By Russ Hymas and Ken Christensen — With summer now in full swing, it’s impossible to ignore the influx of cyclists on Utah’s roads – either preparing for road bike racing events that run almost every weekend during the summer months, or just trying to get in better shape. Some cyclists use the roads to commute to work or school, while others opt for elevation training in Utah’s many canyons or longer, flatter stretches of roadway to log some long-distance mileage.
As cyclists begin planning their training routes, many ask, “Which are the safest roads for me to ride?” and, “Are there any roads that are off-limits to cyclists?”
Fortunately, cyclists are permitted on most state roads throughout Utah. Prohibited roads include certain portions of Utah’s interstate highways (where cyclists can use alternative routes) as well as roads which are closed to non-motorized travel, like Bangerter Highway. However, cyclists can take I-80 up Parley’s Canyon, and are even allowed on certain segments of I-15 through the state. See https://www.utahbicyclelawyers.com/riding-restrictions-and-safety for a list of restricted roads.
Still, while cyclists may be permitted on most state roads, they may want to first consider whether safer alternate routes exist. UDOT has warned: “Only skilled cyclists who are confident of their abilities to maneuver under hazardous conditions should use interstate highways that are open to cyclists. If you are not a skilled cyclist, please consider a route that does not include interstate highways due to our higher motorized traffic speeds (Interstates are posted at 65 mph to 75 mph throughout Utah) and a high volume of large truck traffic.”
Some municipalities have gone a step further, providing cyclists with detailed maps of cycling routes available to them. For example, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County joined forces with UTA and UDOT to create a “Bikeways Map” which helps cyclists decide on the safest routes available to them by highlighting the roads and trails throughout the county available to cyclists. The Bikeways Map even designates routes by comfort level for cyclists’ usage – from “high comfort” to “extremely low comfort.” (See https://www.slc.gov/transportation/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2019/08/2019-Salt-Lake-City-and-Salt-Lake-County-Bikeways-Map.pdf or pick up a free map at any Salt Lake County bike shop).
We encourage all cyclists to take a few extra minutes to select their cycling routes by using the resources provided. A little extra planning and forethought can go a long way toward minimizing the risk of an accident and ensuring an enjoyable ride on one of Utah’s many scenic roadways.
Ken Christensen and Russ Hymas are avid cyclists and Utah attorneys at UtahBicycleLawyers.com. Their legal practice is devoted to helping cyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles. They are authors of the Utah Bicycle Accident Handbook and are nationally recognized legal experts on cycling laws and safety.