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With More Bike Lanes, Salt Lake City Bike Safety Is Improving

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This Tuesday is Bike to Work Day. It comes a little over a year after the Salt Lake City Council adopted a Bicycle Master Plan. How is Salt Lake City doing when it comes to bicycle safety?

Dan Bergenthal is a traffic safety engineer with Salt Lake City. Over the past few years, he’s paid close attention to one downtown street: the protected bikeway on 300 S. It’s one of those streets where the bike lane is isolated from car traffic by a curb.

"We saw the volume of bicyclists jump that first year about 30 percent and it’s stayed that way as well in 2016 and the crash rate has actually dropped," Bergenthal says. 

Bergenthal acknowledges that this street has had more bike infrastructure on it than most but, generally speaking, the trend of more cyclists and fewer crashes is consistent throughout the city.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the percentage of trips being made by bike rose almost every year in Salt Lake from 2011 through 2015. And data from the Utah Department of Public Safety shows the number of reported bike crashes has decreased slightly in that same time period.

Bergenthal, who deals with all types of vehicle safety, says it’s actually a common trend: more bicycles translates to lower crash rates as motorists start expecting to see bikes and bicyclists learn safe riding techniques from each other.  

"With this type of work, really, if you build it they will come," he says. 

Colin Quinn-Hurst is another transportation planner with the Salt Lake Transportation Division. He says the next challenge is linking up areas with good infrastructure, like the Jordan River Trail or 300 S., to other areas with bike lanes.

"There are kind of islands of safety in the network, and the trick is connecting those," Quinn-Hurst says. 

Quinn-Hurst thinks as these isolated sections of bike lanes get connected, safety will improve more rapidly.

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