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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
From left, Mark Puddy, Jared Ferguson, Jim Hopkin and Becka Roolf ride down 1500 East on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study showed that more Salt Lakers are choosing pedal power as a significant mode of transportation this year.

The mayor's office released the second annual bike count Tuesday, which showed a 27 percent increase in the number of bicyclists commuting around the city over the past 12 months.

According to a release, the count uses volunteers to collect data surveying 16 locations during the second week of September. The 27 percent increase was calculated by comparing the 12 locations that were included in both the 2010 and 2011 counts.

The top locations for bicycling were near the University of Utah and the central business district in downtown. Also, researchers noted that the Jordan River Trail posted a considerable amount of increased bicycle traffic.

According to Becka Roolf, Salt Lake City bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, the area with the biggest jump in number of cyclists — a 109 percent hike — was on 1700 South at 900 West.

Most of the 1700 South corridor from 1700 East to Redwood Road received new or redesigned bikeways in 2011 in conjunction with a resurfacing project, the release stated. The work was designated as part of the City's implementation of the Complete Streets ordinance.

"The main reasons (for the increase) are that it's a healthy form of transportation, it's economical … you don't have to buy gasoline for your bike," said Dave Iltis, chair of the mayor's bicycle advisory committee. "(Also) you get exercise when you ride your bike and it's good for the air and for the environment."

Iltis also noted that Salt Lake City has made a concerted effort of "increasing the bike friendliness" of the city's streets and thoroughfares, especially over the past few years.

"We have a situation locally and nationally where it is far cheaper to develop bike facilities than car facilities," he said. "(You) can move more people around the city with less congestion, lower air pollution and a healthier population."

The two-wheel trend is catching on in other cities around the country, and Salt Lake is among the many urban areas working to mitigate its growing transportation challenges, Roolf said.

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"Our results compare very favorably to other cities," she said. "New York City has been heralded for its gains in bicycle commuting, yet saw only a 14 percent increase from its 2010 to 2011 April count numbers."

Roolf said the one-year boost may be attributed to a mix of factors, including Salt Lake City's investment in bicycle infrastructure, nearly 50 lane miles of new on-road bikeways and locally designed "green shared lanes" in the downtown area.

Visit www.slcgov.com/bike/ for more information about bicycling in Salt Lake City.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com