SALT LAKE CITY — Have you noticed an unusual amount of people biking and walking through Salt Lake City?
It’s not your imagination — with the coronavirus outbreak leaving so many people working from home, laid off from their jobs or confined to their county during their free time, the city’s bike lanes, sidewalks and public spaces are more crowded.
So on Monday, Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall unveiled the “stay safe, stay active streets” initiative, which seeks to expand the network of bike and pedestrian lanes throughout the city and make existing streets more recreation friendly.
Residents can now fill out a survey on the city’s website, which asks them to choose three favorites from the over 15 identified routes, including 800 East, 600 East, 700 South, Kensington Avenue, 4th Avenue and more. As of Tuesday morning, 3,000 residents had responded to the survey.
Mendenhall told the Deseret News on Tuesday she hopes the plan will allow Utahns to recreate and exercise while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“People were asking us to consider something like this even before the survey,” she said. “We know that our parks and trails and open spaces are in incredibly high demand right now, and probably will continue to be as spring comes along. And we want to give people the opportunity to recreate safely, but that means having enough space to keep a distance.”
With the survey closing midnight on Sunday, Mendenhall said the city could implement some of the changes as early as the following Friday, although it’s still too soon to know which streets will be included in the program.
“We’ll be evaluating those results at the beginning of next week and we could take action rather quickly,” she said.
If you live on one of the identified streets, fear not — the city isn’t closing any roads. Instead, the streets in question will be restricted to local traffic only, with signs redirecting through traffic and asking people to slow down. Residents can still park outside their homes, packages will still be delivered and emergency vehicles can still access the neighborhood.
For roads with multiple lanes like 900 South, one lane would be closed for recreation, similar to a construction zone.
While “stay safe, stay active streets” is in response to the coronavirus pandemic and will expire May 10 along with Salt Lake City’s current emergency declaration, Mendenhall does have plans to make the city more bike friendly. Step one, she said, is updating the city’s 20-year-old master transportation plan.
“Our transportation network is multimodal now in a way that I think wasn’t anticipated when that plan was created 23 years ago,” she said. “That also includes electric scooters, it definitely includes bikes, and it will probably include other modes of transportation we haven’t contemplated yet.”