Canadian Bikin’: Lessons From Vancouver

Last month, Bike Utah presented about Mobile Active Transportation Tours and the Active Transportation Benefits Study at the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place Conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver is often listed in the top ten as one of the most livable cities in the world.

Prior to arriving in Vancouver, I hadn’t done much pre-trip research about what to see and do or the environment for bicycling. To say that I was “pleasantly surprised” would be a drastic understatement. Upon returning to Utah, I mentioned to a friend, “it’s the closest you can get to having a European bicycle riding experience in North America.”

Of all the things bicycle-related that I saw and experienced in Vancouver, I have distilled them down into three major themes:


Make it Safe

Vancouver has truly created a low-stress bicycle network that anyone from 8 years old to 80 years old can take advantage of. The vast majority of their infrastructure is made up of protected bicycle lanes, bicycle boulevards, and multi-use pathways. In addition to separating cars and bicycles, Vancouver has also made every effort to separate people on bicycle from pedestrians. Most of the multiuse pathways have dedicated lanes for both users, which helps to improve flow and increases safety.


Make it Easy

Creating a bicycle network that is easy can refer to two things. First, it should allow anyone to get from Point A to Point B without having to look at a map or ask directions and without unintentionally getting off of their desired route. Second, making an easy network means that bicycling is the easiest and fastest way to get around. Again, Vancouver has both of these areas covered. Wayfinding throughout the city is top notch and on virtually every street and path. Even the street signs have a symbol indicating if that particular street contains bicycle infrastructure. In terms of making it the easiest and fastest way to get around, Vancouver has employed vehicle diverters on many streets. However, at these junctions, people on bicycle are still able to pass through the intersection. These diverters have multiple positive impacts: slower vehicle speeds; lower traffic volumes; and it makes the bicycle more competitive when it comes to travel time.


Make it Quantifiable

I can easily say that, in two days of riding, I crossed more bicycle counters in Vancouver than I have over the course of the rest of my life combined. Every path and bike lane seemed to have counters installed at half-mile to one-mile intervals. Most of the counters were loops installed into the pavement; a few had displays that showed how many bicyclists had crossed that location during the day; and many of them also had a secondary tube counter to verify that the loops were getting accurate counts.

The counts are great to have in their own right to show the widespread use of their infrastructure. However, the true benefit of having such a widespread system is that it allows the jurisdiction that oversees the bicycle infrastructure to determine the impact of changes and how bicycle infrastructure can maximize usage. Similar concepts have been applied to motor vehicles for decades and it necessary to start utilizing data-driven decision making as it applies to bicycle infrastructure.


Is it Working?

One of the sessions I attended at the conference was by a staff member from the Vancouver City Planning Office. Through their Greenest City Action Plan, Vancouver set a goal of over 50% of trips by bicycling, walking, and public transit by 2020. As of April 2015 they had already attained this goal and were on their way to the next goal of 2/3 of their trips by 2040. All in all, Vancouver is setting the standard for what it means to be a bicycle friendly city.

Sharing the Road: Your Biking Rights in Utah

Cyclists in Utah have the same rights AND responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles on the roadways. In order to safely share the road and avoid a bicycle accident, cyclists and drivers of motor vehicles need to understand the rights and responsibilities that they share. Utah has 16 bicycle safety laws that delineate your rights on the road.

  1. First and foremost, cyclists need to understand that their bicycles are considered “vehicles” under the law. Cyclists are subject to the same laws as an operator of any other vehicle.
  2. Cyclists are required to follow all traffic signals. (41-6a- 305)
  3. Like the law above, cyclists must also obey stop and yield signs. (41-6a- 902)
  4. All other official traffic control devices need to be observed by any biker. (41-6a- 208)
  5. Utah’s bicycle safety laws require cyclists to ride in the same direction as traffic (41-6a- 1105)
  6. Maintain brakes that can stop you within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour. (41-6a-1113)
  7. If you are going to ride your bicycle earlier than a half hour before sunrise, later than a half hour after sunset, or in any other conditions where visibility is difficult, cyclists are required to have a white headlight, red taillight or reflector and side reflectors that are visible for at least 500 feet.
  8. One of the most important safety laws prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle near a bicycle (41-61- 706.5). Specifically, the law states that an operator of a motor vehicle MAY NOT operate a motor vehicle within three feet of a moving bicycle.
  9. Similarly, Utah’s bicycle safety laws require motorists, as well as cyclists, to give signal of an

intention to turn right or left or change lanes for at least two seconds preceding the beginning of

the movement (41-6a- 804).

10. Further, a person operating a bicycle or motor vehicle may not stop suddenly or rapidly

decrease speed without first giving an appropriate signal to the operator of any bicycle or motor

vehicle to the rear (41-61- 804). The bicycle safety law spell out the various hand and arm signals

that should be used to indicate change in direction and/or speed and prohibits the “flashing” of

a signal. Instead, it requires that the signal be given at least 2 seconds prior to the movement.

