How to safely recreate now

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Engagement Manager

We could all use a little adventure, especially after strictly following the State of Utah “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive. But just as our everyday lives have changed in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the way we recreate must necessarily be different, too.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t go camping or take outdoor trips.

Under Project Orange guidelines, Outdoor Adventures, the U’s outdoor equipment rental and trips program, is expected to begin renting “hard goods” such as rigid and inflatable watercrafts (kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes), life jackets, bikes, and helmets on May 18. Rentals will be through reservation only, with scheduled pick-up and drop-off times, and must be paid by credit card. Tents, sleeping bags and pads, and other “soft goods” are not available at this time because of sanitation concerns. Check the Campus Recreation Services website for current updates.

Alli Hughes, co-manager of Outdoor Adventures, said going camping can be safe if you have “realistic expectations,” including continuing physical distancing and wearing a mask.

“You can go camping with those who are under your own roof or who you have been distancing with—it’s safer than opening it up to other friends,” Hughes said. “The other thing to keep in mind is if you know the location. Check the closures in advance. And if you are able, bring a mask—even cloth ones.”

Parks are reopening. For current status, check with Utah State Parks, the National Park Service, or use Outdoor Adventures’ trip planning site. Hughes points out that as parks reopen, they will go through a stabilization phase before returning to past levels of operation. Coronavirus impacts, such as staff reductions and loss of fees, will reduce services, including trash removal and bathroom cleaning, and affect park safety. There may not be rangers or other on-site staff to help with emergency calls. Additionally, any search and rescue calls force rescue professionals to break physical distancing guidelines, as well as increase hospitalizations. Hughes said that back country permits are largely unavailable, so going in those areas is also high risk.

Crowds should also be avoided. Many people will go to “family friendly” trails that are short and flat, so those who are able should look for alternate options, Hughes said. Trails are busiest during midday, so hiking early in the morning or after the afternoon rush will help goers maintain physical distancing.

Despite the need for increased safety measures, going on hikes or camping can provide an important release for those suffering from cabin fever. 

“I love the brain break provided by getting outside,” Hughes said. “When you get out of the city, you don’t see garbage or billboards. It gives your brain a minute to not be overwhelmed with everything in your environment, words, pictures, social media, and media in general. All of that goes away when you go outside. I like the peace it brings me.”

If you are planning a trip to the great outdoors, keep these tips from Hughes in mind:

  1. Go where you know: Services, including on-site support for contacting help, are limited. Stick to the locations you know best, and do not push beyond your own limitations.
  2. If feeling sick, stay home: Your health—and the health of others—is more important than going hiking or camping. If you have a fever or other symptoms, stay home and plan your next adventure.
  3. Stay at least 6 feet apart: When hiking or camping, maintain physical distancing of six feet or more from other people and groups. Wear a mask if possible.
  4. Avoid hiking at peak hours: Trails get crowded during the midday. Try going earlier or later in the day to avoid people.
  5. Practice leave no trace: Trash services are limited due to lack of staff and fees for maintaining waste removal. Remember to pack it in and pack it out.

Enjoy the outdoors—safely.

Active Transportation August Update

New on campus

  • The Autonomous Shuttle is here! Beginning fall semester, a 15-passenger autonomous shuttle will be on campus undergoing testing with our partners UDOT and UTA. Be on the lookout for signage and stops along Student Life Way.
  • Buy an E-bike and 2 years of maintenance for your University department to travel around campus today – visit Bingham Cyclery to choose your model and accessories!
  • Need a place to park your escooter or eboard? The south entrance of the Student Life Center is evaluating a new dock to securely park these types of devices. Try it out and send us your thoughts!


Safety Tip

What does the Green Paint on the road or path mean?  Bright green paint with a bicycle symbol indicates a bicycle-only path. A bicycle-only path exists for east/west travel from Fort Douglas Boulevard, across the Legacy Bridge to the Law School. Remember to wear a helmet and slow your speed to avoid a crash and injury to yourself or others.


Construction and Commuter Updates

  • The pedestrian crossing on the East side of the Foothill Drive and Mario Capecchi intersection is COMPLETE.  Use the push-button indicators to safely cross at this location, especially in the early evening hours.
  • The 2nd phase of rebuilding Wasatch Drive is about to begin – be aware of construction detours as the roadway is rebuilt. The separated walking and bicycle path to Medical TRAX from the Wasatch Drive roundabout remains open during Phase 2 construction.
  • In August, the parking lot east of the Union Building will undergo construction to better accommodate UTA bus and campus shuttle stops.  Raised pedestrian crosswalks, ADA improvements and drop-off zones will improve safety and flow for commuters at this transit hub.


Mark Your calendar

Save the Date! U Bike Week is September 9-13. More details will be posted soon.



Originally posted on @theU on February 8, 2019.

“I’ve enjoyed bicycling since I was a kid, back in the Czech Republic. It provided the freedom to move around without depending on either public transit or my parents. When I moved to Salt Lake in 1998 for my postdoc it felt natural to continue riding. I save on a parking pass and car costs and it forces me to get up on my bike every morning and ride to work.

Our older daughter is 5, and she goes to the Child and Family Development Center here on Presidents Circle. We have been commuting together for about 3 years. We ride my old road bike and a used $200 Chariot trailer. When it is warmer, we switch to the Weehoo. It takes us about 25 minutes to get up here, about three miles.

Weather doesn’t impact our commute much. It’s all in the equipment. In the winter, I dress our daughter in snow pants and a warm jacket. I wear what you see in the picture with an extra sweater for the downhill ride home.

I consider myself a fearless bicyclist but riding with a kid, I’m much more aware of my surroundings. I am very sensitive to people giving us space, so please don’t pass us too close on 1500 East or Guardsman Road or block the bike lane or crosswalk.

It is a commitment to commute by bike. Sometimes I think that it would be much easier to sit in a car and drive. Still, the benefits outweigh the troubles. My exercise is that 30-40 minutes a day ride. Our daughter will grow up used to car-less transport. And I feel like I’m doing something for the common good. I see the lines of cars every morning and I wish at least a few of them would hop on a bike. That would help our air and make the streets less busy and more livable.”

—Martin Cuma, computational scientist, Center for High Performance Computing. Cuma is part of the majority of U commuters that live within a reasonable walking or biking distance to campus. Active transportation, such as biking, represents 13 percent of commuting trips. Source: U. Office of Sustainability

Active Transportation Improvements: Federal Heights Drive and North Campus Drive

Some minor intersection changes at this location are being constructed in January / February 2019 by UDOT in collaboration with Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, as a follow-up to last summer’s repaving of North Campus Drive.  The purpose of these changes is to provide a bicycle crossing of North Campus Drive while also slowing motor vehicle traffic into and out of Federal Heights Drive. The project was recommended as a high-priority improvement in the University of Utah’s Bicycle Master Plan (2011) and also in Salt Lake City’s Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan (2015).


This project focuses on bicycle and pedestrian safety, and includes:

  • Concrete islands to slow traffic on Federal Heights Drive, improve pedestrian safety, and also provide a bicycle waiting area for the North Campus Drive crossing.
  • A bicycle-specific cut in the concrete median, and a bicycle ramp to the University’s multi-use path on the south side of North Campus Drive.
  • A new, painted pedestrian crosswalk across Federal Heights Drive, just north of the new islands. 


What to expect:

  • Motorists turning onto Federal Heights Drive from North Campus Drive will need to slow down for this turn, as appropriate to entering a neighborhood.
  • Bicyclists crossing North Campus Drive will yield to cross traffic.
  • There are no additional changes to motor vehicle traffic patterns.