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Help Downtown Neighbors Advocate for Safer 500 West Intersections

We need your help this week. Please come to the 500 W Public Hearing. Wednesday, October 11th. 5-7pm at Provo High School.

UDOT is currently planning a redesign for 500 West. We’re delighted about the new bicycle lanes that will go from Center St. to Bulldog Blvd. as well as the historic lighting, and the ten foot pedestrian path. *Happy Dance*

The concerning feature of this design is the new wider, rounded corners at intersections.

Neighbors are worried because the rounded intersections create longer, less reliable crossings for pedestrians. They also encourage cars to speed through right turns. This plan makes school crossings to Timp Elementary even more dangerous for students that will no longer have a pedestrian crossing tunnel.

If the hospital staff needs an entire ped overpass on this street, our kids should at least have ground-level intersections designed for safety.

What is the Neighbors’ Preferred Design?

A group of neighbors would like to see 500 West intersections designed with bulb-outs or pork chops, two features that would protect children walking to Timp and families crossing the street elsewhere.

 

The benefits of these design features include shorter intersection distances for people walking, pushing strollers, etc. Crossings are more obvious and right turns are taken at a less-accelerated speed. This is a more reasonable compromise for Timp students that will be losing the pedestrian crossing tunnel to their school.

Please Help Us This Week

There are two big ways you can encourage UDOT to create safer intersections as a part of the street redesign:

– Come to the 500 W Public Hearing. Wednesday, October 11th. 5-7pm. Provo High School (1125 N University Ave.) Be sure to leave a written comment about your pedestrian safety and intersection preferences. You can come for just a few minute to leave a comment; you do not need to stay the entire time. It is an informal walk-through open house.

– Send your comments to UDOT. Email provo500w@utah.gov and also share your comments with bikeprovo@gmail.com.

This is a chance to make a big difference and everyone’s voice counts. The more people that speak up, the better our opportunity to create a safer street.

Thank you for your support and willingness to show up when we need it most!

Provo Bicycle Survey: 3 Minutes to Help the League of American Cyclists Review Provo

The Provo Bicycle Committee has applied to renew Provo’s status as a Bicycle-Friendly City. Now, the League of American Cyclists wants to hear from YOU!

Please take 3 minutes to complete this quick online survey. Your responses will help provide context as the League is making its award-level decision and will also provide data that will be used to make Provo even more bicycle friendly.

Don’t forget to share the link with your Provo friends and neighbors.

Even a quick action like this can make a difference; thanks for helping out!

ACTION ALERT: Please Share Your Bike / Ped Concerns on the 820 North Survey by This Friday

Please take this survey (only about 15 mins) to help our local government know how passionately Provo feels about adequate bicycle and pedestrian access as roads are re-built.

The survey will ask you to rank concerns (including bike and ped safety) about several future road projects. You’ll also get to look at several renderings of how specific roads might be built in the future, including 800 North, 820 North, 620 North, and more.

Do you want to see more bike lanes? Should more pedestrian trails connect to the Provo River Trail? Should bike lanes be protected? Your answers to these questions actually have a pretty major impact on how our local roads get built.

If you see a design that could be improved (i.e. features painted bike lanes when there really should be protected bike lanes, you can also fill-in-the-blanks with your own suggestions. For example:

You can also call the project hotline at 801-805-0258 or email them at 820northprovo@horrocks.com with questions.

These surveys ARE important and they DO impact the outcome of local road decisions. Thanks so much for helping make Provo a safe place for all road users!

Why UTA Needs to Do Something About the Provo FrontRunner Ped / Bike Overpass Now

Marooned at the Provo FrontRunner Station, People Are Climbing Over Freight Trains and Jumping Onto the Tracks…Here’s How This Dangerous Problem Can Be Fixed

Anyone that uses the Provo FrontRunner station regularly is aware of this problem: freight trains regularly sit on the tracks, blocking every North / South intersection that could be used to get to the FrontRunner Station.

Commuters often arrive early, watch their FrontRunner train pull into the station, wait for 15 minutes, and watch their train pull away without them. All while blocked by the freight trains.

Some Provo residents simply avoid taking the train because of the unpredictability of a blocked route to the station. Others have become frighteningly comfortable with climbing over the freight trains in business attire, hoisting their bicycles over the non-moving trains, and even passing young children in between train cars. What’s worse is that many times people are climbing over the freight trains and jumping onto active tracks – unaware that another freight train may be headed their way.

Why Hasn’t UTA Taken Care of This Before? How Can They Pay for It?

