By Charles Pekow — St. George City, Utah prides itself so much on its bike facilities that the first thing you might see on the city's official website is a video of mountain bikers enjoying themselves (https://www.sgcity.org/). The rotating video features a variety of recreational events and when I hit the link, the bikers came up first. But the southwestern Utah had to improve its road biking around town to match its recreational cycling before it could be awarded Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) status from the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).
This spring, it did just that, earning bronze status, the first step on the BFC ladder (below silver, gold, platinum and the seemingly unreachable diamond) in the spring round of awardee announcements. Two years ago, the city applied and received an honorable mention. Back then “they were really disappointed because they thought they were really close. They had great mountain biking but just didn't have a lot of road biking going on,” explains LAB Policy Director Ken McLeod.
“The big thing that happened in between applications is that (last year) they adopted the St. George Active Transportation Plan (goo.gl/ildQwf) that provides a blueprint for more on-road facilities (so) people can bike all year long, not just mountain bike,” McLeod says.
“We put more emphasis on bike month with more activities than in previous years, including a ride with Mayor Jon Pike” and the city council to increase awareness around the city,” says St. George Engineering Associate Monty Thurber. The city also stepped up events for Bicycle Awareness Month (May) this year, featuring events at Bike to Work Day and Bike to School Day as well as an official proclamation from Pike and other activities.
The city is working on a variety of infrastructure projects, such as adding connectivity between neighborhoods and to parks and shopping, Thurber adds. The plan calls for trebling the city's 50 miles of trails and building a connection with the nearby city of Washington, Utah. The Parks Department is also hoping to start construction of a bike skills park next summer.
To win higher status, of course, St. George must enact the plan and make the streets safer, McLeod says. The city of 80,000 also needs to dedicate more staff to biking and add bike facilities on more high-speed roads. “Some high speed roads are barriers to biking,” McLeod says.
“We'll restripe and resurface more bike lanes and add wider shoulders when possible,” Thurber promises. “We aim to go for silver or gold. I don't think we'll ever be the Portland of Utah but its a goal we'd like to take on.”
Bike Friendly Colorado Cities
While St. George stands alone in Utah in getting an award this spring, the march in Colorado continues. Pueblo won bronze, up from the honorable mention it got in 2012. Pueblo impressed LAB with its high level of staff dedicated to biking but “on the other side, they don't have a very good ratio of bicycle network to road network,” McLeod explains. Pueblo installed “pretty good coverage on high speed roads but is missing off-street and low-speed road facilities.”
Silverthorne, Colorado also moved up from honorable mention to bronze. It impressed LAB with its staffing and mileage network for a town with a population of 4,271. But it needs to provide better cycling facilities on high-speed roads. “It sounds like they're trying to make the community a mountain biking destination and are going through the process of figuring out how they can do more trail development and opening the community to people to explore by bike,” in addition to its recreational facilities, McLeod explains.