cycling utah September 1999


The state of the (bike advocacy) State

By Rob Macleod

Summer is usually a quiet time on the bike advocacy front. Other than moaning about the inevitable chip-seal projects that make some of our favorite routes unrideable for a while, life is usually good. We ride bikes, go someplace nice for vacation-hopefully with our bikes-and recharge for the challenges of the fall.

But this summer has been different. Perhaps we should have known something was up when we heard about the terrible bike crash in Fruit Heights that cost three cyclists so dearly. Or when the plans for a bike route along the Lunacy Highway were quietly dropped from the discussion. Or when we first learned that 40th West through the airport would be closed.

So for this edition of the Bike Advocate, it seems like a good time to report on a few of the major projects and events. Perhaps we can exorcise some demons and clear the way for a great autumn riding season.

One of the really big events of the year is certainly the opening of the Parleys Crossing Project. After some delays brought about by water pipe leakage, things seem to finally be in place for the grand opening. By the time you read this, I hope you will have attended the ribbon-cutting and enjoyed a few rides over this amazing amenity. This project has blown all previous records for money spent on a bike related project in Utah and has set the standard for what good advocacy can achieve. The group of people who pushed this project along deserve a huge vote of thanks for their courage and determination. The best thank you is to use the crossing and tell your local politicians how fabulous you think it is.

Perhaps most amazing about the Parleys Crossing project is that it happened as a joint effort between Salt Lake City and County and Utah State transportation offices. We can only hope that this is a sign of things to come because many of the really interesting projects in the future will require this sort of cooperation.

A key player in whatever role the state takes in future bike initiatives will be the newly appointed Bike/Ped Coordinator for Utah Division of Transpor-tation (UDOT), Debbie Hall. Debbie has large shoes to fill after Jan Yeckes resigned from the position in order to spend more time with family (much to the benefit of Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee, who snapped Jan up as their Execu-tive Director). Although these are still early days, Debbie has shown all the right signs of being up to the challenge and we are cautiously optimistic that things will pick up in the generally bike-unfriendly halls of UDOT. Of special note is a set of very progressive guidelines and policies developed during Jan's tenure that we hope will now see the light of day.

When the very first UDOT bike/ped coordinator was nominated a number of years ago, one of the projects he tried to address was rumble strips. Like many cyclists, I wondered what the fuss was about. Rumble strips only appeared on interstate highways and were therefore not much of an obstacle. How times have changed! Utah is following the lead of other western states in the blindly passionate embrace of rumble strips as god's gift to traffic safety.

Unfortunately, rumble strips are not good for cyclists. Depending on where they are located and how they are cut into the pavement, they can range from just annoying to downright life threatening. And rumble strips will soon be appearing all over the road system, not just on interstates. So some road you ride is bound to be affected sooner or later. Utah is in the process of developing its own standards for rumble strips and we as cyclists should be paying attention. Dave Iltis has been leading this effort and will be working closely with Debbie to try and find the best compromise between something that wakes a slumbering motorist in his SUV and yet does not shake the teeth from cyclists' heads. You will hear more about rumble strips!

Over the past few years, the Salt Lake International Airport has become a very popular riding and training destination for cyclists. With the dedicated bike path feeding off North Temple, there is direct access to the International Center and beyond to Saltair. A further valuable part of the airport riding is the road that was constructed between the old and the new runways, an extension of 40th West that provided complete north/south access through the airport property.

But airport expansion is as unstoppable as all the other growth in Salt Lake and the plans for new de-icing facilities call for filling in the road between the runways. Some of you have followed the resulting process of applications made to the Planning Commission and City Council for closure of the road. The Planning Commission and a group called the Salt Lake City Transportation Advisory Committee both voiced concerns that an alternative route should be created for cyclists through or around the airport property. Just days before the matter was supposed to go before the City Council for final determination, the City attorneys decided that the road is not, in fact, a public access, that the land belongs to the Airport already and so no permission is required for closure.

So will we lose yet another great riding route to the growth monster? The news on this is not as bad as it first appears. For during the whole period of investigating options to closing 40th West, a number of possible bike path opportunities became clear. More important, cyclists came to public meetings and explained their need for roadways that are wide, quiet, and safe enough for commuting and recreation. And folks in power listened.

As it now stands, the Salt Lake City Division of Transportation has agreed to continue to work with the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee and the airport to try and identify viable routes. The City Council has also expressed its support and encouraged applications to funding sources that could supply the necessary money for the implementation. In fact, they have allocated funds to conduct a study to create a prioritized list of bike and pedestrian projects with their estimated costs. This is the sort of cooperation that resulted in the Parleys Crossing project. Provided we as cyclists continue to be active, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

The achievements of cyclists are amazing as a group but some among us manage to reach a strength of spirit and level of excellence that is truly astounding. We have all watched with rapture the exploits of Lance Armstrong and his comeback from cancer. He too required the support of a cooperative team, a team which he was able to motivate to achievements beyond all expectations.

Even closer to home we have another example of indomitable spirit and achievement despite horrible setbacks. We all heard and read in horror of the accident on Highway 89 by Fruit Heights this spring in which three cyclists were "gunned" down by a pickup truck under the drunken direction of a well documented alcoholic without a driver's license. The devastating details of the injuries have been well documented in the press and cycling utah.

As the summer winds down, there is some good news even in the midst of this tragic story. All three crash victims are out of hospital and although the damage for some will be lasting, their comeback spirit is truly impressive. Brian Carlson was especially unfortunate in the accident and yet he makes progress almost daily as he races into the next chapter of his life. He may not come back as the better cyclist that Lance is now, but like Lance, he will probably come back a better person. Moving beyond obstacles and coming back from misfortune does that to you.

There is a benefit bike event planned for September 25 in the Ogden area where we all get a chance to show our support for the three accident victims and help them cover their considerable accident related expenses. Surf on over to to follow the details as they unfold.

This month will include a trip to Belgium. And while I promise no race reports like those we have been enjoying all summer from local riders, I will try to snoop around and report on Belgium from the bike advocate's view. And then it's back to autumn and the best riding season of the year!

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