Anyone who has ventured to ride the roads and trails of Utah knows that what goes up eventually goes down. So while Utah previously climbed to a 23rd place ranking on the League of American Bicyclists ranking of biking-friendly states, this year, it fell 8 places to 31st.
The League’s ranking is based on each state’s efforts to improve cycling infrastructure as well as funding and programs, so the state’s slip may be more a case of other states’ improvements, rather than a true decline in Utah. “That could be part of it,” Evelyn Tuddenham, Utah Department of Transportation’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator told BikeRadar, but she says that funding actually played the biggest role.
“We spoke with the league about what played into that blip,” said Tuddenham, “ and it really had to do with our [lack of dispersing] enhancement funds.”
She said that the state’s department of transportation hadn’t put any funds into bicycle and pedestrian enhancement, but that they didn’t do anything with any funds for 2011. The state is looking to start to take applications and that money will be allocated in 2013.
The ranking is a statewide average, and currently two Utah cities are still on the Bicycle Friendly Community list; Salt Lake City earned a silver rating, and Park City took a bronze designation. Other cities in Utah remain ‘bike friendly destinations’ thanks to historically popular mountain bike spots including Moab, St. George and Ogden.
Tuddenham says that riders should also consider what the state has done recently. “If you look at the number of bicycle related projects the state has implemented since 2008 it is well over 85 projects,” she said. “Some of them are quite extensive.”
This year the state is also creating a multi-media campaign to encourage drivers and riders alike to share the road. This Road Respect will be kicked off with the Road Respect Tour, which starts on June 13 in Logan in the north east corner of the state, and that ends on June 18 in Hurricane in the south west corner.
The core ride will consist of 25 riders and will follow up with a media campaign. “There will be events all along the way,” says Tuddenham, “where contingents from the cities come to ride with us.”
Tuddenham spoke with BikeRadar while will still scouting out the final locations, and she says the goal is to make things better in the state. Her only complaint is that she’s doing the scouting from behind the wheel, instead of on two. “I’ve been driving, and here I am seeing the bicycle infrastructure first hand,” she said. “I’ve been very impressed with the number of cyclists I’ve been seeing.”