This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Frustration rises as motorists and people riding bicycles vie for road space in the canyons, where roadway shoulders are often too narrow to ride safely, and the travel lanes are not wide enough for riders and motorists to share.
Symptoms are being mistaken as the cause when Emigration Canyon residents ask Salt Lake County to pass an ordinance requiring bicyclists to ride single file in the canyon.
Riding single file is the courteous thing to do when bicyclists impede traffic, and conforms to Utah law ("Ride no more than two abreast [on the roadway] and then only if you would not impede traffic (41-6a-1105)). As with all slower traffic, people riding bikes should move to the side of the road when safe to do so, allowing motorists to pass.
As in most states, under Utah law bicycles are vehicles and have access to the roadway. Safe riding practice dictates that people ride near the center of the travel lane under a canyon's narrow roadway conditions to avoid hazards at the roadway's edge.
Hazards include rough road edges, debris in the shoulders including rock and dirt sloughing from the canyon walls parked car doors being opened and vehicles entering the roadway from side roads, businesses and driveways, etc.
Numerous bicycling guidelines from the Uniform Vehicle Code to the League of American Bicyclists recommend riding near the center of the lane under these circumstances. The Cycling Merit Badge Book of the Boy Scouts of America states:
"On roadways [with] ... narrow lanes ... ride in the middle of the right lane at all times. Drivers need to get the idea that they must move into the passing lane if they want to pass you. In narrow-lane conditions riding all the way to the right invites a car to try passing you in the same lane, possibly forcing you off the road."
Rather than being hidden at the edge of the roadway, people riding in the travel lane are visible to motorists. Because the safest riding position is near the center of the lane, it makes little difference whether people are riding single file or two abreast in the canyon.
The solution requires widening the shoulder to provide separate bike lanes meeting the minimum five-foot recommended standard so that riders and motorists can "share the road" safely. Over the years there have been many recommendations to improve Emigration Canyon bike lanes, including the Emigration Canyon Trails Master Plan adopted by the county in 2007.
Funding bicycle lane improvements benefits all road users. Motorists will especially benefit from separating the slower traffic of people riding, roller skiing, jogging, etc., onto a dedicated bike lane.
Conflicts will persist until Salt Lake County develops better bicycling infrastructure in Emigration Canyon to improve public safety and traffic flow.
Chad Mullins chairs the Salt Lake County Bicycle Advisory Committee. Website: http://www.bicycle.slco.org/