Emigration Canyon (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most popular rides in the Salt Lake metro area is the eight mile route that starts at the Hogle Zoo and ends at the crest of Emigration Canyon. Featuring a steady 5% incline, natural beauty, and the perennial favorite Ruth’s Diner, Emigration Canyon seems like a great alternative to the more strenuous and well known Cottonwood canyons.

There are a few factors, however, that make this canyon more dangerous than it might appear. It is a populated residential area, a suburb of the city, and the population is much more dense than in other canyons along the Wasatch Front. With its narrow road and rich foliage it may seem like a hidden gem, but is actually the sight of heavy cycling, pedestrian, motor and even equestrian traffic. One study performed by Salt Lake County showed that between the peak hours of five and six, the intersection of Emigration Canyon rd. and Pine Crest rd. saw 65 cyclists using the road and shoulder.

Utah law allows cyclists to ride two abreast when they’re not impeding traffic, but a statement released by Colin Smith, SLC mayor’s office, strongly urges cyclists to ride single file while in the canyon. There are also a few of exceptions to Utah law in cases where a cyclist’s safety would be compromised. A law mandating that cyclists ride as far right as possible is excepted when conditions exist that would put the cyclist in danger. The law also provides an exception in cases where the travel lane is too narrow to ride safely side-by-side with a motor vehicle and, in this case, the cyclist is entitled to ride in the center of the lane to increase visibility.

“The UPD and SLCBAC strongly advise all cyclists to ride single file, and remain in the shoulder
when possible. There are many sections of Emigration Canyon Rd. that have wide shoulder
widths exceeding 5′. If cyclists are not able to ride in the shoulder due to poor conditions/debris,
or no shoulder exists, then it is especially important to ride single file and stay as far to the right
side of the regular lane as ‘practicable.'”
–Colin Smith

It’s not just motorists that present a danger, either, Emigration Canyon is the site of heavy pedestrian traffic and cyclists have a responsibility to prevent collisions. The county recommends that cyclists slow down, keep emotions in check, and be courteous to everyone using the road. Both cyclists and motorists are guilty of getting hung up on the particulars of road law at the expense of safety. It is more important to be safe than it is to assert your right of way. Motorists can get upset because a cyclist appears to be blocking the road and cyclists can become upset if a car passes too closely. It’s simply not worth risking injury to prove a point.

As always, Christiansen and Hymas reminds its readers to ride safely, wear their helmets and exercise common sense.