By David Ward
I know it is now spring. Having a home in Emigration Canyon, affectionately known by those of us who live here simply as “the Canyon”, I am personal witness to the Canyon as by far the most popular ride in Salt Lake County, if not the entire State of Utah. And while they have been fairly rare through the winter months, in the last two weeks, the Canyon has been inundated with cyclists.
I, too, am an avid cyclist, and the Canyon is now also my favorite ride, if for no other reason than it is convenient. But there are other reasons. It is a beautiful ride. The road winds and meanders through the Canyon and alongside Emigration Creek at an incline that is doable for most cyclists. And it tops out at Little Mountain with a scenic view of Mt. Dell Reservoir in front and the Canyon just behind. In springtime, you can feel and smell the freshness in the air. In the summer, it is much more pleasant than down in the valley. In autumn, the fall colors are captivating. And in the winter, though few cyclists are around to experience it, a blue sky and a freshly fallen blanket of snow make the Canyon a fantastically beautiful and exhilarating place. I know why everyone loves it.
However, the popularity of Emigration Canyon as a place to ride is also the source of a frequent amount of friction. In addition to the regular vehicular traffic of residents and others, which is substantial by itself, the Canyon is also popular with pedestrians, joggers, motorcyclists and those out for a lovely drive. This makes Emigration Canyon rather busy, particularly on weekends.
The biggest issue relates to cyclists who block traffic by not riding single file. This is both a safety and courtesy issue. For both reasons, many believe you should ride single file all the time. Personally, I think 2-abreast is usually safe. Also, it is allowed generally by law, with restrictions, but Emigration Canyon has signs, first appearing about two miles up the Canyon. that read, “Ride Single File”.
There is an issue as to whether or not this is required, or even enforceable. That is a topic for another day. But it is apparently being enforced by the police. So, if you choose to ride 2-abreast, know that you may be cited. For the sake of courtesy, caution and avoiding citations, you should ride single file in the Canyon. Additionally, it is winding road, and cars approaching from behind as you ride uphill can be upon you before you or they realize it. At a minimum, if you are riding 2-abreast, you should quickly move into single file when a car approaches from behind.
I interact regularly with people who complain about cyclists in the Canyon, and I can tell you that the single biggest complaint is with cyclists who block the flow of traffic while going up the Canyon. And nothing gets their gall more than a group of cyclists riding and chatting as they occupy not only the shoulder but the better part of the traffic lane. By my observations, that is quite rare, but it is especially irritating. As one who also drives as well as rides in the Canyon, I can empathize with these frustrations.
Most of the Canyon has a good shoulder, separated by a solid white line, and efforts are being made to make that the case all the way up and down the Canyon. At most times, two cyclists can ride abreast on the shoulder without being in the lane of traffic. That being said, a cyclist riding on the shoulder but extremely close to the white line, alone or 2-abreast, creates a sense of anxiety in drivers approaching from behind. Indeed, it is difficult for such a driver to give a cyclist the required 3-foot berth when passing without hugging the centerline of the road. And when traffic is approaching from the opposite direction, or when a driver cannot see very far as the road winds ahead, hugging the centerline is not something that driver wants to do.
So I plead with those who ride in Emigration Canyon, that you ride single file, and that if you do choose to ride 2-abreast, immediately move into single file, reasonably to the right of the white line, when you hear traffic approaching from behind. I ask this as both a cyclist and a driver, and as a resident who likes and wants to peacefully co-exist with my fellow Canyon residents. And I ask it, not only for reasons of safety, but for equally important reasons of courtesy and peaceful co-existence.
Emigration Canyon is a beautiful place to ride a bike. I love riding here, and I welcome all others who ride in this Canyon. But for the sake of those of us who live in the Canyon and who are constantly defending cycling in the Canyon, please ride safely and courteously, and avoid impeding traffic and causing angst to drivers. It makes our efforts as defenders of cycling easier and more effective.