OPINION — Road cycling is one of the most popular sports in St George. However, although our city does have bike lanes implemented on some of the major roadways, these bike lanes do not provide the level of quality and support that they should to protect the cyclist and consequently, the community.

For illustrative purposes only | iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

High quality bike lanes, such as those that have protective barriers and are raised from the level of the road, have been shown to decrease injuries and deaths and provide multiple benefits to the community and individual cyclists.

An enormous amount of research indicates there are significant environmental, economic and long-term community health benefits when more people have access to cycling for transport. Longitudinal studies report that riding a bicycle decreases mortality for riders by 30-40% and lowers CVD risk. Cycling for transport contributes to zero carbon emissions, job growth and economic growth in tourism, shared micro-mobility, goods delivery and street vending, etc.

Additionally, researchshows that when any bike lanes are implemented, more people in the community choose to cycle outside (see Salt Lake City’s 50-mile bikeway expansion data).

Among issues cited by community members of St George is that cyclists should be held accountable for failing to abide by the rules of the road. Some argue that perceived safety often misleads cyclists, pointing to concerns about overall safety for the cyclist.

Then-St. George Mayor Jon Pike kicked off the inaugural bike ride during a two-day demonstration project to evaluate a protected bicycle lane on South Main Street. St. George, Utah, Oct. 22, 2019 | Photo by David Louis St. George News

The bike lanes we currently have on our St. George streets do not provide sufficient protection for the cyclist, with consequences weighing heavily on both the motorist and the cyclist. It is easy for motorists to be unaware of the cyclists when the bike lanes are simply painted on the road. Sometimes not clearly visible, the paths suddenly end with no clear connections leading to a safer route. Additionally, if cyclists are not adhering to road-cycling rules of the road, they face much higher physical risks.

As a citizen of St George and a cyclist, I propose that high quality bike lanes should be installed on all of the major roads in St George and videography implemented on all the major intersections (where most of the injuries and accidents occur). With the support of videography on the major intersections where the bike lanes are maintained, research has indicated that fewer injuries to cyclists occur, while higher-quality bike lanes provide a natural incentive for more people to cycle for transport.

I also propose that road cyclists should be required to gain a specialized license that allows them to ride on the road, supporting a thorough understanding of cycling rules of the road and providing city funds for the installation of high-quality bike lanes. Furthermore, cyclists should be at risk for infraction citations if they fail to abide by the cycling rules of the road, providing a higher level of safety for the cyclist and the motorist alike.

Given the overwhelming evidence in support of high-quality cycling infrastructure for any large city like ours, incentives for obtaining a road-cycling license make sense. One incentive could be lowering motor vehicle registration costs, and another could be the issuing of tax credits related to environmental and economic benefits to the city of St George.

Road cycling infrastructure brings with it its own risks and challenges, with lower-quality infrastructure leading to more risks and challenges. However, taking into consideration the overwhelmingly positive impact the installation of high-quality cycling infrastructure has on economic development, as well as environmental and community health benefits, I argue that changes to our current infrastructure in St George should be considered.

High-quality bike lanes should be installed (such as bike lanes raised from the road with protective barriers surrounding it) on all the major streets, with videography installed on all the major intersections where the bike lanes are maintained, and changes to implement a licensing and incentive program to obtain a road-cycling license should be considered.

Submitted by SAMANTHA AIKEN, St. George, road-cycling advocate

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