In the race for a green, clean, bike-friendly city, Salt Lake lags.
"We started 10 years too late and a whole lot of dollars short," said Stephen Harmon, chairman of Mayor Palmer DePaulis' Bicycle Advisory Committee. "The all-volunteer committee has worked very very hard to bring this community up to speed." But Salt Lake needs more help than the committee can give, he says.Each May, as part of Bicycle Awareness Month, the committee sponsors a century ride (see box), a bike-to-work day, and other consciousness-raising fund-raising events. Each year, according to Harmon, the group makes enough money to mark a few more miles of bike routes along the city's streets.
Not counting the routes on the University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City now has 17 miles of marked bike routes. Harmon finds that rather pitiful.
The current master plan calls for 100 miles of bikeways within the city and an additional 25-mile loop around the perimeter.
Harmon said, "If we keep chipping away at it (like this) it will take 50 years to build the bike routes this community needs.
"The bicycle is a legitimate form of transportation that needs to be taken seriously," he said. "People would ride bicycles more if they had the opportunity to ride safely."
Harmon's most immediate worry is about establishing rights-of-way in the foothills east of the city. He says if people want a loop around the city, as the master plan calls for, they should do the legal work now.
"If we wait on these rights-of-ways there's going to be another foothill subdivision going in and then it will be too late."
Mary Wallace Frey, vice chairwoman of the advisory committee, urges the public to speak out at neighborhood council meetings. "Most people are in favor of bike routes - but that's not getting across to the people who have the money."
Both Frey and Harmon are disappointed the city had no funds for a full-time alternative transportation coordinator this year, as their committee requested.
"We believe the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee has gone about as far as it can go without a serious long-term financial commitment from Salt
Lake City," wrote Harmon in a letter to the city finance director.
Harmon's committee is applying for block grant funds and counting on entrance fees from more than 2,000 riders in next Saturday's century ride, in order to mark and/or sign another 13 miles of bike routes through Salt Lake city this year.
Three hundred East from 100 S. to 2100 S.; 600 East from 100 S. to 2700 S.; 800 East from 100 S. to 3000 S.; 100 South from 200 W. to University Street; and 1700 South from 300 E. to 1500 E. will become marked, official bike routes.
Though other Utah cities have master plans, none are doing any better by bikers than Salt Lake is, Harmon adds. For a model of an environmentally aware city - one that has greenbelts and bike paths within the city - look to Boulder, Colorado; or Boise; or Madison, Wisconsin, Harmon says.
Or look to Europe. "In Amsterdam, 24 percent of all urban trips are made by public transit, 20 percent by walking, and 20 percent by bike," he said. And the city plans to make auto use even more unattractive through taxes, speed bumps and other inconveniences.
Harmon said, "Other cities are rapidly developing alternative transportation systems."
Opportunities for 2-wheelers
- Saturday, May 18 is the date for the fourth annual American Investment Bank Century Ride. Proceeds go to the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee to be used for building bike trails within Salt Lake City.
To bike the 100-mile, 67-mile or 28-mile loop, register at the Utah State Fairpark at 7 a.m. on the day of the ride, or call 265-1522 to preregister.
All cyclists are welcome. The terrain is flat and the mood is non-competitive, according to the organizers. The $20 entry fee includes lunch, drinks and snacks along the way, and a T-shirt.
- Wednesday, May 15, is Bike To Work Day. Meet at the northeast corner of Liberty Park at 7:15 a.m. - wearing your helmet - and ride to the City County Building with Mayor Palmer DePaulis and KALL Radio announcer Tom Barberi.