11. Cyclists may ride no more than two abreast and only if it does not impede traffic (41-6a- 1105).

12. Cyclists must also ride as far to the right as possible except when passing, preparing to turn left,

traveling in a narrow lane, avoiding unsafe conditions on the right hand edge of the roadway or

going through an intersection past a right turn only lane. (41-6a- 1105).

13. Cyclists may NOT have a siren or a whistle on their bikes. (41-6a- 1113).

14. Cyclists, just like motorists, are required to yield to pedestrians and are further required to use

care and safe speeds to avoid collisions (41-6a- 1106).

15. Cyclists may not carry anything that prevents using both hands to control their bike and the law

requires cyclists to keep one hand on the handlebars at all times (41-6a- 1112).

16. Finally, it is important to know that under Utah’s bicycle safety laws, peace officers have the

right to require cyclists to stop and submit their bicycles for an inspection if the officer has

reasonable cause to believe that the bike is unsafe or not equipped correctly according to the

law (41-6a- 1110).

As responsible cyclists, we must do our part to stay safe and avoid collisions with motor vehicles. In

order to accomplish that objective, it is our obligation and legal requirement to comply with Utah’s

bicycle safety laws. These laws are in place for our protection as we venture onto Utah’s roadways to

share the road with motorists. My advice to all fellow cyclists is to make it a priority to learn the laws,

follow them, and have a safe ride! To find out more about Utah’s biking laws and regulations, check out Utah Code Section 41-6a- 10 et seq.

Courtesy of Jacquellyn D. Carmichael

How To Avoid a Bicycle Accident

1: Take Advantage of Bicycle Friendly Lanes

Did you know that there are over 150 miles of bicycle lanes and trails in Salt Lake City? While a bicyclist can legally use any city street in Salt Lake, some roads are more geared towards cyclists than others. If possible, it is always best to plan out your route before you leave home so you can take advantage of using bike friendly lanes.

You can view a map of the Salt Lake City bikeways on or pick up a free printed map at the Transportation Division Office at 349 South 200 East, Suite 150.

You can also put in your route on Google Maps and use their “bicycle” roads feature to see which roads and routes are most bike friendly.


2: Stay Visible

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32% of bicycle accidents happen between 8:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. Because of this heightened risk, it is required by law to equip your bike with lights during nighttime.

A set of front and rear lights can be purchased at your local bike shop for under $25 and will make your more visible to cars at night.


3. Use the Whole Lane (when appropriate)

It’s often safer to take the whole lane, or at least ride a bit to left, rather than hug the right curb. Here’s why:

-Cars at intersections in front you can see you better if you’re in center

-Claiming the lane prevents cars from passing you too closely on narrow roads

-Riding a bit to left prevents you from being doored by a person exiting their vehicle


Fortunately a lot of the bike lanes in SLC are bicycle-only, but when you’re using a shared lane don’t be afraid to use the entire lane.


4. Anticipate Drivers’ Next Moves

Avoid the “right cross”, which is the most common way to get hit (or almost get hit.) This is where a car is pulling out of a side street, parking lot, or driveway on the right.

First try and make eye contact with the driver. If you can’t, wave your arm and try to gain their attention. You will also be more visible to the driver by riding further to the left in your lane. If the driver still doesn’t see you, you are able to go even farther left to avoid getting hit.


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What to do if you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident

Bicycle accidents are more common than you might think. According to one study published by the Utah Department of Health, more than 20,000 bicyclists in the state were injured or killed over a four-year period in collisions with motor vehicles. If you are one of the unfortunate bicyclists involved in such an accident, it is important to understand what steps you should (and should not) take immediately following a collision.

Utah Laws Governing Bicyclists

It is important to understand that Utah considers a bicycle a motor vehicle just like an automobile or truck. This means bicyclists must adhere to the “rules of road.” For example, a bicyclist must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian and give appropriate turn signals. Failure to follow applicable traffic laws may render the bicyclist liable for any accident.

Contact the Police

If you are in an accident, you should call 911 right away and wait for the police or paramedics. Obviously receiving medical attention for injuries should be your top priority. But it is also important to speak with the police. An official police report is often a valuable piece of evidence when dealing with insurance companies or, If necessary, pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.

Do Not Admit Fault

That said, you should also not volunteer any information that might constitute an admission of fault for the accident. You must never lie to the police, but you should not make enter into any discussions with the other driver or any other person at the scene about who was at fault. Even saying “I’m sorry” might be construed as an admission by an insurance company or judge.

Gather Additional Evidence

Most of us carry smartphones with built-in cameras. You should take photographs or video of the accident scene. This again may provide valuable evidence when dealing with an insurance company or lawsuit. You should not only take images of your bicycle and other vehicles, but also any traffic signs or other environmental factors that may be relevant to the accident.

Contact Your Insurance Company

Bicycles are generally covered by your automobile insurance policy. That is why you should contact your insurer as soon as possible after a bicycle accident. Your insurance agent will explain what benefits you are entitled to under your policy. In addition, if the driver who hit you lacked sufficient insurance, you may also be eligible to collect uninsured motorist benefits under your policy.

