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UDOT Brings Buffered Bike Lanes to North University Avenue and Beyond

by Aaron Skabelund, Provo Bicycle Committee Chair

Late last fall, UDOT dramatically transformed North University Avenue by installing bike lanes—almost of all buffered—from 700 North to 5200 North, where they connect to the Provo River Trail on the north end of the Riverwoods near the mouth of Provo Canyon.

Here is what they look like from a drone.

A photo taken last November of the new buffered bicycle lanes across from the Riverwoods. UDOT soon thereafter installed “no parking” signs so bicyclists like the one pictured no longer have to go around cars parked in the lane.

In total, UDOT added 3.27 miles of buffered bike lanes in each direction, or 6.54 total miles. These are the first buffered bike lanes on a state route in Utah. They also added .88 miles in each direction, or 1.76 total miles of standard bike lanes on the south end from 700 North to University Parkway, where a lack of width and too many driveways did not allow for buffered bike lanes. They posted over 112 signs along the route—from “No Parking” to “Bike Lane” signs—and in addition to the lines, painted many bike markers on University and at every cross street with traffic lights on that section to signal to bicyclists that the overhead radar will detect them at those intersections.

Here are some of those markers:

And in more detail. The third marker is one of those as a cross street, in this case at Bulldog.

“The University Avenue project came about because we knew that many people use it to gain access to Provo Canyon,” observed UDOT’s Matt Parker. “We realized that there are different users and that many people do not want to mix with pedestrians on the Provo River Trail as it is dangerous for both pedestrians and cyclists if the cyclists are moving very fast. Those who ride on the road are the ones that would not be comfortable on the trail and we saw many people riding on the road with no bike lanes. Obviously something needed to be done to ensure that all users could use the facility safely.”

What is even more exciting than these lanes on North University is that this is not a one-time move by UDOT but part of a trend and emblematic of a change in UDOT’s culture. Several years ago, UDOT Regional Offices began to form active transportation committees. The committee of the Region 3 Office, which oversees the 6 counties of Utah, Wasatch, Juab, Duchesne, Uintah and Daggett, is led by Parker. The committee referenced the Utah Collaborative Active Transportation Study (UCATS) map and coordinated with Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) on the existing infrastructure. They looked at existing gaps in the infrastructure and tried to start filling those gaps with recommended projects. They validated that information by asking those who ride and are employed by UDOT, discussing the projects with MAG and cities in Utah County.

In short, as UDOT Deputy Director Shane Marshall emphatically declared at last year’s Utah Bike Summit last year, UDOT is transforming itself into a department of transportation rather than a department of roads. UDOT and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recognize that transportation is moving people, not just vehicles/cars. Parker’s role in Region 3 is to ensure that UDOT spend its resources. “If we can get more people using other forms of transportation,” Parker recognizes, “we can move more people more efficiently. I am an avid cyclist and would—like many people—ride my bike more if we had better infrastructure that ensured our safety.”

Here is a big shout out to UDOT leadership—from Director Carlos Braceras and Marshall at the top to Region 3 Director Teri Newell, Parker, and their team in Orem. Thanks also to Mayor Curtis and Public Works for their support of this project.

We look forward to more projects in the near future. This summer, Parker reports, bike lanes will go down on Geneva Road between University Parkway and 400 North in Orem. And of course, as part of the BRT project, the lanes on University Avenue will be extended south from 700 North to 600 South. Elsewhere in Provo, UDOT is looking to put in lanes on State Street (500 West) and to close existing gaps in the bikeway network. UDOT’s dramatic transformation and bike-friendly policies almost have us wishing there were more state roads in Provo.

Bike Lanes on University Ave?!

Let me tell you a story. About six years ago, a group of Provo neighbors and bicyclists got together. They wanted to a safe way to ride to downtown restaurants and retail. They wanted a north-south connection that brought them to the places they actually wanted to go. They wanted bicycle lanes on University Ave.

Real bad.

So began a multi-year adventure of trying to get those dang lanes. Dozens of people spoke up at city council meetings. Hundreds of comments were left at public meetings and online forums about the street. Meetings were arranged with group after group after group. There was a friendly rally. We did all but beg (okay, maybe we sort of begged too).

But, the state wouldn’t sign off the Provo Bicycle Plan if they had to commit to something they felt was premature. So, to avoid killing the plan altogether, the lanes were left out. And, for a while, hope was kind of lost.

Until today.

Folks, at today’s TMAC (Transportation and Mobility Advisory Committee), they gave us a sneak-peak of the new plan for University Ave. Guess what was four feet wide and off to each side of the street: beautiful, downtown bike lanes.

Now, keep in mind that this is just a preliminary mock-up. The final decisions haven’t been made. But, these bike lanes are a game changer. Here’s why:

– Bike lanes will make the street safer for car drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Without bike lanes, bicyclists would have to end up taking up a lane in the road. It’s not legal for drivers to pass a cyclist if they don’t have a clearance of 3-feet or more. And, since the speed limit is 35 MPH, if you were driving you may have been stuck behind a cyclist who had nowhere else to ride. Similarly, cyclists with a bit more anxiety would have ended up on the sidewalk…not the best place when it’s full of pedestrians. Especially as downtown becomes more of a destination.

