13 December 2020

Sledding in the Streets of Salt Lake

Sledding at 500 North and Center Street, ca. 1916. Note Lester Wire’s safety flag. From UDSH

Back in the days when SLC got lots of snow the City would close several streets to allow for sledding.

Sledding, or “coasting” as it was once called, was very popular during the winter, especially after the invention of the iconic “flexible flyer” sled in 1889.

SLC kids would often sled down the hilly streets of SLC’s north and east benches. And this would often result in serious injuries and several deaths each winter as sledders crashed into oncoming traffic and street cars. This continued to be a problem even after sledding was banned on city streets in 1903.

In 1915 the SL City Council passed an ordinance that allowed for sledding on designated city streets and automobile traffic was restricted during certain times.

As many as 32 city streets were designated as “coasting streets” during the winter season. The sledding streets were often different each winter.

100 years ago, in 1920, 8 streets were set aside for sledding including most the entire length of 1st Avenue and D Street.

In 1916, SLC Police Traffic Sergeant Lester F. Wire (inventor of the electric traffic light in 1912) came up with an idea to add red flags at these streets to increase safety.

Red flags with STOP and a sledding symbol were posted at the corners of the designated sledding streets.

In the early days of the program, SLC traffic officers were detailed to each street to keep the kids safe. In later years, volunteers from civic organizations such as the Lions Club were dispatched and deputized as special officers with authority to confiscate sleds of those breaking the rules.

The last reference I could find to the SLC coasting program allowing kids to sled on city streets was 1953. By 1960 sledding on city streets was strictly prohibited and the only authorized city designated sledding area was the hill in Sugar House Park.

Sources: UHQ V70 N4; SL Telegram 1915-12-27, SL Trib 1916-10-25; SL Trib 1953-12-12

SLC coasting streets designated in 1920

Deseret News 1924-12-16

Salt Lake Tribune 1922-02-05

Salt Lake Tribune 1939-01-18

Salt Lake Tribune 1953-12-12

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