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New bike network connects cities along Wasatch Front

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 5:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 5:45 p.m. MDT

Under the direction of Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County set aside $800,000 for 19 new bicycle transportation projects that will add 87 miles of bike paths along the Wasatch Front.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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SANDY — In 1974, Roger Crandall and his wife decided to tour North and South America on a two-and-half-year, 20,000-mile biking adventure.

"You know that old fancy phrase, 'mi casa es su casa, My house is your house'? They really meant that," Crandall said, describing how he and his wife would stay in strangers' houses as they went from country to country.

He said the trip not only inspired him to become a Spanish teacher, but strongly influenced his love for cycling.

It's a passion that has continued for Crandall for the past 40 years.

Under the direction of Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County has set aside $800,000 for 19 new bicycle transportation projects that will add 87 miles of bike paths along the Wasatch Front.

In an effort to better connect commuters across four counties, the new network will get people from place to place or city to city, while improving air quality and giving Utahns more exercise options, McAdams said.

"It’s not a network of routes unless bike lanes don’t dead end at a municipal borders but will cross borders in a seamless fashion, and also connect with our transit stops and other bicycle infrastructure throughout this valley," he said.

Salt Lake County's bicycle transportation plan has been in the works for the past 18 months, with the first phase expected to be complete by next spring, said George Deneris, the county's active transportation coordinator.

"The beginning is lines on a map, and it ends with lines on a pavement," Deneris said. "It’s about 1,500 miles of bikeways when we are all said and done, and we are about a quarter of the way there."

With less than 5 percent of people biking, McAdams said he hopes the network will encourage people to get outside. The large investment is a risk the mayor said he's willing to take because of air quality and health benefits.

"Investments in bicycle infrastructure really are cost savings to the taxpayer. Not everybody is going to commute by bicycle, but $800,0000 would only buy us half a mile of road, and instead its buying us 87 miles of bicycle transportation," McAdams said.

The funding for the project is just 2 percent of the $40 million transportation budget the Salt Lake County Council approved last year.

Utah Transit Authority General Manger Mike Allegra said the agency's goal is to get 10 percent to 20 percent of the community commuting to work by bike.

"It’s the healthiest, smartest, most cost-effective mode we can do," Allegra said.

"We want to help facilitate the ability to take transit to go the long distance," he said. "But when you get to the station and you get off, how do you get to your final destination?"

In what Allegra calls "the last-mile strategy," UTA plans to invest in strategies such as bike-sharing, a program to have bikes ready at train platforms for commuters to take to work.

Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan says the best thing people can do is keep an eye out for bikers on the road and remember that safety is the most important thing.

"That’s one of the key factors in doing this re-striping and designation of bicycles lanes," Dolan said. "It is a whole new opportunity for us to have new forms of transportation but also for the health of the community."

Crandall said he is happy with the teamwork that's evident between city councils and mayors. As a person who bikes on a daily basis, he is excited to see how the new bike network will pan out.

"I’m pleased to see that things are improving," Crandall said. "I’ve been here for 30 some years in the (Salt Lake Valley), and every new year there’s some new thing added, and that’s very enjoyable to see happen."

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com

Twitter: MirandaCollette

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