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Utah is a safe bicycling state – but there is room to improve

Whether cyclists are pedaling for their morning commute or for recreation, they deserve to be safe on the road. And while Utah is ahead of most states regarding bicycle safety, there are still improvements to make.

The League of American Bicyclists ranks all 50 states for bicycle safety and creates a report card highlighting the state’s strengths and weaknesses. As of the most recent data in 2017, Utah ranks No. 8 in the nation. Utah has been a Top 10 state for three of the past 10 years.

Utah’s report card strengths are in Education & Encouragement (No. 10), Evaluation & Planning (No. 8) and Legislation & Enforcement (No. 7). Utah has implemented four of the five of the league’s Bicycle Friendly Actions, which are:

  • A Complete Streets law or policy
  • A safe passing law of at least three feet
  • Statewide bike plan for the last 10 years
  • Bicycle Safety Emphasis Area

Potential to rank higher

However, there are several reasons Utah does not rank higher. One of which is the only Bicycle Friendly Action the state has not implemented: spending two percent or more of federal funds on bicycling and pedestrians. For this reason, Utah ranks No. 19 in Infrastructure & Planning. The league would like to see additional resources and staffing at the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) for implementing bicycle-related projects.

“While there are caveats that come with data on the use of federal transportation funds, including the difficulty of reporting complete streets-related bicycle projects, Utah’s federal spending on bicycling and walking is conspicuously low – low enough that the caveats likely do not negate the reported low level of spending,” the report card says.

The category where Utah scores the lowest is Policies & Programs, ranking at No. 23. Two potential areas for improvement in this category are:

  • UDOT and municipalities taking an active role in building protected and separated infrastructure to accommodate more cyclists: protected bike lanes, safe rural bicycling routes and more.
  • Providing specific training to engineers and planners on how to plan, design and implement said infrastructure

Utah currently experiences 4.9 fatalities per 10,000 bicycle commuters, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and implementing better policies and programs could help reduce this rate. With these changes, Utah may someday enter the Top 5 in bicycle safety. 

 

 

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