feel more comfortable riding does not help encourage people to ride.
  6. Some have suggested that the SLC Police just not enforce the law. This is not an option as they are not given the discretion to do this.
  7. Currently, the ban prejudices cyclists in civil and insurance cases that are injured by cars on sidewalks the downtown area compared to other areas of the city. There is a recent court case where a cyclist was injured by a car coming out of a parking lot.
  8. With the new Greenbike Bike Share program, the last thing SLC needs is for someone from out of town coming in to a conference, use Bike Share, and go home with a ticket and fine to tell their friends about. This will not help SLC tourism or public image.
  9. The sidewalk underpass bike path on 200 W between S. Temple and 100 S. by the Salt Palace may be violating the city’s ordinance.
  10. Many downtown streets have a lot of traffic, and are comfortable for few except the most experienced cyclists.
  11. It is recommended in the SLC 2008 Downtown in Motion Transportation Master Plan. It is time to follow through on those recommendations.
    Plan Recommendations: “Accommodating all Cyclists – (4) removing the restriction that prohibits bicycle riding on Downtown sidewalks.” Page 2 of: http://www.slcdocs.com/transportation/DTP/pdf-ppt/DowntowInMotion-FINAL.pdfSee also Section 3, pages 11-16:
    Main recommendation: “Legalize responsible bicycle riding on sidewalks in Downtown under specific conditions.” – page 11.

    • “What Downtown Already Has or Needs:”
      • “Currently, bicyclists in Downtown are limited to designated lanes on certain streets, suitable for (and supported by) experienced, regular cyclists, but not welcoming to casual riders such as children and families.” Page 13.
      • “Although currently prohibited by ordinance in Downtown, sidewalk use by bicyclists would appear to be feasible on many blocks with enforceable traffic and safety rules.” – page 13.
    • “Policies that make the Plan Work –
      • Bicyclists will be permitted on sidewalks, but must obey a speed limit and yield to pedestrians.
      • Bicyclists will be permitted on all Downtown mid-block vehicle and pedestrian rights-of-way.” – page 15.
  1. The Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee recommended this change in 2011.
GreenBikes are everywhere in downtown Salt Lake City. Isn't it time to make it legal for them to ride on the sidewalk? Photo by Dave Iltis
GreenBikes are everywhere in downtown Salt Lake City. Isn’t it time to make it legal for them to ride on the sidewalk? Photo by Dave Iltis

Likely reasons people ride on the sidewalks:

  1. They don’t feel the streets are safe.
  2. They don’t know it’s unlawful downtown.
  3. They are more comfortable on the sidewalks.
  4. They are not ‘vehicular’ level cyclists.
  5. They are traveling to or from a destination building.
  6. They don’t have the skills to ride in traffic and need education on safe riding techniques.

 

Solution

  1. Repeal 12.80.160 entirely and allow bikes on the sidewalk in downtown Salt Lake City.
  2. Alternatively, change 80.160 (see below for current code) to add a speed limit of 10 mph and thus allow bicycling on Central Traffic District (CTD) Sidewalks. New text: It is unlawful for operators of bicycles to ride any bicycle upon any sidewalk within the “central traffic district” at a speed greater than 10 mph. This should only apply in the CTD, not elsewhere as this is not practical or needed elsewhere
  3. Create an education campaign for cyclists to yield to pedestrians and to ride responsibly in the CTD.
  4. Continue to fund and build out the bicycle network. This will naturally shift cyclists off the sidewalk on streets with a bike lane or cycletrack.

Current Salt Lake City Code below:

Current code regarding riding in the Central Traffic District:

12.80.160: CENTRAL TRAFFIC DISTRICT BICYCLE RIDING RESTRICTION:

It is unlawful for operators of bicycles to ride any bicycle upon any sidewalk within the “central traffic district”, as defined in section 12.04.090 of this title, or its successor, and as described in section 12.104.010, “Schedule 1, Central Traffic District”, of this title, or its successor, and made a part hereof by reference, or on any other area where prohibited by signs, provided, however, the foregoing shall not apply to police officers or parking enforcement officers in the scope and course of their employment. (Ord. 69-11, 2011)

Central Traffic District Defined:

12.104.010: SCHEDULE 1, CENTRAL TRAFFIC DISTRICT1:

All that area bounded by the following described lines:

Commencing at the northwest corner of the intersection of North Temple Street and 4th West Street, thence along the west curbline of 4th West Street to the southwest corner of the intersection of 4th West and 5th South Street, thence east along the north curbline of 5th South Street to the northeast corner of the intersection of 2nd East Street and 5th South Street, thence north along the east curbline of 2nd East Street to the northeast corner of the intersection of 2nd East Street and South Temple Street, thence west along the north curbline of South Temple Street to the northeast corner of the intersection of State Street and South Temple Street, thence north along the east curbline of State Street to the northeast corner of the intersection of State Street and North Temple Street, thence west along the north curbline of North Temple Street to the place of beginning.

(Ord. 70-85 § 1, 1985: prior code title 46, schedule 1)

Footnotes – Click any footnote link to go back to its reference.

Footnote 1: See section 12.04.090 of this title.

Footnote 2: See section 12.04.495 of this title.

Footnote 3: See section 12.52.110 of this title.

Footnote 4: See section 12.28.140 of this title.

Footnote 5: See section 12.28.140 of this title.

Footnote 6: See section 12.12.090 of this title.

Current SLC code regarding Pedestrian Right of Way

12.80.105: BICYCLES AND HUMAN POWERED VEHICLES OR DEVICES TO YIELD RIGHT OF WAY TO PEDESTRIANS ON SIDEWALKS, PATHS, OR TRAILS; USES PROHIBITED; NEGLIGENT COLLISION PROHIBITED; SPEED RESTRICTIONS; RIGHTS AND DUTIES SAME AS PEDESTRIANS:

  1. A person operating a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power shall:
  2. Yield the right of way to any pedestrian; and
  3. Give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.
  4. A person may not operate a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power on a sidewalk, path, or trail, or across a roadway in a crosswalk, where prohibited by a traffic control device or ordinance.
  5. A person may not operate a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power in a negligent manner so as to collide with a:
  6. Pedestrian; or
  7. Person operating a:
  8. Bicycle; or
  9. Vehicle or device propelled by human power.
  10. A person operating a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power on a sidewalk, path, or trail, or across a driveway, or across a roadway on a crosswalk may not operate at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the existing conditions, giving regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.
  11. Except as provided under subsections A and D of this section, a person operating a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power on a sidewalk, path, or trail, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
  12. A person operating a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power on a sidewalk shall proceed only in single file. (Ord. 2-06 § 19, 2006)

 

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