MILLCREEK — Salt Lake County introduced its Bicycle Ambassador Program Wednesday, calling it an answer for would-be bicycle riders nervous about taking busy streets to work, school or mass transit hubs.
The new program, introduced at the Bonneville Shoreline Trailhead, is composed of 11 experienced bicyclists, or “ambassadors” who will educate potential riders about the benefits, logistics and safety measures of bike commuting. Ambassadors will ride with residents for in-person training, publicize information about urban and suburban bike routes, organize community bike trips and promote bike commuting at county events.
“It’s going to educate those who are ready and willing to try (commuter biking),” said George Deniris, acting transportation coordinator for Salt Lake County. “Most people know how to ride a bike, but most of us don’t know how to ride using our current infrastructure," he said.
Jack Lasley, the new program’s coordinator, said a lot of residents want the benefits of bicycle commuting but never get around to it because they feel too self-conscious.
“It’s the little things, like knowing how to put their bike on the (bus or train) rack for example,” Lasley said. “They don’t want to look silly.”
Several American cities have adopted bicycle ambassador initiatives in recent years, including Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Salt Lake County’s is the first in Utah and the first to be implemented across more than a city hub, according to Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
“Not only is it cost-effective, but it promotes a healthy lifestyle and increases air quality,” McAdams said. “Building roads is also expensive. The more people who can use alternative transportation — it actually saves tax dollars.”
In November, the county’s Bike Advisory Committee began considering an ambassadors program to dovetail with other alternative transportation projects around the city. Much of the Wasatch Front has undergone major infrastructure changes recently, including the completion of the I-15 CORE project and addition of the FrontRunner line in 2012, and the new airport TRAX line and GREENbike sharing initiative in 2013.
“We’re at a tipping point where we’re recognizing the importance of integrating all modes of transportation, not having distinctive transportation modes but integrating them and … easily switching from one to the other,” McAdams said.
The county plans to recruit 10 additional skilled bicyclists to become ambassadors by the end of May.