A Brief History of the Provo Bicycle Committee
The reorganization of the committee (see post below) and the beginning of a new mayoral administration seem like a good time to pause and reflect on the past before we continue to accelerate our momentum in making Provo a more bicycle-friendly community, so as a historian (my day job) I decided to write up this brief history.
The committee was first established in the early 2000s and first led by Travis Jensen, a civil (traffic) engineering student at BYU. (Travis is now a bicycle infrastructure planner in SLC.) The committee worked with city engineers to make some important initial infrastructural improvements but after Travis graduated the committee entered a several-year hiatus. In late 2009, Zac Whitmore, Jamie Littlefield, and I revived the committee, and reached out to newly elected Mayor John Curtis, who recognized it, as he put it in our first meeting with him, as the “Mayor’s Provo Bicycle Committee.” That summer, Jamie had created this blog, bikeprovo.org, which along with social media became an important tool to spread word of our work. The blog also serves as an excellent record of our efforts and achievements. (If you would like to know more about some of the projects and initiatives mentioned below, please scroll down and back through time for more information.)
The committee, while not an official city body, enjoyed the support of the mayor and worked collaboratively with several city departments. This quasi-official status enabled us to collaborate city officials, both elected and non-elected, but take a more activist role at times. In 2009, we began to meet monthly, first in the offices of Economic Development, then in a Council conference room, for a while in the Community Oriented Policing Building, and since last year in the Community Development building. We have been regularly joined by representatives from Public Works, Community Development, Police, Parks, and Economic Development, as well as the County Health department. We have hosted presenters from UDOT, UTA, MAG, Bike Utah, and many other organizations. Our average attendance during these last few years has ranged between 15 to 25 participants, but early on sometimes we only had only a few people show up. Although we would like Provo to undergo a bicycle revolution and become overnight a platinum-level bicycle friendly city, we have been pleased with the progress that Provo had made in becoming, physically and culturally, a great bike town.
In the last eight years, some of the accomplishments of the committee include:
- Made tremendous progress, most importantly, toward the creation of a robust integrated network of bikeways throughout Provo. These include both major and minor improvements. Building support for a number of major and minor infrastructural improvements, including bike lanes and a multi-use pathway on 300 South and Utah’s second bike-signal at 200 East, the Lakeshore Drive multi-use trail, buffered bike lanes on North University Avenue, and bike lanes all across the city including on south 500 West.
- Helped put several projects solidly in the pipeline that will happen in 2018 and 2019: protected bike lanes on Bulldog Blvd, a neighborhood bikeway on 200 East including Utah’s third bike-signal at 700 North as part of the BRT project, buffered bike lanes on 500 West between Center Street and Bulldog, another neighborhood bikeway on 800 East and 450 North linked by a cross-block path from 900 East to 800 East, and bike lanes on Canyon Road in the North Timpview and Edgemont Neighborhoods.
- Achieved recognition for Provo from the League of American Bicyclists as a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community. We had applied and been awarded bronze-level status in 2012. Gold and platinum are to come.
- Established a sense of community among bicyclists by holding a variety of rides (including the ongoing Monday Night Night Rides) and events (such as periodic Provelo picnics that included bike jousting). The Provo Bicycle Committee FB group now boasts nearly 500 members.
- Helped create the Provo Bicycle Collective. Zac and Krysta Whitmore and other committee members incubated the collective (which we are sometimes confused with), which after a few lean years became a thriving branch of the Salt Lake Bike Collective with an ideal location just south of the BYU campus at 200 North/400 East. It is now open five days a week, managed by Austin Taylor, and has helped thousands of people obtain refurbished bikes and learn to fix and maintain their bikes.
- Organized three tactical urbanism projects—first in 2014 on University Avenue to call for pedestrian and bicycle improvements as part of the BRT project, then in 2015 on 200 East to build support for it becoming a neighborhood bikeway, and last year (2017) on 500 North in front of the Rec Center to pilot buffered bike lanes (which were implemented) and pedestrian improvements (which have yet to be realized).
- Worked with UTA and then the city to organized Bike to Work Day in May, and transformed it from into Bike to Work Week, and for the last three years Bike Month, that has included among other events a Bike to Work Day where local business sponsor breakfast stations, a Ride of Silence, a Bike Prom, bike-in-movies, a Ghost Ride, a family bike event sponsored by Downtown Provo, and participation in the National Bike Challenge. The committee also recognizes both summer and winter dedicated bicycle commuters at a city council presentation.
- Successfully encouraged the City Council to adopt the Provo Bicycle Master Plan in 2013.
- Supported the city’s plans to improve the Provo River Trail in 2018 and 2019.
- Supported the construction of a mountain bike skills park at Slate Canyon Park. One element—a downhill course—was completed in 2017. A pump-track is planned.
- Hosted the Utah Bicycle Summit (and Gary Fisher) in Provo in 2016.
- Represented the bicycling community on UTA BRT stakeholder committee to ensure that bicycling and pedestrian improvements are a part of the construction of this massive transit project. This had led to improvements of the College Connector Trail, the Provo River Trail tunnel under University Parkway, the aforementioned bike-signal at 700 W/200 E, and most importantly bike lanes on University Avenue from 700 North to 600 South along the BRT route (thanks to the efforts of then Mayor Curtis). (We have also provided support for the construction of a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the tracks at the Provo Frontrunner Station.)
- Organized since 2011 an annual Bike to School Week in the Provo School District, which involves almost all K-12 schools and local bike shops to encourage hundreds of students to ride.
- Arranged for consulting for Provo High School and several elementary school to be rebuilt in a more bicycle friendly manner.
- Supported BYU to become a Bicycle Friendly University (now at the bronze-level) through infrastructural improvements and programming.
- In 2016, Bike Utah recognized the Provo Bicycle Committee with the 2016 Local Advocacy Award.
Thanks to everyone who has supported the committee over the years. History is moving in our direction. Let’s move it forward even faster.