By Dave Iltis
On April 28, Salt Lake City was awarded Silver status by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), a leading bike advocacy organization, in their spring 2010 Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) awards. Sixteen new and five renewing cities were named Bicycle Friendly Communities. Salt Lake City along with Flagstaff, Arizona, were the only two communities to move from Bronze to Silver status. Regionally, Victor, Idaho received an honorable mention.
Salt Lake City received Bronze status in 2007 based on its commitment to bike friendliness that began close to 25 years ago under Mayor Palmer DePaulis in partnership with the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (MBAC). Following this designation, the City furthered its initiatives to become more bicycle friendly. The MBAC put forth the Silver City Initiative to promote new ideas for bike friendliness and to address feedback from reviewers of its 2007 application. Major components of the Initiative included extending the Complete Streets Policy, increasing police department outreach and enforcement, holding an annual bike summit, hiring a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, and increasing expenditures on infrastructure improvements.
Starting in 2008, under the leadership of Mayor Ralph Becker teaming with Salt Lake City Transportation Department head Tim Harpst and Engineer Dan Bergenthal, Councilman Luke Garrott, and the MBAC chaired by Dave Iltis, Salt Lake City’s investment in bicycling leaped forward.
“We are excited to be recognized as a bicycle friendly community with a Silver level by the League of American Bicyclists,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. “Being one of the two cities nationally to surpass the Bronze level status is an honor that signifies the effectiveness of our cycling initiatives throughout Utah’s capital city,” said Mayor Becker, a regular cyclist.
Salt Lake City used the BFC program to catalyze its push for bike friendliness. Over the last two years, funding in Salt Lake City’s budget for bike specific programs has increased ten-fold to $500,000 a year. Becka Roolf was hired in 2009 as Salt Lake City’s new Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and Dan Bergenthal was promoted to City Trails Coordinator to oversee trails and pathways. The Complete Streets Policy was put into city code in 2010. All abandoned bicycles collected by the Salt Lake City Police Department are donated to the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective to be reused in the community. The police department also has a dedicated liaison to the bicycling community. In 2009, 38 new lane miles of bike lanes were added. Innovative green ‘sharrow’ bike lanes, developed by Bergenthal, were tested in downtown Salt Lake City on 200 South. Under Councilman Garrott’s direction, Salt Lake City also hosted a citywide bike summit in 2009 and a statewide summit in 2010. Salt Lake City’s growing bike commuter population is four times the national average.
Today, the City is not resting on its laurels. The MBAC recently held a retreat to bring a host of new ideas to the table and is in the process of finalizing the Gold City Initiative — More Bikes, More Places, More Often! In 2010, Salt Lake City is working towards adding more new bike lanes, releasing an updated bike map, connecting the Jordan River Trail to the Legacy Parkway Trail, opening the Bicycle Transit Center at the Intermodal Hub in cooperation with UTA, and increasing the application of sharrows throughout the city.
“Communities from all areas of the country, climates and populations see bicycling as an integral component of building livable communities. The Bicycle Friendly Community program is recognizing those leading the way,” said Andy Clarke, LAB President.
For more information on the Salt Lake City’s bike program , visit slcgov.com/bike. For more information on LAB’s Bike Friendly Communities program, visit bicyclefriendlycommunity.org.