Article and Photos by Shane Bryan
SALT LAKE CITY — Biking on city streets can be intimidating for new bicycle commuters. The rush of traffic, distracted drivers and the difficulty of using a map can easily deter people from riding bikes instead of getting into a car. Bike Utah, a bicycle advocacy organization, is here to help residents all over Utah get on a bike and feel safe while doing so. They work to make cities and towns all over the state more bike friendly.
Based in Salt Lake City, Bike Utah operates as a non-profit organization. The organization started ten years ago after a road cyclist was hit and killed on the Utah
roads. The founders quickly became aware that there needed to be some serious advocacy for safety between drivers and cyclists. The mission of Bike Utah is to “integrate bicycling into the everyday culture of the state,” says Simon Harris, Bike Utah’s Youth Program Manager. “We envision Utah as the most bicycle friendly state in the country.”
Bike Utah carries out their plan via city planning—putting traffic plans into action, and working with local governments to make the roads a safe haven for cyclists.
Throughout the city, there are extra wide bike lanes with more room for riders and marked lines so drivers can steer clear. There are large signs specifically identifying bike lanes, and paint on the roads to show where the lane is and where bike riders have a right-of-way. Popular destinations are also clearly marked with nearby street
signs, eliminating the need to use a map or phone while you ride, all in an effort to keep bikers safe.
Bike Utah has been chosen as the non-profit sponsor for the new Thousand Mile campaign, an effort to revamp old bike paths and add new ones totaling 1,000 miles. Introduced by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, the Thousand Mile campaign is intended to make Utah one of the best cycling and active transportation states in the country.
Bike Utah’s role is to “provide strategic planning, technical assistance, and financial resources so communities can begin or continue developing bicycling in their area,” according to Bike Utah, they help, “communities to advance their bicycle-related goals.” This means advancements in local bike routes to get kids to school, people to work and riders out enjoying the roads and trails.
Multi-use pathways and mountain bike trails are also laid out in the Thousand Miles plan. Salt Lake City also has protected bike lanes, similar to ones found in Europe, in which there is a physical concrete barrier separating the bike lane and the car lane, reducing the probability of a car merging into the bike lane. Through their work, Bike
Utah would like to inspire people to ride bikes instead of driving, to help keep our air clean and reveal the health benefits of pedaling to your destinations. Active transportation is healthy for you and the community. Riley Peterson of Salt Lake City, commutes around the city all the time whether it’s to school or to work. “I always have lights on which makes it safe and I have never had an issue with any cars,” says Peterson. “Plus, it is just more fun to ride.”
There are things you can be doing to further increase your safety on the road. For starters, follow the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs, use hand signals, and stay in your lane. Also, wear bright colors. Brighter colors will pop and grab the attention of drivers. Standing out from the line of traffic on a bike will separate you from the crowd. Having a front and rear light is also a good way to do this. Many people think that only having a front and rear light at night is important; however, Adam Olson, Manager of Trek Bike, encourages riders to use
lights at all times. “Using lights in the day time increases your chances of being seen,” says Olson. “Drivers are more likely to see a flashing object over a cyclist with no safety warnings attached.”
Drivers are always subliminally looking for objects that they are accustomed to seeing on the road (street lights, street signs, parked cars, etc.), the flashing of a light makes it apparent to drivers that there is something else to watch out for.
Bike Utah also hosts an amazing kids program teaching kids from an early age about bike education and safety by visiting schools statewide. Over 250 kids have learned how to ride a bike while increasing overall bike knowledge by 67 percent. You can support Bike Utah and follow upcoming events by clicking here for more information. Next time, consider throwing a leg over a bike before you step into a car.