A cyclist on almost a daily basis — no matter the season — Becka Roolf serves as the bicycle & pedestrian coordinator for the Salt Lake City Division of Transportation. Her goal is to make the city more bike-friendly.
Why is a bike czar important?
Bicycling and walking is a sound investment. There are many costs associated with a lack of physical activity—obesity, increased health-care costs. This is how we combat it on the front side. Also, last summer had a taste of rising gas prices. I see it as an economic issue.
How can Salt Lake City be more bike aware?
Wide streets are an opportunity to re-prioritize space. We are looking for streets where we can fit in bike lanes. A current trend is taking a four-lane road down to three lanes. Everyone wins because motorists are less likely to get rear-ended, pedestrians have crosswalks, and bicyclists have their own space. I like it when bicycles are treated as vehicles.
Also, I hope to create bicycle boulevards. This treatment restricts car traffic on quiet through-streets and efficiently helps bicyclists get across to busy streets.
What are the top three issues in bicycle safety?
First: Motorists have an understanding of bicycles in traffic, and vice versa.
Second: Public right of ways — streets are designed well around the car, moderately with pedestrians, but bicycles have been the invisible vehicle.
Third: Visibility — awareness and making yourself seen with lights and bright colors.
Are you in favor of the proposed bike yield law?
Idaho does this. The proposal has cyclists treating stop signs as yields, but traffic signals would still hold. It would be particularly helpful at stop signs, recognizing the mechanism of balance—the difference in operating a bike versus a car. Whatever happens, I support cyclists following the law.
Have you ever experienced biking road rage?
Whether biking, driving or walking, there is an opportunity to create friction.
Motorists are afraid of hitting a bicyclist. That fear can turn to aggression.
I am particularly displeased when going 23 [miles per hour] and the speed limit is 25, and a motorist cuts me off. A little patience can go a long way. But, I see bicyclists run red lights—I’m not particularly pleased then, either.
How about DUI laws and bicyclists?
Certainly, you are placing yourself at risk over others. Research has shown that alcohol has played a factor in a number of bike fatalities. But there is even a risk to drunk walking. I don’t drink and bike—I haven’t had to put a Breathalyzer on my handlebars.
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