SALT LAKE CITY — Light rail someday will shuttle passengers from the airport to Daybreak, while streetcars run through downtown and Sugar House.
But the most "exciting" transportation efforts being made in Utah's capital city still involve 10-speeds and spinning spokes, says Mayor Ralph Becker.
"The valley itself is relatively flat. We've got wide streets. We have a relatively good climate … and an enormous opportunity to achieve being one of the most bikeable cities in the country," Becker said.
When it comes to funding bicycle projects, Becker sees a "chicken-and-egg" problem. Without improvements, many potential cyclists are too afraid to take to the streets — and the lack of cyclists causes some to wonder if it's worth the cost.
But even in the face of substantial budget cuts — possibly as large as $20 million — bicycles remain a priority for the mayor and his administration.
"Completing cycling-oriented projects in line with our vision for a highly bikeable capital city is a priority," Becker said. "Increasing the options for alternative transportation has always been a focus. … Even in these tough economic times, we remain committed to increasing awareness of bicycle/motorist safety while also completing funded projects in Salt Lake City to promote biking as a safe and desirable transportation alternative."
City officials promise a busy summer for bicycle projects.
A bicycle transit center will open at Salt Lake Central Station, providing storage space for 80 commuters' bicycles.
The northern section of the Jordan River Trail, which will connect Salt Lake and Davis counties, almost has been designed and should be completed in 2010.
After adding 38 miles of new bike lanes last year, city officials hope to add to that number. The city has funding for green lane markings and dedicated bike lanes downtown, including stretches of Main and North Temple.
"Whenever a street is being repaved, we're using that as an opportunity to add bike lanes," said Becka Roolf, the city's bicycle-pedestrian coordinator.
All these changes are designed to get more cyclists on city streets, while improving cyclist safety.
It's something that appears to be working already, officials said.
The city averages about 135 bike-automobile crashes each year, says Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank, but those numbers are dropping.
"We have seen all our accidents in every single category decrease over the past year," Burbank said. "So we're trending in the right direction."
2010 Utah Bike Summit
The 2010 Utah Bike Summit will ride into Salt Lake City next week.
The annual summit will feature panels and workshops for cycling enthusiasts. Topics on the two-day agenda include improving bicycle advocacy, working with government leaders and the economic benefits of cycling.
They will take place from noon to 5 p.m. April 16 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 17 at the Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South.
For more information or to register for free at www.utahbikesummit.com.