The big reason that UTA hasn’t taken care of this problem seems to be cost. A pedestrian / bicycle bridge to the station would be somewhat expensive.

However, precautions have been taken at many other stations to provide safe passage and Provo should be no different. Here’s a Farmington overpass, for example:

One way that UTA could fund an overpass would be to use Prop 1 funds if voters pass the initiative in November. At a recent meeting, UTA representatives said that their priority would likely be to spend the funds on extending service on bus routes unless they heard otherwise from Provo residents. And, as you’ll see below, Provo residents have been pretty loud and clear about the need for the overpass.

If Prop 1 passes, expenses could conceivably be shared between UTA, the city, and the county (each entity receiving a portion of the funds). However, this should be a UTA priority no matter how the vote goes.

Yeah, But Why Don’t People Just Cross at University Ave?

When freight trains are blocking the FrontRunner station, people who live one block from the station are actually living one block PLUS a half mile walk up a dangerous auto-bridge. Take a look at the route (and note how people have to make a long North-South loop just to get on the bridge):

When freight trains are stopped in front of the station, generally all other crossings on that stretch are also blocked. Getting to the University Ave. overpass may be a few minutes of annoyance in a car. But, on foot or by bike, it is too far. Trying to get to the station with kids or in business dress (heels…yikes) by walking an extra half mile is an obstacle that stops a lot of people from feeling that the FrontRunner is a consistent, reliable alternative.

One of UTA’s goals is to reduce the first mile / last mile problem – the problem that many people don’t use public transportation because they don’t have an accessible way to reach it without walking a mile there or walking a mile from transportation to their destination. Reducing the extra half mile that is added when people have to walk to the University Ave. overpass will be an excellent step towards that goal.

It’s also important to note that the sidewalks on the University Ave. auto-bridge are extremely narrow. Two people passing each other is awkward and even dangerous when one steps out into traffic, not to mention bikes or strollers trying to navigate the area. (Even getting on the bridge as a pedestrian takes an act of courage as its entrance is marooned in the middle of the street with road on both sides and no crosswalks).

Where Would a Provo FrontRunner Overpass Go?

UTA would have to work with the city to figure this out. An ideal location would be 600 South and 100 West. 600 South and Freedom Blvd. could also work.

Take a look at this awesome rendering of a Provo ped / bike bridge from Urban Design Associates working with the Giv Group:

Is There Public Support for a FrontRunner Overpass?

Absolutely. Just about anyone that uses FrontRunner regularly will have stories about jumping over stagnant freight trains or seeing other people do so. Here are some of the write-in responses Provo residents gave to UTA regarding funding priorities:

“The main thing Provo needs is a way for people to get to the train at the University Avenue station. Regularly there are freight trains stopped for long periods of time and pedestrians sometimes jump between cars to get to the station. (Super dangerous) but the only alternative is to miss the train because there is no pedestrian bridge over the freight tracks.”

“I see a need for a pedestrian bridge at the FrontRunner stop @Provo station both for safety and practicality. My home overlooks the tracks. At least once a week I see some kid risk too much trying to beat the train on foot or bike. I am a big believer in public transportation, I specifically choose to live here so I can go without a car. The footbridge would make commuting much easier, not only for me, but also for the growing number of people I see drive their bikes to the station. A pedestrian overpath would allow people to ride or carry their bikes easily without having to wait in the elements at the crossroad where trains frequently block commuters.”

“I travel with my disabled, wheelchair bound son daily on the FrontRunner from Provo to Murray and I am often concerned about safety, especially surrounding the Provo station. Frequently we have issues of his wheelchair wheels getting caught in the tracks. We also encounter missing the train due to other lines long haul trains maneuvering and stopping on the tracks next to the FrontRunner line. It would be most useful to us and many others if some sort of wheelchair and pedestrian accessible bridge or tunnel could be built at the Provo station.”

“Please build a bridge at the Provo FrontRunner station so that people crossing the cargo train tracks don’t miss their FrontRunner train!”

“The Provo FrontRunner station is sometimes difficult to get to when blocked by freight, and this is causing both delays and a dangerous situation because people are climbing over the trains. Most of Provo lives north of the tracks, and people walking or driving are more likely to cross the tracks at Freedom Blvd. than University Avenue.”

“There NEEDS to be a pedestrian bridge put in place at the Provo stop. Too many times I have been stopped by the Pacific Union train and even though it stops, myself and many patrons have to climb up and over the train to get to the front runner. It’s absolutely absurd. This really isn’t something that is for convenience…it is a safety necessity. For those of us that ride daily and rely on this daily, we need a walkway or a bridge for bikes/ped crossing.”

