Riverdale OKs bicycle, pedestrian plan

Wednesday , June 04, 2014 - 5:44 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

RIVERDALE — While Riverdale is the first Weber County city to officially adopt a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian transportation plan using state guidelines, other northern Utah cities such as Ogden and Roy may not be far behind.

“Biking has become more important to families,” said Carol Coleman, a member of the Riverdale Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Committee who helped draft the plan. “This plan has really brought business and the community together.”

After years of study by the committee, the Riverdale City Council adopted the plan in April. The document will not only provide the city an inventory of current bicycle and pedestrian access routes, but guide the city in future funding and construction of more, said City Councilman Mike Staten.

Staten said the committee walked or rode every route detailed in the transportation plan, taking pictures and filling out inventory forms along the way. They made note of accident reports, missing infrastructure and safety hazards.

“It is an objective way of prioritizing Riverdale’s pedestrian and bicycling needs,” Staten said. “This is what works for Riverdale.”

The plan also gives the city negotiating power when dealing with the Utah Department of Transportation. Since Riverdale lies in the crossroads of many major thoroughfares including Interstate 15 and Interstate 84, the plan can be particularly helpful in providing bicycle and pedestrian access on state roads when a major construction project is under way. Without a city-adopted plan calling for pedestrian access, UDOT’s chance of providing such in future road plans diminishes, Staten said.

“With the completion of significant community projects including the senior center, the community center, the splash-pad and the Weber River Parkway, it is now timely and appropriate to shift focus to providing connectivity to these and other amenities for bicycle and pedestrian traffic,” according to the plan. “With continued attention to these goals, Riverdale will become a safer, friendlier, more livable community in which all appropriate modes of transportation are considered and accommodated to the benefit of the whole community.”

As the city contemplates future budgets, those who helped draft the plan hope officials will consider funding the projects outlined in the plan. Of course, those projects that are easy to do for a relatively low cost, or what Staten calls “low hanging fruit,” may be the first up. Even before the plan was officially adopted, the city chose to stripe 4400 South into Roy for a biking lane.

“Now you can get from Riverdale to the Roy pool on bicycle-friendly roads,” Staten said. “We can tell our teenage son he can ride there with his friends.”

Many of the proposed improvements outlined in the plan include simple signage and pavement markings. Others include more comprehensive physical improvements such as road widening, improved crossings, and sidewalk installation.

Pedestrian pathways can increase property value by as much as 10 percent, Staten said. But that is just one benefit, he said. With dedicated pedestrian and bicycle pathways, safety increases, the community becomes more active and connected, and the overall health of residents increases, Staten said. Businesses are now realizing the importance of catering to a biking and walking community, he said.

Trails are only effective if connected, Staten said. Therefore, the plan contemplates connection with trails and pathways in other cities.

“We are not isolated,” Staten said. “Our city is part of a network of trails.”

“Everybody ought to adopt a plan like Riverdale’s if they can,” said Norm Baker, another committee member. “We hope it can increase safety.”

Baker’s favorite pedestrian trail is the River trail near the city offices. He hopes the city’s newly adopted plan will alert Riverdale residents to the city’s many pedestrian options.

A map included in the plan and available on the city website details existing bicycle lanes and sidewalks, making it easy for navigating a pedestrian route through the city. The new bike page on the city website also provides links to Google Maps Bike Routes and MapMyRide to help bicyclists find a safe route through the bustling city.

“Destination and starting points such as park and schools are important,” Staten said. “These aren’t just pie in the sky ideas. Anybody in Riverdale can get anywhere” if they just know the route.

And Staten is actually putting the plan he helped develop to the test, including the education and outreach the planning commission asked the committee to include. He recently assisted with National Bike Week activities throughout the city including workshops, clinics, and a bike to work or school challenge.

It was a challenge he didn’t take lightly. Staten regularly bikes from his Riverdale home to his Layton place of employment. Bicycling only adds about 15 minutes to his commute time compared to driving in his car.

“Driving burns gas and spends money,” he said. “Bicycling burns fat and saves money, and makes me happy as I pedal away my frustrations.”

It is a lifestyle Staten embraced when he not only realized he was out of shape, but a friend his same age died. Propelled by preparing for a 100-mile ride with his siblings and father, Staten lost 45 pounds in eight months while his father lost about 100 pounds in the same time. He realized the city had to do more for its residents when, as a member of the planning committee, he was almost hit by a car while bicycling on 4400 South.

“I realized I was just one person, and needed more help with this health and safety issue,” Staten said. So, he helped organize a committee and start the formal process that culminated in the transportation plan, a plan he hopes will live on well into the future.

Staten said Norm Searle, Riverdale mayor, is one of the plan’s biggest proponents. Other city council members are climbing on board as well. Councilman Braden Mitchell recently won third place in the city bike to work challenge.

“People don’t realize how easy it is to ride to work,” Staten said.

The plan also considers city zoning ordinances that are “bicycle-friendly,” providing for indoor bike parking and showers in exchange for a reduction in required parking spaces. Restaurants could include well-lit bicycle parking near the main entrance and other businesses could consider secure bike parking or bicycle valet. Staten would like Riverdale to earn the designation as a bicycle-friendly community from the League of American Bicyclists.

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