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After Bike Summit, Councilmember Burton hopes for improved bike lanes in WJ

Apr 23, 2019 03:24PM ● By Erin Dixon

Councilmember Dirk Burton enjoys using his bike as transportation and is invested in changing the active transportation scene in West Jordan. (Photo courtesy Dirk Burton)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Seamless bike lanes, active transportation and space for vehicles: sounds like a pipe dream? Perhaps not, as various councils in Utah work together to build integrated lanes that are safe and efficient.

West Jordan Councilmember Dirk Burton attended the Bike Summit in Lehi, along with UDOT (Utah Department of Transportation), Bike Utah, and AASHTO (American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials), and other private individuals.

“Bicycling is getting more and more popular in the state of Utah,” Burton said. “The landscape has been changing, more bike lanes and that sort of thing, being desired by more people.” 

Some changes are already being made on the state level.

“UDOT has recently updated many of their traffic signals to now detect bikes,” Burton said. “You see the white square boxes on the poles, those are the new sensors. We don’t have to jump down and go push the walk button, or there were some people who would just go through the red light.”

Sometimes the designated lane is no more than a line on the edge of the road. The AASHTO has layouts that are safer and more efficient.

“[They have] a lot more options and variety of ways to do active transportation on our roads, more than just painting a line and putting a bike on it,” Burton said.

What does this mean for West Jordan?

“Since [the bike summit] I immediately held a meeting at West Jordan City Hall that included Wasatch Front Regional Council, UDOT, some people from Bike Utah and our traffic engineer,” Burton explained. “[We worked] on ways that we can coordinate our bike lanes. There is a county plan, there’s a Wasatch Front plan and we want to tie in to their plan so our bike lanes line up with our neighboring communities.”

“West Jordan has good north/south routes but we need to work on our east/west routes,” he continued. “We do have bike lanes on 9000 and 7800 but we would like to be able to connect Mountain View trails with Jordan River trails.”

The demand for bike and other modes of transportation (active lanes) is increasing.

“More people are biking than ever before and so we’re trying to accommodate those,” Burton said. “They do it for environmental reasons and some do it for health reasons and some do it just because they enjoy bicycling.”

However, putting more bikes on the road to ease the pollution from cars is a double-edged sword. 

“[T]hat’s good and bad at the same time, because we’re putting bicyclists out there breathing the air that’s put out from cars,” Burton said. “But the one bicyclist we put on the road plus cars on the road will help the environment.”

Bikes and cars sharing the road can slow traffic and there is always a risk a biker takes when integrating into regular traffic.

“The idea of active transportation is not to get in the way of regular traffic but to let regular traffic do its thing,” Burton said.

State and local governments are increasing their efforts to make an integrated system that makes sense for everyone. Because UDOT is already working to improve the active transportation, there are current funds that cities can use in their own projects. 

Senate Bill 72 was passed during this legislative session. It allows money to be spent through the Transportation Investment Fund.

“UDOT has a goal to include active transportation every time they do a project. However, that goal has been more of a guideline...in the past. There has been money the legislature has set aside to put into active transportation and so we need to put that in our goal because there is money there, so it won’t cost us extra,” Burton said.  

“The Governor wants to see 1,000 miles of bike trails in the state,” he continued. “That’s a goal he’s put out so people like me that are bicyclists like that idea and are willing to help the Governor reach his goal.”