Byways benefit Salt Lake City Neighborhoods

For nearly a decade, Salt Lake City has been steadily growing a national reputation as a bike-friendly city.

And in place where the population is growing and air quality is a concern, it only makes sense. Current and future streets need to make room for more than just cars. 

“Expanding transportation options makes us a more resilient City,” said Will Becker, a planner in the city’s Transportation Division. “It helps us better adapt to growth, address air quality challenges, and provides equitable access to our streets.”

The city’s biking profile rise first got a kickstart from former mayor and bicycling enthusiast Ralph Becker, whose official city portrait includes his bike. He encouraged the addition of bike-friendly street upgrades across the city, a policy priority carried on by those that followed him into the office: Mayors Jackie Biskupski and Erin Mendenhall. 

One tool used by the city to enhance its growing reputation is the neighborhood byway, a type of street design that’s specifically intended to improve residents’ mobility options.  Their use was recommended as part of the 2015 Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan that is now shaping neighborhoods across the city.

Byways provide convenient connections to neighborhood destinations like schools, shopping, parks, transit and transportation corridors, said Will Becker, who was hired by the city in 2018 and whose father is the former bike-loving mayor.

With features like slower traffic speeds, high-visibility crosswalks, flashing crosswalk beacons, the byway goal is to increase street safety and usability for bicyclists, pedestrians and those who use or rely on mobility devices like scooters or wheelchairs. 

“Providing safe and convenient opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to walk and bicycle in their neighborhood is a byway priority,” Will Becker said. “It enhances the quality of life for residents and supports broader city goals such as equity and sustainability.”

Byway routes are identified in the 2015 plan. In choosing the locations for the byways, Salt Lake City looked for areas that have lower vehicle traffic, direct connections, neighborhoods with street characteristics making driving fast unsafe and uncomfortable. Tree-lined streets that offer shade for users and community input are also key factors in decision-making. 

Numerous surveys and community outreach events were used in drafting the 2015 plan and that work continues with each new street design proposal.

“Listening to residents and understanding their needs and challenges is an important part of the planning process,” Becker said.”

As a street design concept, byways are nothing new. Many U.S. cities includes byways — sometimes called neighborhoods greenways or bicycle boulevards — into their mobility networks.

“As Transportation Director Jon Larsen often says, ‘walking and bicycling are the original form of transportation,’” said Becker said. “So ,in that sense, byways are a return to how streets were once built.”

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