Being Thanksgiving week, I thought I would spend a little bit of time talking about two of the less-heralded aspects of our city that I am personally thankful for this year. At the top of the list is the successful campaign championed by the local transportation advocacy group Sweet Streets to get most residential speed limits reduced to 20 miles per hour. [Disclosure: City Weekly editor Benjamin Wood is a volunteer Sweet Streets board member]
As any pedestrian, bicyclist or runner can attest to, excessive speeding is a chronic problem in each and every one of our neighborhoods. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when, earlier this year, the Salt Lake City Council swiftly adopted the reduced speed limits and quickly rolled out new speed signage across the city (above photo), all within a matter of months.
To the naysayers who think this change won't amount to much, similar limit-reduction campaigns around the world have been studied and show improvement in overall driving speeds. No doubt, not every driver will follow the new 20 mph limit, but if it collectively reduces the speed in our neighborhoods, it will unquestionably increase safety and save lives.
Another thing I'm thankful for—especially in autumn—is our beautiful tree-lined streets, like at the intersection of Ramona Avenue and View Street (below photo). Some of my other favorites include Blaine Avenue between 1400 East and 1500 East, Michigan Avenue around 1900 East, and Denver Street just west of Liberty Park. These mentioned streets point to a certain east-side bias, but it should surprise no one that the amount of west side foliage has long lagged behind its geographical counterpart.
This is why I am encouraged by Mayor Erin Mendenhall's "1,000 Trees Initiative" completing its third year of adding 1,000 trees annually to neighborhoods on the west side. The benefits of urban tree canopies are huge for communities, as they reduce heat island effects, improve air quality, reduce driving speeds, enhance walkability and beautify neighborhoods.
So, for all who struggle with coming up with answers at the dinner table for what you're thankful for, feel free to plagiarize and mention the often overlooked street signage and foliage that help make our city a better place to live—I guarantee you'll be the only one with that response!