Neighbors Disagree Over City’s ‘Stay Safe, Stay Active’ Street Closures
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Neighbors disagree over Salt Lake City’s most recent decision to open Stratford Avenue to bikers and walkers as part of its Stay Safe, Stay Active Streets Initiative.
“What can we do … to make it easy for people to be able to safely stay active in their neighborhood?” said Jon Larsen, the director of Salt Lake City’s transportation department. “As a city we’re trying to make an effort to keep people safe and healthy.”
Stratford Avenue between 1300 East and 2000 East has a sidewalk on either side of the street. The idea of the program is to get people out during the pandemic, keep them moving, and allow them to do it at a safe distance.
“Feels nice and safe to run,” said one woman who was jogging down the road. “It’s great. I like it.”
Other neighbors noted that the signs up and down Stratford avenue in Highland Park were helping to slow down car traffic.
“Well, speed is a huge problem,” said Jennifer Jacobson, who has lived on the street for 27 years. “This is residential. It’s 25 miles per hour, and rarely is someone actually going 25 miles per hour.”
But take a trip down the Stratford Avenue, which is minutes from Sugar House Park and one of five roads in Salt Lake City closed to through-traffic and open for recreation, and you’ll also meet opponents of the new Stay Safe, Stay Active street.
“In my opinion it’s the wrong message to send to the kids and people that play in the road,” said neighbor Chris Maez. “I think there’s two sides to it, but I would have liked to vote on it.”
There was no vote, but the city asked for feedback on which streets to open for recreation in a weeklong survey. Larsen said more than 6,000 people responded.
“We really felt like it was important to get community feedback before doing it,” Larsen said. “It turned out to be the most popular feedback survey in the history of the city.”
A neighbor who didn’t want to give her name said she was driving down Stratford to get home when a man walking in the road yelled, spat and beat on her car. She said many people have been going on walks since the start of the pandemic, but their family hadn’t seen any issue until they opened the street to bikers and walkers.
Their family also questioned the safety of the signs for emergency vehicles that may need to drive through.
While reporting on the story, the KSL TV crew witnessed a driver yell, “Get off the street!” at a man walking his dog down the road.
Other neighbors expressed their concerns online and in messages to KSL, saying there is no warning for drivers turning off 1300 East onto Stratford until after the turn.
There are also several business on the street.
The owners of the restaurant Stratford Proper, for example, wrote in a recent Facebook post:
“We’ve had some questions regarding the road closure on Stratford Ave – we haven’t been provided information on this, nor do we have any updates, but you ARE allowed to drive on Stratford and access Stratford may be easiest via Hartford and Glenmare. We hope y’all don’t experience too much inconvenience with this situation and thank you for your continued support of local businesses!”
City leaders also said the roads they are opening to pedestrians are also still open to drivers going to businesses or to homes located on the street.
Larsen said most of the feedback on the open streets they are receiving at the transportation department have been positive. He said some have even asked if this can be a permanent change.
“Let’s keep the dialogue going,” Larsen said, adding that residents are welcome to reach out to the transportation office with their feedback.
“One of the best parts about it is it’s brought people outside their houses,” Jacobson said, “And they’re enjoying being outside again.”
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