On Wednesday, KSL reported that 2022 has been the deadliest year in over a decade for bicyclists with 38 injured and 11 dead over the past seven months. These numbers have UDOT, according to KSL, “asking questions” and “Trying to figure out all the reasons why.”
In the report, UDOT blames speeding and distracted driving as the principal causes for the accidents, and to be sure, these activities are dangerous for everyone on the road and are only amplified when you aren’t protected by a steel cage.
But is it really all that difficult of a question for UDOT to figure out? A few screenshots from the report make the problem fairly obvious and are constant complaints from the bicycling community:
In the top image, the totality of information for drivers driving down this 4-lane highway that bikes might be on the road is a sign noting that the shoulder is a bike lane with an expanded shot below it showing that there isn’t even a painted bicyclist on the road to allert drivers.
In the third shot a car wizzes by at 40+ miles an hour alongside a 3-foot-wide bike lane whose protective features consist of whatever the road paint has to offer.
In the final shot UDOT Spokesman, John Gleason, stands in front of a bike lane, presumably to demonstrate UDOT is aware that bike lanes are a “thing” but, in the background, a large truck blocks the lane, forcing any bicyclist to have to go into traffic in order to pass.
Throughout the report, Gleason and by extension UDOT, take the approach that it is on the driver to be safe around bikes and that we should “train our minds to really look for a bicycle.” Though this is certainly true, UTRU would like to point out UDOT’s policy of keeping bikes safe from vehicles is very different from UDOT’s policy on keeping vehicles safe from other vehicles.
UDOT goes to great lengths and expenses to build barriers that can stop a vehicle going 70 miles an hour from crossing into oncoming traffic, redesigning intersections so that there are fewer conflict points, and, in recent years, gone so far as building a new stretch of freeway 3 lanes wide and 3.5 miles long (at a cost of $120 Million) to help prevent drivers from weaving in and out of traffic while, on Salt Lake County’s west side, has spent over $600 Million converting Bangerter Highway into a road that can maintain freeway speeds (again, in an attempt to reduce conflict points).
So, if UDOT doesn’t actually trust drivers around other drivers, does it honestly think that it can trust drivers around bicyclists?
The answer, of course, is that they don’t – but, UDOT’s “cars first, cars always” approach to transportation planning has resulted in unsafe roads for anyone who dares to use them with anything other than 4 wheels.
UTRU challenges Mr. Gleason, or anyone at UDOT really, to actually bike along the roads that have been designated by UDOT as a safe and designated space for a bike to use to see how many drivers actually “share the road” with bicyclists. We suspect that if they actually did they would probably start to rethink their infrastructure spending the second a person passes them at 50 miles an hour a few inches away from their handlebars. In the meantime, UTRU will continue to work with our community partners to raise awareness (and hell) about this issue so that we can make transit safer for all Utahns.
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