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BICYCLE `FANATIC’ PEDDLES PEDALING

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Roley Pearson has been a "fanatic" about bicycling for 30 years. Lately, he's noticed, he has more company on the roads.

Nationally, the number of people bicycling for recreation and commuting has doubled in the past seven years. Locally, too, biking is becoming increasingly popular. Dwight Butler, owner of Wasatch Touring, reports steady gains in bicycle sales every year.Pearson is a member of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee in Salt Lake City. The volunteer group has been meeting for five years to gather information and citizen input and devise a master plan for bike routes.

"In 1988 there were 20 million American adults biking regularly," Pearson reports. "There were only 27 million commuters.

"Suppose if all the people who bike for exercise decided to ride to work - we'd save a lot of air pollution. It'd be amazing!"

Pearson is big on commuter biking. He is a manager in a factory eight miles from his house and serves on many volunteer committees. He uses bike lanes nine months out of the year for almost all of his traveling.

"I'm not a recreational bicyclist," he says. "I use a bike for transportation and for health, environmental and cost reasons. Bikes are very inexpensive. They are easy to park. I don't have to worry about traffic jams, I just cruise right through.

"We are fighting air pollution in this valley. Because bicycles don't pollute, I think they should be given every advantage that will encourage their use. My preference is Class II routes, bicycle lanes painted on the street. As soon as they are on a separate lane, like a little road, bicyclists lose the right of way at every intersection, every driveway.

"Also, a bike lane on the street tends to be cleaner because cars drive over it. You can maintain your speed," he says.

"The average commuting cyclist goes 15 mph. If there are no stop signs you can average 18 or 20 mph for long distances."

That speed will make bicycles very competitive in the not-too-distant future as freeway congestion gets worse. "The prediction is that, by the year 2020, the average speed on the Seattle freeway will be 20 mph 24 hours a day.

"Locally, some city streets at times move at speeds under 8 mph," he says.

He has more statistics. "If you can convert 2.5 percent of all automobile traffic to bikes, you get a 5 percent decrease in pollution."

His goal for his city is this: "I envision a bike lane on every downtown street. In the fringe areas and out in the neighborhoods, every other street should have lanes.

"You should be able to get anywhere in Salt Lake City on a bicycle."