LEFT: the train station people need to get to RIGHT: downtown Provo, where most people are headed CENTER: freight trains blocking the crossing
LEFT: the train station people need to get to RIGHT: downtown Provo, where most people are headed CENTER: freight trains blocking the crossing

“We need a pedestrian bridge over the tracks at 600 S in Provo so people can get to the bus station easier, a lot of times the road is blocked by Union Pacific trains.”

“I have missed the FrontRunner on my way to work multiple times because another train has been sitting on the tracks at the Provo station. I was waiting with about 8 other people. I left and came back hoping the train would have moved in half an hour, but it hadn’t and I missed the next train, too. I ended up being an hour late to work. There needs to be a pedestrian bridge over those tracks so people can get to the FrontRunner when other trains are in the way. I was tempted to climb over the connection between cars because the train blocking our way wasn’t even moving.”

“An overpass to the Provo Station for bikes and pedestrians when the tracks are blocked by Union Station trains. I’ve missed the train often, even when leaving early enough to get to the station ten to twenty minutes before the train is supposed to depart.”

“I love the Provo center station, but it is so hard to get to if you are not in a car. We desperately need a new pedestrian solution–a bridge/flyover or something that would make it possible to walk from the station to Center Street.”

“We desperately need a pedestrian/bike overpass to the Provo FrontRunner Station. It is incredibly dangerous with the Union Pacific tracks there and more could be done to make the station pedestrian accessible.”

“I think UTA should build pedestrian bridges at select FrontRunner stations (i.e. Provo) to pass over UP trains, it’s irritating missing a train when the Freedom Blvd crossing is blocked.”

What Can Provo Residents Do?

There’s clearly an outpouring of support for an overpass. You can check out their survey to read even more responses. Please help get the word out by sharing this info however you can. Please also consider submitting your own survey answers and help us work together with UTA, Provo City, and the county to take care of this long overdue problem.

Thanks to Chloe Jensen, Paige Marie Pitcher, and Karen Tapahe for the photos and videos of people stuck behind and climbing over trains. Thanks to Urban Design Associates working with the Giv Group for the artistic rendering of a potential ped / bike overpass.

ACTION ALERT: Please Talk to UTA TODAY!

Here are three things we learned from  yesterday’s UTA open house regarding Prop 1:

  1. UTA reps were surprised that very few people from Provo showed up. (There was a lot going on politically that particular night, but they aren’t connected to that). They noted that, in contrast, Lehi packed the house.
  2. Reps said they hadn’t thought of using some of the Prop 1 funds for a ped / bike overpass to the FrontRunner station. In fact, while an overpass had been previously considered as a possibility for a past project, they seemed unaware of how many people in Provo are jumping over the Union Pacific trains to get to the station or go about their usual business.
  3. UTA reps said that if what Provo really wanted was an overpass to the station, we should prove it by encouraging people to fill out the online survey, noting this in the final fill-in-the-blank question. Otherwise, their priority for Provo is likely to be spending more on bus frequency.

If you want to help us get an overpass, now is the time to act. Please fill out this online survey today. And, if you didn’t go to the open house yesterday, please consider going to the open house tonight Thursday Oct. 8th from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Provo Station, 690 S. University Ave.

ACTION ALERT: Provo Open House for UTA Input: Let’s Talk About That Frontrunner Bike / Ped Overpass

Now is your last chance to weigh in on how you’d like to see UTA use transportation funds in Prop 1 passes in the November election.

We’ve talked about the UTA survey before. If Prop 1 passes this November, shoppers will be paying one cent on this .25 of a cent (that’s a quarter of one cent, not twenty five cents) that may be used for active transportation projects including bicycle infrastructure.

There will be an open house for you to share your thoughts this week:

UTA OPEN HOUSE

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 6 to 9 p.m.  at the Provo City Library, 550 N. University Ave., Provo

OR

Thursday, Oct. 8, 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Provo Station, 690 S. University Ave., Provo

How should the money be spent? We’ve talked about this in a previous post, but I thought I’d bring up the idea here too. One project that almost everyone can agree with is a pedestrian / bicycle overpass connecting the city to the FrontRunner Station (and eliminating the need for dozens of people to jump over the Union Pacific trains on an almost daily basis).

Union Pacific trains block access over multiple intersections, sometimes for up to an hour. That means that people trying to get to the FrontRunner station using any method other than a car are marooned as they watch their FrontRunner trains pull into the station and leave without them.

