OGDEN -- Cyclists and pedestrians in the state have a new ally.
The Wasatch Front Regional Council, the state's long-range transportation planning arm, has created an "Active Transportation Committee."
The new committee is composed of elected officials, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Transit Authority and Utah Department of Health and will be chaired by Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs.
WFRC spokesman Sam Klemm said the new committee will focus on needs and policy recommendations for pedestrian and bicycle facilities and other alternative transportation modes across the Wasatch Front.
"Their policy recommendations will be made to the regional council as they consider future updates to the transportation system," Klemm said.
Downs said the new committee makes sense from multiple angles.
First and foremost is the increasing concern across the country about negative health impacts from inactivity, she said.
Downs said active transportation planning and things like bicycle lanes, trails and pedestrian walkways will encourage people to be more physically active and use their bodies when making short trips, instead of their vehicles.
"Having those options is the first step to get people moving," she said. "It's important for people to have that choice. Until now, there has been no organized forum at the regional level to discuss these issues."
Downs said active transportation provides more than just personal health benefits, noting that traffic safety can be enhanced if the needs of multiple users are considered in the design and construction of streets.
She also said traffic congestion can be reduced and air quality can be improved if people have transportation options other than driving.
"The benefits are pretty much endless," Downs said. "We know roads and transit are vital, but when we're planning, everything needs to come to the table."
Klemm said the new committee will be studying the need for alternative transportation facilities and policies during the coming year.
All interested parties are invited to contact the WFRC for further information or visit their website at www.wfrc.org.