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SALT LAKE CITY — City officials on Thursday unveiled two new innovative bicycle lanes between three city blocks designed to provide bicyclists with safer routes while encouraging them to ride more.
The project was introduced to bicycle enthusiasts who have been enjoying the new lanes for the past three weeks.
"Cycle Track is something that is not new in the country or around the world, but will be new to Salt Lake City and Utah," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. "The idea is to create bike lanes, but do it in a way that is very safe for the cyclists and also safe for the motorist."
The city is looking at two different designs and installed both options along three blocks of 300 East for comparison and public feedback.
I would like to see Salt Lake City in 10 years have a large amount of its population choosing cycling as their first mode of transportation.
–City Councilman Luke Garrott
One design physically separates cyclists from moving traffic using parked vehicles. Between 600 South and 800 South, cyclists can ride between the street curb and the parked cars.
The city says similar designs are common in Europe, and have been implemented in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Missoula, Memphis and Austin.
The second design, between 800 South and 900 South, offers an extra-wide bike lane that is painted and uses flexible bollards to separate bicyclists from both moving traffic and cars regularly parked along the curb.
"We are getting feedback on each of them," said Robin Hutcheson, the transportation director for Salt Lake City. "We want to know how people like them (and) which one works better for our cycling community."
The city is evaluating its options to expand the bikeway throughout downtown and also connect to the city's off-street paths, including the Jordan River Parkway Trail, the Parley's Trail/Sugar House Greenway now under construction and the planned Jordan and Salt Lake Canal Trail.
"I would like to see Salt Lake City in 10 years have a large amount of its population choosing cycling as their first mode of transportation," said City Councilman Luke Garrott. "It can be done, it's been done in other countries. To make bicycling the first choice of people, you simply need to make it convenient and safe and we are taking small steps in Salt Lake City to do that."
Martijn Vanexel, a bicycle enthusiast from Amsterdam, said these lanes are common in his country because most people commute by bike and would like to see that culture brought to Salt Lake City.
"I think if you don't start building these things, then people won't start taking their bikes more because they feel that there is no space for them and it is not going to be safe," Vanexel said.
Vanexel expressed a concern to city officials, hoping for better coordination between traffic lights for bicyclists.
"In a stretch from South Temple to (700 South), I have been waiting longer than I have been riding," he said.
In order for the project to expand, the city needs to be comfortable with future plans as well as find funding to pay for it.
A $25,000 grant from REI paid for most of the construction along the three blocks.
"We currently have some funds that we can use for this and the whole purpose of this project is to develop a real cost-effective design," said Becka Roolf, the bicycle pedestrian coordinator for the Salt Lake Transportation Division. "In transportation terms, this is like nothing (the cost to build) so we are doing it where we piggy back with our streets division when they are doing standard road maintenance."
When workers pave streets, the city takes advantage of that by adding bike lanes, she said.
Specific requirements need to be met before city officials consider using a street as part of the bikeway, including a certain width of the street and an appropriate volume of traffic.
A neighborhood discussion specifically for those who live or work along the Cycle Track is scheduled for Tuesday, July 31. A short walk-and-talk will begin at 6 p.m. at 300 East and 700 South, followed by a 6:30 pm meeting at the Liberty Senior Center, 251 E. 700 South.
Contributing: John Daley