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Will Utah lawmakers make roads safer for bikers and walkers?

December 4, 2023 by Nicole Masson
Policy/Legislative

Bicyclegislature

by Sofia Jeremias in The Salt Lake Tribune

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I’m already looking forward to the most exciting time of the year: the 2024 Legislative session.

I love spending time at the Utah State Capitol and watching the messy, sometimes dramatic, (sometimes boring), process of turning ideas into law.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past year reporting on the ways that cities in Utah are working to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

But what is the state’s role in safe streets? As many advocates have pointed out our most dangerous, high speed roads are often operated by the Utah Department of Transportation.

I gave Cameron Carter, the planning and policy specialist for Bike Utah, a call to chat about what draft legislation caught his eye and might make a difference.

Cameron noted that last year 69 pedestrians and cyclists were hit and killed on Utah roads — that’s up from 51 in 2021.

I asked him about one piece of bicycle-related draft legislation that has already gained some traction: the Active Transportation and Canal Trails Amendments. 

The goal of the legislation proposed by Rep. Rosemary Lesser D-Ogden, is to “streamline” the process of turning a canal into a trail and would give municipalities and UDOT rights of first refusal before a canal is abandoned. The Murdock Canal Trail in Utah County, the Lundstrom Park Trail in Logan and the Jacob Canal Trail in Saratoga Springs are a few examples of successful canal trails that already exist in Utah. (You can look at Lesser’s slideshows detailing the legislation here).

 

Here’s what Cameron told me:

“The state is really focused on building these regional trails, which I think is great. But there needs to also be some focus on trails within cities [for] people just getting to work or to their community. It’s not necessarily a regional connection, but it’s still an important connection.”

And to that end, he’s excited about a piece of draft legislation that would enhance road safety guidelines and “ensure streets are designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind.” It would also unlock new funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

(By the way, if you’re in Salt Lake City, officials are asking for feedback on their Livable Streets program. Click here for the survey and to suggest particular corners or streets for traffic calming measures).

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