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S.L. cyclists get share of lane on 200 South

Published: Thursday, Sept. 18 2008 12:16 a.m. MDT

Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker rides along a new downtown bike lane Wednesday, a green stripe down the center of the outside lines on 200 South between State and Main streets.

Courtney Sargent, Deseret News

Salt Lake City officials are hoping motorists and bicyclists will notice the new pavement markings — and each other — on a narrow section of 200 South.

A green stripe has been painted down the center of the outside lanes on 200 South between State and Main streets, along with a white bicycle logo topped with two chevrons, designating them as "shared lanes."

"The purpose for that is to make drivers and cyclists aware that we are sharing that stretch of road," Mayor Ralph Becker said during a news conference Wednesday morning on the corner of 200 South and Main Street.

"There are places in our city where there just isn't room for a cyclist and a vehicle to have separate lanes," Becker said. "In those places, we need to safely share the road together."

Salt Lake City has added the shared-lane markings on the one-block section of 200 South as part of a pilot program of the Federal Highway Administration.

Data on the lanes' use will be collected through September 2009 and then reported to the highway administration. If the results are positive, the markings likely will be permanent, and all other downtown streets too narrow for separate bike lanes will become candidates for the marking system.

"We're going to have to wait to see how this test goes first," said Dan Bergenthal, who was introduced Wednesday as the city's bikeways and trails coordinator.

The City Council approved the new $75,000-a-year position as part of the city's 2008-09 fiscal year budget. Bergenthal, a transportation engineer at the city since 1998, will oversee all of the city's bikeways and trails, as well as develop, implement and promote new cycling programs and initiatives.

Adding the shared-lane markings to 200 South eliminates what had been a one-block void in bike lanes along the east-west street between the University of Utah and the Jordan River Parkway Trail, Bergenthal said.

"This is the only block in that whole section that we don't have (separate) bike lanes," he said.

In addition to the markings, signs have been posted along 200 South to alert motorists the bicyclists may use the full lane.

Lou Melini, an avid cyclist and former chairman of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee, said he believes the markings will make it safer for cyclists to ride downtown.

"Everybody has to get used to having more bicycles on the roads, since the price of gas keeps going up," Melini said.

It's also important, Becker said, for both motorists and cyclists to follow traffic laws. That means cyclists need to stop at red lights and stop signs, he said.

"If we're going to be safe and make sure everyone has a good opportunity to share the road, we need to follow the laws that are in place to protect all of us," he said.

The lane-sharing system is one of more than 100 transportation improvements in Salt Lake City's proposed downtown transportation master plan, Downtown in Motion, said Tim Harpst, the city's transportation director.

The master plan, approved by the Planning Commission in June, is being sent this week from the mayor's office to the City Council for adoption, Harpst said.


E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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