Hurricane City administrators discuss need for more bike lanes, other amenities

Hurricane's 2021 Active Transportation Plan calls for 203 miles of bike lanes, side paths and shared use paths, July 28, 2021 | Photo by Darren Fraser, St. George News

HURRICANE — City sidewalks, trails and bike lanes were under the spotlight during an open house meeting held last week at the Hurricane City Hall, as Hurricane City Engineer Arthur LeBaron and Hurricane Planning Director Stephen Nelson discussed a draft of the city’s Active Transportation Master Plan with Hurricane residents.

At the July 28 open house, City Engineer Arthur LeBaron and Planning Director Stephen Nelson met with residents to discuss the ATP, July 28, 2021 | Photo by Darren Fraser, St. George News

LeBaron, Nelson, Emilie Jordao and Thomas McMurtry of Avenue Consultants, the company that drafted the plan, answered questions and solicited recommendations from residents as they perused large reproductions of maps and plan graphics.

Among many changes, the plan proposes extensive upgrades to the city’s roads. Under the plan, the city would add 41.5 bike lane miles and 46.7 side path miles on existing roads. The plan would also add 21.7 new bike lane miles and 79.6 new side path miles on future roads. The plan calls for creating 13.7 shared use path miles within city limits.

LeBaron and Nelson spoke to St. George News about the scope of the plan, as well as its physical and psychological impact on Hurricane and its residents.

When asked about the need for such an extensive undertaking, LeBaron said, “Absolutely. Overwhelmingly, people (residents) want shared use paths. People in Hurricane drive over to St. George and see what St. George has. I myself have loaded up the bikes and have gone to St. George to take my kids on a long bike ride on a paved path along the river.”

LeBaron added that these types of road improvements increase property value and add to the quality of life for citizens.

City Engineer Arthur LeBaron, show at a recent iron man competition, says the ATP must serve the needs of the entire community, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Arthur LeBaron, St. George News

The city surveyed 649 Hurricane residents on what they want in terms of accommodations for biking and walking. When asked for reasons why they do not bike or walk in the city, residents cited the lack of sidewalks, trails and bike lanes. They also pointed to safety concerns as being a prohibitive factor.

Over half of survey respondents said that congestion would be the worst traffic issue in Hurricane in five years.

Nelson told St. George News: “My job has a lot of different facets to it. One of my primary responsibilities is overseeing long-term vision and growth of the city.”

He said he expects the plan to undergo revisions as it matures and that proposals set forth in the plan may take up to 30 years to be realized, adding that he envisions a gradual integration of new roads, bike lanes and side paths.

“Hurricane is only about 15 to 20% built out. We anticipate over the next 10 to 15 years, we’ll probably double our population,” he said, adding that a main goal of the plan is begin implementing it as new homes come into town to provide these amenities, while also ensuring roadways and cross sections are in proper place.

Routes and roads

Survey respondents were asked for their opinions on the conditions of Hurricane’s bike paths, sidewalks and trails. Some responded that Sand Hollow Road is too narrow to safely accommodate bicycles and vehicles and inquired about the possibility of the city creating a separate bike lane on the road.

Other respondents said many roads, specifically 600 North, are too bumpy and uneven to cycle on comfortably. One resident noted that 600 North is part of the city’s bicycle route, but because of its poor condition, many cyclists would rather fight traffic along state Route 9.

In this file photo, Planning Director Stephen Nelson, right, listens during a Hurricane City Council meeting, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 3, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

When asked about the conditions of the city’s intersections and roads, many respondents echoed the same concerns they have regarding bike paths, sidewalks and trails. Residents pointed to the absence of sidewalks on 700 West from 1500 South to Rainbow Canyon. Other respondents said the city needs more traffic signals to help abate traffic congestion, specifically when heading north on State Street toward 200 West.

LeBaron and Nelson acknowledged the plan must address both practical issues—safety, traffic congestion—and quality-of-life issues.

According to July 2019 Census data, of Hurricane’s 19,000 residents, 19% are age 65 or older. When asked about this demographic and how it appears to be at odds with the need for the 203 miles of bike lanes, side paths and shared use paths proposed in the plan, LeBaron, pointing to his bicycle in his office, said, “So that bike right there? Pretty soon it’s going to become an anomaly, because everybody’s going to be riding an e-bike.”

LeBaron, an avid cyclist, described the advent of electronic bikes as “a game changer” for Hurricane’s seniors. He pointed to the city’s Mountain Bike Festival as an example.

“I’ve taken a lot of seniors on e-bikes places that I wouldn’t have dreamed a 63-year-old guy could go, but he did and not even care (about the difficulty of the path).”

Planning for growth

Nelson stressed the importance of Hurricane taking steps to ensure the city manage its growth according to the infrastructure and available resources.

Referring to the city’s recent rapid growth, Nelson said while there is a huge demand for housing, new developments must be built according to plan specifics.

“We expect developers not only just build housing, but they build the amenities and the infrastructure that’s required not just to build the homes but to build the community.”

Under the ATP, Old Highway 91 will have buffered bike lanes installed, July 28, 2021 | Photo by Darren Fraser, St. George News

LeBaron said a hierarchy of comfort levels exists among residents who utilize bike trails, sidewalks, side paths and shared use paths.

“People like me are kind of on the upper – we’re comfortable anywhere. We’re on a shoulder and we’re okay being there.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum are mothers with strollers and seniors. LeBaron said sidewalks, while serving the pedestrian population, can be problematic.

“Sometimes they’re built next to a curb and gutter. And there are driveway cuts. Older people don’t even want to use a sidewalk that dips.”

The solution?

“The standard we’ve chosen to meet that need (of every comfort level) is a 12-foot-wide paved path,” LeBaron said, adding that city’s overall infrastructure should be designed benefit the health and welfare of the community.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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