Capital City Proposes an Increase in Pedestrian, Bicycle Infrastructure

bikelaneLast week, the Salt Lake City Transportation Division released a draft version of an updated Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan.

“Walking and bicycling in Salt Lake City will be safe, convenient, comfortable, and viable transportation options that connect people to places, foster recreational and economic development opportunities, improve personal health and the environment, and elevate quality of life,” says the report.

One key driver for the shift in focus is a shift in demographic preferences. As noted in the draft, people between the ages of 20 to 54 have been reducing their per capita vehicle usage. In addition, the percentage of licensed drivers has been steadily dropping for these age groups, a clear indication that people are moving away from personalized automobiles and using other transportation options.

The plan was originally crafted a decade ago and the update has been in development over the last two years. In addition to consulting numerous community stakeholders, the city also received input from over a thousand residents through two public open houses, nearly 30 other community gatherings such as farmers markets and community festivals, and an online survey.

According to the report, results from the survey clearly show a community preference for low-stress bikeways. Low-stress facilities appeal to people who want more separation from traffic and the city says that the development of a low-stress bikeway network will be a key component of their master plan.

“This draft plan responds to the overwhelming feedback from our residents, who want safe and attractive places to walk, ride bicycles and to connect to transit,” said Salt Lake City Transportation Director Robin Hutcheson. “The plan will guide our actions to improve the active transportation network, and to make it accessible for people of all ages and abilities in all neighborhoods. We encourage feedback from our residents so we can continue to customize the plan to better meet their needs.”

The cost of constructing on-street bikeways would be approximately $193,000 per mile. As a comparison, the recently completed I-15 freeway reconstruction project in Utah County cost approximately $55 million per mile. “The entire spectrum of 20-year bikeway recommendations could be built for 30 percent more than the cost of rebuilding a single mile of urban freeway. All of the on-street bikeway recommendations in this plan could be built for 60 percent of the cost of rebuilding a single mile of urban freeway,” says the report.

In addition to low-stress bikeways, the city has set many other goals in the draft plan. They include updating city policies and ordinances to help reach desired walking and biking outcomes, partnering with clean air advocates to increase walking and bicycling rates, enhancing traffic signal systems to detect bicycles, and working with UTA to conduct a station-by-station audit for pedestrian and bicycle access as well as installing bike racks on TRAX trains.

Several education programs are being recommended in the plan, including multi-modal, bicycling-specific, and pedestrian-specific programs.

Multi-modal programs will be targeted to several different user groups and consist of driver education, median campaigns, law enforcement training, and Open Streets events.

The continued support of SmartTrips, a neighborhood-based program that encourages public and active transportation through free bike/walk/transit kits and community events, is also being recommended. Established in 2012, there are SmartTrips programs in the East Liberty Park, Rose Park, Wasatch Hollow, Sugar House, and Fairpark neighborhoods. Salt Lake City’s program is modeled after one that exists in Portland, Oregon.

Bicycle programs will include user counts, training, bicycle-friendly business efforts, route mapping, social rides, and recreational route designation. These programs are geared toward encouraging people to cycle more, especially those who are less likely to do so.

Pedestrian programs will consist of more safe routes to schools, crosswalk enforcement, and mid-block walkway programming.

The plan is available for review at www.walkbikeslc.com. The review period for this plan is open until Wednesday, December 17. The draft plan will then enter the formal review and approval process with the Salt Lake City Council considering adoption sometime early next year.

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