Speak With an Bicycle Accident Lawyer

Even a “minor” accident involving a bicycle can lead to larger legal problems. If you need assistance in dealing with an insurance company or bringing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver, it is vital you seek assistance from an experienced bicycle accident attorney.

Can You Name These Cycling Moments in History?

From the Olympics to the annual Tour de France there have been countless memorable moments in cycling history over the past 50 years. Contender Bicycles, a local bike shop in Salt Lake, put together this quiz to test how well you know popular moments and people from cycling history.

So, are you a cycling history historian or a cycling history noob? Take the quiz to find out!

Want to write an article for the Bike Utah blog? Send your ideas to

5 Things You Can Do to Prepare for Fall Cycling

Cooler temperatures and a vibrant landscapes can make fall one of the most rewarding seasons for a cyclist; here are a few tips to help keep your wheels turning til winter…

1. Stay Visible– The sun is setting earlier these days, so make your evening commute a little safer with a quality set of lights (white in front, red in rear). USB rechargeable lights are a good option- the initial investment will save you money on batteries in the long run.

2. Fenders– Here in Utah, fall can be a bit…wet. Don’t be caught unprepared! Get some fenders on your ride before the rain starts. If you don’t currently own a pair, check out your local Bicycle Collective for a variety of affordable options.

3. JacketJust because it isn’t raining or chilly when you enter that coffee shop, doesn’t mean it won’t be when you leave 15 minutes later… always keep a jacket in your bag in case of unpredictable weather. Ponchos or packable rain jackets are both good options, you can throw one in your bag and forget about it until you need it.

4. It’s the Little Things – Arm warmers, reflective stickers, a good hat, or toe covers are all small things that can make riding through the in between season a little more enjoyable.

5. Change Your RouteHave you been avoiding a canyon climb or taking the long way to work because of the heat? Now is the perfect time to explore, we promise you won’t regret it.

Let us know your tips for riding through fall…


N + 1

Have you heard the phrase “N + 1”? Many of us who are obsessed with bicycling tend to live by it.

If you haven’t heard it, this is the formula to determine how many bicycles you need to own. “N” is the number of bikes you currently own. “+ 1” basically means that you always need one more bike.

I have tried my best to live by this formula over the years, but at a certain point I decided this formula needed to evolve for the greater good.

For all of us who are already riding, “N + 1” would be better applied to how many people we need riding bicycles.

Here’s how this recalculation might improve things for everyone:

For those of us who currently ride bicycles, one more rider would mean broader support for creation and maintenance of bike lanes, paths, and trails. Also, more people riding bicycles means less cars and a greater likelihood that those people who are driving also ride a bicycle on occasion, making road conditions safer for everyone.

For the racers out there, you would see greater demand for racing. More races, bigger and better sponsors, improved permitting, higher attendance by racers and spectators, and greater economic impact (which most communities love).

For bike shops, more people on bicycle means more people buying bicycles, clothing, gear, and everything else that comes along with riding. Rather than marketing for a piece of the pie, make the pie bigger.

For people who breathe air, the bicycle is the ultimate single occupancy vehicle. A large percentage of air pollution is comprised of emissions from motor vehicles. One more bicycle is one less car.

For people who only drive, more people on bicycle means less traffic. And if people on bicycle have their own lane, there is less likelihood they will slow you down.

For those who just want to get healthy, integrating bicycling into your daily life can help people manage weight, improve chronic health conditions, and reduce the overall cost of healthcare.

My interest is both philanthropic and self-serving. By investing a small amount of effort in helping another person to ride, I hope their life will be better. At the same time, I want more and better maintained trails, lanes, and paths. I want the roads to be safer and the air to be cleaner. By getting more people riding, the odds are better that I can improve conditions for my own riding

For me, getting more people riding is reason to celebrate [probably with a new bike]

5 Ways to Stay Visible at Night

In the heat of summer, oftentimes the best times to ride is early in the morning and later in the evening. However, the times outside of daylight hours are the most dangerous for bicyclists.

Here are five simple ways you can stay visible. The more of these you use, the safer you will be.

Lighted Streets – If you have the ability to travel on a route that has streetlights, these lights will help to improve how well you can be seen by others.

Ride Where You Can Be Seen – Rather than staying as far to the right as possible, move a little further into the bicycle lane so you can be clearly seen by vehicles approaching from behind.


Lights – Adding a front, white headlight and a rear, red taillight makes you more visible from a distance. A larger amount of power for the light will help you to be even brighter and more noticeable.


Reflectors and Reflective Material – In addition to lights, the addition of reflectors and reflective material help to improve visibility from multiple angles. Spoke reflectors and other reflective material on the sides of bicycles help to improve how well you are seen at intersections.


Clothing – Selecting the proper clothing can also help to keep you visible. Bright-colored clothing with reflective material is much more noticeable for people in motor vehicles. In addition, reflective material on your ankles can also help as motion helps to attract attention.
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