DRAPER, Utah (BRAIN) — The valley south of Salt Lake City is simultaneously one of the fastest changing regions of Utah and one where the old ways stubbornly persist.
The BRAIN Dealer Tour of Salt Lake City saw some of each reality on Tuesday as we rode with the snow-capped Wasatch Range as a constant backdrop. We jumped on the region's TRAX light rail system — a byproduct of the city's 2002 Winter Olympic buildout — to start our ride in Riverton, about 20 miles south of the capital. After visiting stores in the affluent, fast-growing neighborhoods of Riverton and Draper, we meandered back toward the city and visited a pair of shops on the south end of town.
Some of the shops we visited have enjoyed decades of deep support from their community and families, while newer stores serve niches like the booming downhill market and a surprisingly large online market for Cannondale replacement parts. Our final stop, Contender Bicycles, is in an upscale neighborhood south of downtown and was one of the most impressive high-end road shops we've seen on a Dealer Tour.
Much of the day we cruised on wide shoulders on busy roads, with guidance from Philip Sarnoff, the executive director of Bike Utah. As we re-entered the city, we enjoyed riding on some newer bikes lanes, separated from traffic and parked cars by a painted buffer zone.
In the last three years, Utah made one of the most dramatic improvements in the nation in the League of American Wheelman's Bicycle Friendly States rankings, leaping from 31st in 2011 to 14th last year and up to fourth place in this year's rankings. Just a step off the podium.
The improvement came thanks to increased infrastructure funding and new bike friendly laws — including a three-foot pass law and one that allows motorists to cross the centerline to pass bikes — along with campaigns such as the state's Road Respect Tour, an industry- and state Department of Transportation-supported program that visits communities to teach motorists and bicyclists the laws and etiquette.
The Salt Lake City Dealer Tour is sponsored by Advanced Sports International, Finish Line/ White Lightning, Bell Helmets, Lizard Skins, Interbike, and PeopleForBikes. The tour continues Wednesday in the Ogden area where we will be joined by Mayor Mike Caldwell. On Thursday we will visit shops in Salt Lake City and will be joined by Mayor Ralph Becker for part of the ride.