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Some SLC residents say restricted streets causing problems for locals

(Traffic restricted on Stratford Avenue near 1400 East. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s a popular project among some Salt Lake City residents, but causing a lot of headaches for others.  City officials are “opening” more streets to pedestrians and bikes, which means they’re limiting vehicle traffic.  Some city activists believe it’s time for some of these restrictions to end.

The intention behind the Stay Safe, Stay Active campaign was to give residents a safe place to walk and ride their bikes instead of being stuck inside their homes during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Some of the streets that have been “opened” include 500 North, 800 East, Emery Street, Wasatch Drive and Kensington Avenue.  City officials say, for the most part, comments about the streets have been overwhelmingly positive, although, there has been some pushback from people living along Stratford Avenue between 1300 East and 2000 East.

People are allowed to drive on these streets for local traffic, only.  However, Resident Todd Switzler says some of his neighbors were under the impression that no cars would be allowed, whatsoever.

He says, “I saw a guy walking down the road, and every car that passed them, he’d yell, ‘Look at the sign!’  [I thought] why are you taking it upon yourself to police everyone coming through?”

Switzler says things became especially heated for a neighbor two houses down from his.  He claims people were yelling at a woman and spitting on her car as she was trying to drive home.

“She got pictures of them, the people slapping her car,” he says.

Community activist George Chapman says the traffic restrictions made perfect sense when the outbreak started and businesses were closed.  Now, he says keeping them in place will hurt employers that depend on vehicle traffic going through those streets.

“Closing it to local traffic only kind of makes sense, but, we’re at the very end of the lockdown and traffic is picking up pretty fast,” Chapman says.

City officials say the program has been so popular in other parts of the city, some residents are asking to make the changes permanent.  Transportation Director Jon Larsen says that was never the plan.  Eventually, all roads will be returned to normal, although they’re not sure when that will happen because of health restrictions.

Larsen says, “Each neighborhood is somewhat unique.  So, some streets, we might keep it in place longer than others.”