Moab resident Stephanie Hamborsky (pictured) regularly rides her bike to work in the downtown area, using existing bikeways to get there from her house on the southeast side of town. Moab’s bike paths connect much of the eastern side of Moab and some of the northwest side, providing safe and pleasant access options for bicyclists, but she has concerns about safety. [Photo by Makeda Barkley / Moab Sun News]

Talk of Main Street bicycle lanes, buffers to protect bicyclists from traffic, improved signage and educating tourists is being included in infrastructure discussions for future development in Moab.

For a rural town, Moab’s “bikeability” is a rare convenience: a network of proximal bicycle paths make commuting a prominent transportation option for residents.

Currently, many Moab residents commute by bicycle using the existing paths and bikeways connecting much of the eastern side of town parallel to Main Street, with a few branches running on the western end of town.

Moab resident Stephanie Hamborsky is one of many commuters to utilize the existing bikeways.

“Compared to places I’ve lived before, and relative to the size of Moab, the bike options here seem really accommodating for cyclists.” Hamborsky said. “Socially, I feel that the environment here is much more acceptable for biking around or commuting via bike. I think the bike path system is wonderful for such a small-size town. It’s great and all the paths are well placed; at least for me and where I’m going.”

While existing bike lanes in Moab already connect many areas of town surrounding Main Street, there is little access to the downtown area itself.

On February 27, the Moab City Council passed a resolution approving a plan for bicycling routes. This plan included a proposed bike lane expansion for Main Street and 100 South, but cyclists and downtown business owners have expressed concern about this resolution.

In recent months following the resolution, the City of Moab has been working with Avenue Consultants to study ways to improve downtown Moab, including the danger imposed on bicyclists in congested areas.

The city’s staff and engineering department conducted public surveys throughout the early months of 2018. The surveys provided the city with feedback on the types of changes desired by Moab residents.

Of the people surveyed, 460 people responded to the initial survey, with 45 percent listing buffered bike lanes as a priority for improving the downtown atmosphere.

Forty percent said that they support bike lanes in downtown Moab proper, and 60 percent said they felt that signage is important.

Seventy-two percent said they prefer single-lane bicycle lanes, as opposed to two-lane cycle-tracks, some citing the urban look of cycle-tracks as a poor fit for Moab.

Among the roads in close vicinity to downtown, Main Street ranked last in the poll for roads best suited for bike lanes, leading Avenue Consultants to suggest that bike lanes on Main Street would not be the best solution for traffic and bicycle safety in downtown Moab.

“Both surveys were helpful in seeing what people would ultimately like to see downtown,” Avenue Consultants’ Thomas McCurtry said. “We went in without any preconceived notions or bias about what turnout would be. Early on, I had no idea what people want to do or see, and after the first survey it became incredibly evident that parking is a key concern downtown, and there’s not a lot of room for bicycle lanes. So, we carried on in what they would like to see, as far as pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The scope of the downtown area that Avenue Consultants is looking at is limited to 100 East to 100 West, and 400 North to 300 South, to restrict downtown improvements to only those areas for the time being.

“Cyclists have stated to me that there are two conditions that would make Main Street safe for bicycle travel: a bypass, and to reduce Main Street to a two lane road,” Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus said. “As for the Main Street business community, they do not want to lose parking on Main Street.”

Potential options for connecting bicycle paths and adding lanes include building bikeways on 100 West and 100 East — which have the additional benefit of tying into the Mill Creek trail system — and connecting the bikeways across Main Street.

Some residents have voiced concerns that 100 North might not be the most safe and convenient option for this connection.

“There are concerns about some of the details, and we haven’t gotten to that point yet,” McCurtry said. “We do think there are enhancements to be made for the bike community, and then the city can take those and decide what they want to do. There’s a lot of focus on bike infrastructure, and we’ve put together some preliminary suggestions and we will make a decision when we get to the final downtown plan.”

“Riding a bike is recreation, but it is also a form of transportation,” Niehaus said. “I support the city staff in their efforts to create connectivity and accessibility for residents that use biking as their mode of transportation.”

Hamborsky suggests signage as an improvement to both the existing bikeways and to future plans.