Anyone that uses the train regularly can attest that pedestrians and bicyclists will often climb the Union Pacific trains, jumping onto the tracks to the South, just so they can make it to the station. Kids jump trains on their way to school, bicycle commuters hoist their bikes over, business women are climbing trains in their heels. Obviously, this is not a good idea and is likely to get someone killed.

But, the current situation regularly forces people to either arrive by car or be an hour or more late to work / school.

Please come to the meeting and share your thoughts! The more people that talk to UTA about this problem, the more likely we’ll end up with a timely solution.

ACTION ALERT: How Should Potential UTA Funds Be Spent? Please Take This UTA Survey

In the November elections, Utah County residents will get to decide if they want to support a sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The .25 of a cent (that’s a quarter of one cent, not twenty five cents) tax can be used for active transportation projects including bicycle infrastructure.

The county is currently asking for your feedback on what needs you would like to see prioritized should the tax pass.

Not sure? One big problem were having in Provo is a lack of pedestrian and bicycle access to the FrontRunner station. Union Pacific trains block access over multiple intersections, sometimes for up to an hour. That means that people trying to get to the FrontRunner station using any method other than a car are marooned as they watch their FrontRunner trains pull into the station and leave without them.

Anyone that uses the train regularly can attest that pedestrians and bicyclists will often climb the Union Pacific trains, jumping onto the tracks to the South, just so they can make it to the station. Kids jump trains on their way to school, bicycle commuters hoist their bikes over, business women are climbing trains in their heels. Obviously, this is not a good idea and is likely to get someone killed.

But, the current situation regularly forces people to either arrive by car or be an hour or more late to work / school.

The more people that talk to UTA about this problem, the more likely we’ll end up with a timely solution. Please take the survey here and share it with your friends.

What Happened to 200 East: Your Guide to This Weekend’s Tactical Urbanism Experiment

[EDIT: The party is being postponed until Monday. Please check the event for updates. From the event page: “The rain is letting up but it’s not clear enough for the sound equipment. We’re postponing to Monday and keeping our fingers crossed for good weather, but anyone can head over and see our parklets and the traffic calming measures that have been set up already. We apologize for any confusion!” They worked like crazy to set it up and it’s definitely worth checking out what is already there, even if the weather doesn’t allow for a party tonight.]

You might notice that 200 E. looks a little different on Saturday, June 6th. This is a part of a neighborhood project to model a complete street – a shared community space for everyone. That means making the street friendly and safe for neighborhood residents, pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and anyone else that might be using the streets.

Making these temporary changes to a street is called Tactical Urbanism. Tactical Urbanism can be any small, inexpensive, short-term action designed to start a conversation and engage neighbors in thinking about what they want their street to look like. Most importantly…

Tactical Urbanism Requires a Good Imagination!

Keep in mind that what you’re seeing is just a mock-up of how permanent street changes might look. See beyond temporary items like chalk lines and cones to imagine how the space could look in the future.

Here are a few things to look for as you tour the street during Saturday night’s Neighborhood Greenway Party:

Neighborhood Greenways

Neighborhood Greenways, also known as Complete Streets, are designed to enable safe access for everyone, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Neighborhood Greenways make it easy to cross the street; walk to campus; and bicycle to downtown, the new temple, and the Frontrunner Station.

Bulbouts

Curb extensions, sometimes referred to as bulbouts, increase the overall visibility of pedestrians by aligning them with the parking lane and reducing crossing distances. They also serve as a visual cue to drivers that they are entering a neighborhood street or area.

Parklets

Parklets are converted curbside parking spaces that create vibrant community spaces. Parklets incorporate seating, greenery, and accommodate unmet demand for usable public space.

Sharrows

Shared Lane Markings or “sharrows” are markings used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles. Among other benefits, shared lane markings reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street and recommend proper bicyclist street positioning.

Bring your imagination to the Neighborhood Greenway Party and imagine the future of safer, more people-friendly Provo streets. There will be live entertainment, food trucks, a scavenger hunt, and a chance to win lots of awesome prizes (including pieces from local artists and Disneyland tickets)! See you there!

Help Shape the Future of Utah: Take the Envision Utah Survey

Does your vision of Utah’s future include car-reliant suburbs or bikable, walkable communities? Do you favor policies that help improve the quality of our air?

By 2050 Utah’s population will nearly double. Governor Herbert asked Envision Utah to work with hundreds of experts to create a survey about the most pressing issues facing our residents. The results of the survey will lead to a vision for Utah’s future. That vision will be used by policymakers, local governments, businesses, developers, and the public to make sure we all know how to shape the Utah we all want in 2050.

Please let your voice be heard by taking the survey here before May 30th.