Bicyclists rally for safety | ParkRecord.com

Bicyclists rally for safety

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Michael Loveland’s assignment on Monday: make sure a group of bicyclists is safe as they ride through the eastern parts of the Snyderville Basin.

He is a sergeant with the Utah Highway Patrol and is assigned to escort the bicyclists as they take a memorial ride and advocate safety between bicyclists and drivers.

Loveland says the area’s highways could be safer for bicyclists but he is impressed anyway. Even with the potential hazards, he says, there are few problems.

"I think, considering the amount of construction, the amount of cars and the amount of cyclists, it’s quite safe," Loveland says.

The bicyclists gather outside of Cole Sport, at the high-profile intersection of Park Avenue and Deer Valley Drive. About 150 riders, dressed in bicycle gear and of various ages, set off, forming a swarm of Lycra-clad, helmet-wearing people heading into the traffic of the West Side.

The ride, though, represents more than an outing by the bicyclists. Bicycle safety has long been of concern in the area. Traffic is getting worse, many people say, heightening the worries, and there have been several high-profile accidents involving bicyclists, either occurring in Summit County or involving local people.

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Loveland suggests drivers be more aware, more patient and more understanding when bicyclists are nearby. Drivers, according to his observations, are more often at fault when there are close calls.

"Most of the time, people are pretty good," Loveland says.

The riders complete a 17-mile loop, heading from Cole Sport to S.R. 248, east on their way out of Park City. They ride to Silver Summit, visiting some of the neighborhoods in the eastern Snyderville Basin before they return to Cole Sport.

The ride is scheduled as talks continue about ways to make the area safer for bicyclists and others not driving cars. At City Hall, a consultant did a wide-ranging study and recommended a series of upgrades. Park City officials are considering some of the work as they finalize City Hall’s budget.

Bicyclist and pedestrian safety, unexpectedly, became a significant issue for the local government and activists have pressed for improvements.

Carol Potter, who leads Mountain Trails Foundation, a not-for-profit advocacy group, says the efforts have been successful. She says people in the Park City area are supportive.

"We’re on a roll. We’re definitely on a bikeable, walkable community roll," Potter says, adding the trend is occurring elsewhere in the nation. "It’s just starting."

Potter, though, says the activists hope more signs are put up urging bicyclists and drivers to respect each other. The signs are part of what has been dubbed the ‘Share the Road’ campaign.

"It could be safer — bike lanes all over, more awareness," Potter says. "Bikes have to respect cars. Cars have to respect bikes. It’s a two-way street."

Scott Dudevoir, who organized the Monday ride, agrees with Potter, saying drivers and bicyclists must be aware. He says bicyclists, for instance, should ride single file when they are on a road and drivers should give the cyclists enough room and slow down if needed.

"Motorists need to be aware they have a brake pedal and they can use it," he says.

In the past year, Dudevoir says, bicyclists and drivers are following rules more often.

Loveland, the Highway Patrol sergeant, describes a state law that requires drivers give bicyclists three feet of clearance when they pass.

"Most of the time, people are pretty good at it," Loveland says.