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Salt Lake City converts street to pedestrian, bicycle traffic

By Lauren Bennett, | Posted - Apr. 22, 2020 at 3:30 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Roads are no longer just for cars.

Starting Thursday, 500 North from Redwood Road to 800 West in Salt Lake City will be temporarily open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, the mayor’s office announced on Wednesday.

According to a news release, residents who need to use the street to get home or to businesses can still access the street in cars. Informational signage and barricades will be installed on Thursday.

The idea behind the initiative, dubbed “Stay Safe, Stay Active,” is to create more space for residents to recreate outdoors while maintaining distance from others amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re excited to be able to give people some extra room to be able to get out and recreate at a safe distance from others,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in the release. “As it’s getting warmer, we all want to get outside."

The idea was first proposed earlier this month when officials asked residents to take a survey about which streets would be best to use for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. 500 North is the first street chosen for the temporary transformation; other city streets are being evaluated now and might open in the future for community recreation, officials said.

“These are challenging times and we are aware of the strain that the current situation is placing on people’s physical and mental health,” Salt Lake City Transportation Division Director Jon Larsen said in the release. “Opening up more space to walk and bike is one way we are trying to help people stay healthy and safe.”

Hospital/emergency routes, transit routes, traffic patterns, trail and park connections were all factors considered in the decision, officials added.

“We want everyone to feel like they have the space to exercise and recreate at a safe distance from one another, and this is an innovative and easy way to do it when our main parks are so full,” Mendenhall said.

Similar measures have been taken in other U.S. cities, like Oakland, California.

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