Active Transportation Committee tasked with creating plan making it easier to walk, bike in Cedar City

The Southview Trailhead, part of the Iron Hills Trail System, in Cedar City, Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — An Active Transportation Committee for Cedar City is in the process of developing a plan to create safer and more efficient ways for residents to commute via walking or bicycling, rather than by car.

The new committee met for the first time in October 2019. One of the focuses for committee members is learning about active transportation plans and what Cedar City needs.

“We want to start thinking holistically about ‘what are all these barriers to commuting in ways besides your car,'” committee Chair Jacqueline Grant said. “And how can we reduce the barriers in a cost-effective way that will bring benefits across the community, not just to bicyclists or just to people who are walking?”

Grant told Cedar City News the purpose of the committee is to develop an active transportation plan that reflects the needs of the community to recommend to the city, which is responsible for acting on that plan.

“Now that we have a committee and a structure, what we’re working on is the active transportation plan for the city,” she said. “Ideally, that plan will interface with Iron County’s plan and Cedar City Trails Commission’s plans so that we can link recreational biking and travel with work commuting, school commuting, running your errands commuting and then the bigger travel picture of what’s going on in the county.”

Grant said it’s important to have a plan for active transportation considering the growth the city is facing.

“We’re moving away from this car-based society very, very slowly, but it is happening, and the only way we’re going to get there is if we plan for it,” she said. “If we have 70,000 people all driving around in cars all the time in Cedar City, our air quality is going to change, our health is going to change and just the joy of living in Cedar City is not going to be the same.”

The East Bench trailhead, located near the La Quinta Inn and Suites on Old Highway 91, Cedar City, Jan. 24, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St. George News / Cedar City News

The committee is currently working with a small grant from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, which was partially matched by the city, to help committee members learn more about active transportation planning and provide educational opportunities to the community as well. Grant added that the committee wants to look into the safety of children getting to school.

“A big part of what we also want to do is look at how safe it is for our kids to get to school,” she said. “So, how do we start building our transportation systems to make it easier for parents to drop their kids off and safer for them to drop their kids off or for kids to get to school on their own power?”

Safer ways to commute via active transportation could also boost tourism.

“It would be nice for guests to be able to park at their hotels, hop on their bike or start walking down the trail from their hotel and get to one of our 100 miles of planned recreational mountain biking trails, right from the hotel instead of having to drive their car to get to a trail,” Grant said.

Although there is no specific deadline for having the plan complete, as funding options become available, it will be necessary for the city to apply for those opportunities.

“Different agencies are coming in with funding for what they call alternative transportation,” Grant said. ‘The Utah Department of Transportation, the (U.S.) Department of Transportation, all of these groups that work with large amounts with money are starting to set aside funds for active transportation. So the sooner we get it done the better, because oftentimes you can’t apply for funding until you have a plan in place.”

Grant said the committee will be using other plans throughout the state as models. They will also be fundraising to be able to collect data and analyze the needs of Cedar City specifically, as well as work with consultants.

“If we don’t plan for it, then all the sudden we’re in this situation where we have all these people and cars and we can’t manage anymore,” she said. “The sooner we get after it, the better it will all end up in the end. But if we wait and don’t do anything, then it’s going to be a mess.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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