“There are a lot of streets that are definitely scary for cyclists and there is really no signage that promotes bike safety and that is sometimes worrying,” she said, “but overall, I feel fairly safe and comfortable and confident biking here.”

She said that routes used outside of Main Street would benefit from protected bicycle lanes.

“It helps you feel safe, and I think before Moab develops even more, preparing for the continued growth of Moab with protected bike lanes would be really great,” Hamborsky said.

Hamborsky said a broader public education program and consistent signage around bicycling would help with the tourism.

“Especially for tourists who come, and maybe come from places where biking isn’t as common. I think signage is a great first step to promote cycling and promote bike safety overall,” she said.

Hamborsky’s sentiment aligns with parts of the current proposals for bikeway improvements, including signage, protected bike lanes and better access to the heavily trafficked downtown area.


In addition to traffic and bicycle concerns near downtown Moab, the lack of safe bicycle access into the heavily congested area of Arches National Park is being discussed in the community.

Following the recent road maintenance of the main Arches National Park access road, the lack of an included bike lane to the road prompted residents to question the reasoning behind the infrastructure.

National Park Service Southeast Utah Group Superintendent Kate Cannon explained that the road work in Arches National Park was funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s “3R” program.

“‘3R’ stands for restoration, rehabilitation, and resurfacing,” Cannon said. “The use of the 3R funds is governed by law. The funding is only to be used to rehabilitate existing roads within their existing alignment and width — to ‘restore, rehabilitate, and resurface’ the road we already have. We cannot construct a new bike lane or path with 3R funds.”

One voice in opposition to the decision to leave out a bike path in Arches National Park is that of Michael Liss, founder of Arches for the People and an appointed member of the Moab Transit Authority Study Committee by Grand County Council.

“The problem I’m having with what I perceive at the park service is they just feel that it’s a lot to handle and a lot of people, and they’re just trying to keep the toilets clean,” Liss said. “We’re [Moab Transit Authority Study Committee] going to propose bike lanes and a complete loop — Willow Springs out to Salt Valley with a spur to Park Avenue — so you could literally be on a bike path the entire time. I think it falls well within the mandate, of the NPS mandate, to provide for visitors. It doesn’t hurt the long-term future of the park because asphalt can be removed one day if you want. It’s really exciting.”

The park service opposes this approach, acknowledging the benefits of a bicycle lane or path, but explaining that the actual practicalities prove more difficult than the public perceives.

“There’s a lot of appeal about a bike path, but it wouldn’t solve traffic issues,” Cannon said. “It makes the park more appealing to bicyclists and would increase the number of bicyclists visiting the park, but it wouldn’t solve the traffic problem. A bike path in Arches has been suggested, but it is simpler in concept than it is in actuality.”

The newly formed Moab Transit Authority Study Committee is working toward turning a conceptual plan into reality by attempting to work with federal, state and county governments to adapt the Arches National Park transportation issues, including adding bicycle lanes, or constructing an entirely separate path for bicycles.

“If we can do bike paths in the park and we get through the county roads, the bike path could be built all the way into Balanced Rock, and then we work further with the park service to develop a bike path to Delicate Arch and Salt Valley,” Liss said. “You’ll have this incredible loop to visit the park without having to deal with the treacherous section. The idea is you could visit the park safely on a bike. Totally circumventing the current park road, and you have bike paths circling the park and then we’d also like to do “e-bike shares” and bike shares throughout the park. Your goal has to be to connect people to nature.”

The nuances and legal requirements of any alterations or construction within Arches National Park are obstacles that the Moab Transit Authority Study Committee feels can be overcome, while the park service remains more hesitant to support any large adaptations to current park infrastructure.

“All projects proposed for the park, including bike paths, must go through (National Environmental Policy Act) planning,” Cannon said, “to evaluate the likely beneficial and adverse effects of the proposal, explain the project to the public and gather and respond to public comments prior to making a decision. Building a bike path, either a lane along the existing road or as a separated path, would be a significant change to the park, would be expensive, would add to the parks maintenance workload, would be controversial and would take many years to achieve, if approved.”

Proposed improvements to downtown core under review

Socially, I feel that the environment here is much more acceptable for biking around or commuting via bike. I think the bike path system is wonderful for such a small-size town. It’s great and all the paths are well placed.