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Guest opinion: A bike lane for the Alpine Loop

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An ariel view of the mountains and Utah Lake from Alpine Loop in Alpine, Utah on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

An ariel view of the mountains and Utah Lake from Alpine Loop in Alpine, Utah on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

Scott Taylor

Yet another tragedy has occurred on the Alpine Loop, and it’s time to find a permanent solution. The Alpine Loop is a 20-mile stretch of paved road connecting American Fork Canyon with Provo Canyon through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. On June 30, a utility task vehicle headed from the direction of Provo was driving on the Alpine Loop around a curve with limited sight when it hit a cyclist who was making his way down in the opposite direction. The cyclist was struck, airlifted to the hospital, and is still recovering from significant head, neck and back injuries. The Alpine Loop needs a bike lane.

According to Utah’s 2016 Crash Summary, an average of 680 bicyclists are injured in crashes with motor vehicles each year in Utah but fewer than 6% of those accidents happen when there is a bike lane present. A dedicated lane on the Alpine Loop, an area beloved by Sunday drivers and cyclists alike, would dramatically reduce the risk of incidents while allowing both motor vehicles and cyclists to more safely access its beauty. It seems negligent not to make this critical safety investment to an area that is so highly trafficked and appreciated by local taxpayers.

While certainly helpful, bike lanes aren’t just a convenience for cyclists. Designated bike lanes significantly reduce stress for drivers who worry about navigating roads shared with cyclists, particularly narrow ones like portions of the Alpine Loop. After creating over 30 miles of bike lanes, the New York Department of Transportation concluded that total injuries involving motor vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists had dropped by 20%.

Some might argue that adding a bike lane would be an unnecessary use of taxpayers’ dollars, particularly for those who don’t utilize the Alpine Loop. This is a reasonable contention; however, an accident can have far-reaching effects, tragically touching the lives of family, friends, employees and community members, whether they’re cyclists or not. In the case of the cyclist injured in June, his accident has had widespread repercussions in his social, work and church circles. Decreasing the number of accidents on the Alpine Loop is a boost to everyone’s quality of life and peace of mind.

The Alpine Loop is “easily the most popular scenic drive on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest” according to the U.S. Forest Service, and “one of Utah’s most-loved rides for road cyclists,” as stated by the “Visit Utah” tourist website. One of the reasons people choose to live in Utah is to access the abundance of its outdoor activities. Given how much we value our recreational lifestyle here, isn’t it time we spend just a little bit to make it as safe as possible for all of us? A bike lane will allow the beautiful sights, recreation and drives to be enjoyed safely by all parties, be they in a car or on a bike.

We need a bike lane along the Alpine Loop. How many more accidents involving cyclists and motor vehicles do we need to see before we’re willing to demand a change?