On April 5th, a half dozen Provo residents joined hundreds of other Utahns— everyday riders, bicycle and trail advocates, representatives from Utah’s bicycle industry, planners, engineers, representatives from Utah’s tourism industry and health fields, and local and state government officials—at the annual Utah Bike Summit held at Salt Palace. This year’s theme was Shifting into High Gear and focused on how to make Utah even more bicycle friendly. Here are the ideas that a few of them found the most interesting:
Austin Taylor, Joaquin Neighborhood
My biggest takeaway from the bike summit was the need to make cycling culture inclusive. Bicycle enthusiasts should not self-identify as “cyclists.” We’re normal people just like everyone else, we just happen to use cycling as our form of transport because it makes sense. If we reach out and make it easier to do what we do, more people will cycle with us.
Hugh Van Wagenen, Joaquin Neighborhood
Healthy Communities Through Active Transportation
Jordan Mathis of the Tri County Health Department gave a very insightful presentation about the correlation between people’s health and their modes of transportation. He began by pointing out what factors determine health status among individuals: medical care, human biology, environment, and lastly lifestyle. Lifestyle accounts for 50% of a person’s health status, which is the largest influencer of someone’s health. This is where active transportation, i.e. walking and biking, can play a major role in improving individual health in the United States. Walking and biking for daily transportation trips create an exercise routine that people don’t have to think about. But in order to increase active transportation trips, proper infrastructure must be built to protect vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians. “Remember, you are not only investing in infrastructure,” Mathis reminded the audience, “you are investing in human capital.”
Utah Department of Transportation
Shane Marshall of UDOT spoke about the culture change within the state’s transportation department. The DOT is now trying to actually be a department of transportation rather than a department of roads. Every project at UDOT is now considering active transportation improvements. Carolos Braceras, Director of UDOT, is really leading out on this change. UDOT, however, is a mighty large ship and it will take some time to fully bring her about. Mr. Marshall held a lengthy Q&A session where he was very open about UDOT’s policies. Personally, I think it is important to stay involved and influence UDOT as much as possible as they control major corridors through our communities. At the same time, our local jurisdictions probably have way more corridor miles that cyclists and pedestrians will be using. Influencing our local elected officials to make active transportation a priority will probably due far more to advance the cause than banging constantly on UDOT’s door.
Salt Lake City Projects
Staff members from Salt Lake City’s transportation department discussed several projects that have been recently implemented in the City. Among the most notable were the 300 South protected bike lanes, 200 West protected bike lanes, and protected intersection at 200 West 300 South. Salt Lake has done a ton of public outreach on these projects and collected a lot of data before and after construction. I had the chance to ride small sections of these projects and they rock. Hopefully, all the strides SLC has been making in the active transportation arena won’t come to a shrieking halt with the new administration. If you haven’t ridden these protected routes, jump on Frontrunner with your bike and check ‘em out.
Scott Shea, Franklin Neighborhood
The Utah Bike Summit really opened my eyes. I attended the breakout session, “Leveraging Bicycle Tourism in Utah.” The presentations sparked two realizations:
1) As a cyclist I realized the opportunity to take a cycle-cation, using my bike to travel around Utah and see some of the remote areas typically forgotten when using the freeways at 75 mph. These scenic locations are small towns with great personalities and lots to see and do. Cycle-cations can fit into any budget, either the shoe-string economy budget where you camp out in a local park with Top Ramen, to the credit card budget that includes a hotel room, hot shower, and going out to eat. I love to find little gems around Utah and biking through them would be an even bigger plus!
2) Provo has the potential to cater to touring bicyclists. We have all the amenities for all kinds of cyclists, including hotel rooms, camp grounds, restaurants, attractions, and a cycling culture. Provo can also be used as a hub for daily rides on a cycle-cation where visitorscan circle Utah Lake, climb Provo Canyon, or enjoy the Provo River Trail. We should work with the city and surrounding businesses to encourage cyclists to come visit Provo. We can utilize our Frontrunner station and invite everyone to come to the end of the line and go exploring!
Cycle-cations and increasing cycle tourism can also benefit Provo residents. We can benefit all cyclists by promoting the Bicycle Benefits program (http://www.bicyclebenefits.com/#/home). Local
business can offer discounts when you show up on your bike! Residents buy the $5 program helmet sticker at any of the participating businesses and then by showing your helmet at the business you get some determined discount. Salt Lake is actively participating in the
program, with grocery stores offering 10% off, restaurants offering free drinks, bicycle and other shops offering discounted services. We can capitalize on the bargain hunting nature of Utah County by promoting this program in our city which will encourage more bike riding in Provo. I know I would certainly ride my bike if it meant I got a discount!
Aaron Skabelund, Rivergrove Neighborhood
I appreciated the historical perspective that public health care expert Mathis took in his presentation. He argued that the United States puts far too much money into medical care rather than encouraging health lifestyles that would help prevent lifestyle diseases, like diabetes and heart disease. In 1900, the top three killers were communicable disease; now the top killers are chronic diseases that can be prevented through changes in lifestyle. Land use policies matter. Cities used form based zoning to separate residential areas from industrial areas. That was good in 1900, but is not good now. There is no reason for offices, stores to be entirely separated from residential areas. One of the legacies of such policies is that it has contributed to sprawl. Utah ranks second in the country in its rate of urban sprawl in the last ten years.
It is much for effective to address these challenges by creating organic opportunities that are built in people’s lives, like walking and bicycling to work, for people to be physically active rather than engineered exercise like a gym membership that people have to plan for and schedule into their lives. Utility cycling—using a bicycle to get to work and school and to run errands—Mathis concluded, can make a significant contribution to increased levels of physical activity and improving health.
During the QforA with UDOT’s Marshall, I asked him how we might persuade UDOT to narrow lane width to 10’ from 12’ and mentioned that on University and 300 South we were able to get them down to 11’. He said he was impressed that we were able to get UDOT regional officials to agree to 11’ and see that as a significant accomplishment.
The keynote speaker was urban designer and urban-mobility expert Mikeal Colville-Andersen, the founder and CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co. Team, which consults with cities on bicycle planning issues. He gave an extended and localized version of his fabulous TED talk, drawing on his experiences growing up in Calgary, living now in Copenhagen, and his observations of Utah. Here is a link to his TED talk and an interview with him the next day on KUER’s RadioWest. Definitely worth a listen!