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Aug. 8: Sharing the road, Need for summer break

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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Keith McCord discusses the dangers when bicycles and cars share the road with Chad Mullins, chairman of the Salt Lake County Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Becka Roolf, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Salt Lake City Division of Transportation.

Sunday Edition also explores the necessity of summer vacation with Mark Petersen, public relations for the Utah State Office of Education, and Kathryn Colvin, teacher representative on the Utah PTA Board of Directors.

Segment 1:

During the warmer months, it's not uncommon for vehicles and bicyclists to share the road. But it can be dangerous for both. Sunday Edition explores some of these dangers and discusses what measures are being taken to make the roads safer for bicyclists.


Both Roolf and Mullins agree Salt Lake City is well designed for bicyclists, but the county is lagging.

"Within Salt Lake City, I find the roads to be fairly bikeable. There's a lot of choices that bicyclists have to take a quieter street or to take more of an arterial road," describes Roolf. "There are bike lanes on many of the arterial roadways and Salt Lake City is continuing to add those."

"Salt Lake City offers bicyclists a lot more choices than the county does," agrees Mullins. "The old neighborhoods in Salt Lake City have grid street patterns so bicyclists have many choices to get to their destination. Unfortunately when you go into the county areas, particularly West Valley, it is newer subdivisions that were built in dead-end cul-de-sacs. So seldom are there routes that will take you to your destination other than the arterial. And unfortunately, the major arterials, as they are being widened to accommodate more congestion and automobile capacity, are losing the shoulders and bicyclists are being forced to bicycle on the sidewalk unless they want to share the busy lanes on high traffic roads."

Salt Lake City offers bicyclists a lot more choices than the county does.

–Chad Mullins

Many communities are beginning to include bicycles in street and transportation planning.

"A number of places, Salt Lake City included and recently Salt Lake County has joined us, are taking a 'complete streets' approach, which means that as a road is designed bicycle accommodation of one sort or another, be it a bike lane, a shared lane or some other type of facility, is included as the project is developed," Roolf says.

This concept is fairly new in some of the communities in this area and is not embraced everywhere.

Intersections and canyons are dangerous places for bicyclists.

"Intersections are by far the most dangerous. One statistic is that for serious injury accidents 70 percent of them occur in intersections for both pedestrians and bicyclists," Mullins explains. "Sadly as the major road projects come along on our major arterials on the west side... those improvements do not address bicyclists' needs. So bicyclists are going to have a very difficult time crossing those intersections, major corridors like Bangerter Highway."

Seventy percent of all serious-injury accidents involving both bicycles and pedestrians occur in intersections.

"The canyons in general are a place to be careful," says Roolf. "It's easy as a bicyclist to enjoy the speed of going downhill and with that comes the responsibility to do things like staying on your side of the road and that can be more challenging when you are going at a higher speed."

Mullins says that although local government budgets are strained right now, the federal government is helping to make roads safer for bicyclists.

"Fortunately the federal government guidelines are coming out in favor of more balanced transportation and specifically ask when road and intersections are designed that they provide accommodations for bicyclists," says Mullins. "But currently right now the new plans for intersections on the west side do not accommodate bicyclists."

Segment 2:

Should schools do away with summer vacation? That is the question raised in Time magazine. The article argues that the break does more harm than good for students and causes students in the U.S. to fall behind. Is that really the case?

There are no easy answers on the issue of the importance of summer vacation.

There are a lot of studies that show, especially in other countries where kids do go the whole year - that they are getting higher scores,that they are doing better academically, than the students in the United States.

–Kathryn Colvin

"There are a lot of studies that show, especially in other countries where kids do go the whole year... statistics are coming out showing that they are getting higher scores, that they are doing better academically, than the students in the United States," says Colvin.

But hours of instruction do not seem to be a determining factor in student performance.

"Finland, which is always near the top for performance, has 880 some-odd hours of instruction a year and Utah has 990," Petersen explains. "So we are actually going more than Finland, but not producing as well, but again we are looking at the law of averages here and kids aren't average."

Everyone agrees that both students and teachers need a break. And preference for when to schedule breaks depends on each parent, student and teacher. Some parents prefer year-round school, while others want the long summer break.

Petersen says the average relapse for students with a traditional long summer vacation is one month, but if the learning continues all summer the kids will better retain the knowledge from the last school year.


Viewer Response:

Pauline Westergard:"Enjoyed the segment on summer vacation. I would hope that Utah would follow the trend and go to year-round school with three months on, three weeks off, thus eliminating the long break during the summer when kids are left alone and tend to be bored. I believe that this would greatly improve their education and keep them focused on schooling. I would also be supportive of introducing school uniforms state wide thus eliminating the 'class' of those who can afford the higher fashion. Utah needs to get stricter guidelines so that our kids will take school seriously and buckle down and do the work."

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