– These lanes will be a game-changer for connectivity throughout the city. They’ll connect BYU with downtown Provo. They’ll connect the new lanes on Bulldog Blvd. and 300 South to University Ave. They’ll connect riders with the FrontRunner and the river trail. We don’t need bike lanes on lots of residential streets that are already safe to ride. We need them on streets that take people where they want to go. This does exactly that.

– We often kvetch about how great it would be if students ditched their cars. But, we didn’t back up our whining by providing them with the infrastructure that would make that possible. Now that they’ll have fast and reliable bus systems, the FrontRunner, AND a connected network of bike lanes taking them through the city, it will be much more reasonable to get around without a car.

– If we keep heading this direction and do it right, University Ave. is going to put Provo on the map. Talk about something we can be proud of: a real complete street that balances the needs of drivers, pedestrians, public transportation, and bicyclists in a way that makes sense, is aesthetically pleasing, and creates a sense of place.

Seriously, way to go Provo. Huge thank yous to everyone who took the time to listen and come up with a plan like this: the planning committees, Provo engineering, the TMAC, UDOT and UTA, the council, Mayor Curtis, our fantastic new Bike Czar Gary, Phil the map-maker whose long-term vision created something for Provo to work with, and (of course) Bike Committee chairs Zac Whitmore and Aaron Skabelund who pushed us to keep advocating for big goals even when we were completely exhausted. Thank you, thank you.

I’m so proud of our community for coming together for something like this.

Provo’s First Protected Bike Lanes Coming to Bulldog Blvd.

HOLY SMOKES!

Take a look at this visionary design coming to Bulldog Boulevard. We’ve been asking for this kind of design on Provo streets for years, and it’s finally happening.

Provo’s first protected bike lanes. Beautiful tree-lined median. Design that’s safer for everyone: people in cars, people in bikes, people on the sidewalk. There’s still a while to go in terms of getting public feedback and nailing down the minor design details. But, the design was approved unanimously by Provo’s Transportation and Mobility Committee. It’s happening, folks.

Check out the Mayor’s blog for details. And please, take a couple minutes to leave a comment of support.

Reporting from Provo’s Mobile Active Trasportation Tour

By Aaron Skabelund, Provo Bicycle Committee Chair

Photo: Jim Price

What was the hottest ticket last month in Provo? It may have been the Mobile Active Transportation Tour (MATT), an introduction of Provo’s active transportation routes for city elected officials, transportation and planning administrator, and bicycle advocates. Though attendance was capped at 40 participants, over 50 riders from up and down the Wasatch Front joined the tour on May 20th, one of five MATTs this year held in the state which are coordinated by Bike Utah, Mountainland Association of Governments, the National Park Service, UTA, and the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

On a beautiful morning on one of the few days it did not rain in May, participants arrived by train at the Provo Frontrunner Station where they were greeted by Gary McGinn, Provo’s director of Community Development who under the mayor’s direction is coordinating the implementation of the Provo Bicycle Master Plan. Due to the many participants, cyclists broke into two groups for the ride. On Center Street, Bill Peperone told the group about the tremendous transformation of the downtown and how the city is working to make it more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. On 200 East, engineer Brad Jorgensen talked about plans for the street to become a Neighborhood Greenway and the groups saw 16 sharrow (shared lane) signs that neighborhood activists had painted on the street earlier that week in preparation for the Complete the Street 200 East block party. One city engineer from the Salt Lake Valley remarked that he loved such community involvement and interest in making streets complete.

At BYU, the group learned from Bob Ross about the administration’s ongoing efforts to make campus more accommodating and safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. MAG’s Jim Price showed them the College Connector Trail, and Doug Robins of Parks met the group on the Provo River Trail as the traveled parallel to University Avenue and reported that Parks would intends to upgrade that trail to the “Murdoch Canal-standard.” That was a nice segue to the transition to that trail as the group entered Orem, and concluded the ride at MAG’s office on 800 North where they participated in an Active Transportation committee meeting. The tour highlighted Provo’s completion of, plans for, and process of integrating biking and walking with transit (most importantly BRT), housing, shopping, employment, and recreation destinations.

Thanks to Provo City and BYU (and Outdoors Unlimited which provided a few bikes for participants who were not able to bring one along), which were assisted by the Provo Bicycle Committee in hosting the event.

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!

Action Alert from the League of American Cyclists: Support the Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Act

Here’s an important alert from our friends at the League of American Cyclists. You can make a difference by sending an auto email to Representative Chaffetz and Senators Hatch and Lee (feel free to add in some of your own experiences with un-safe streets too, if you feel so inclined). Remember, taking action at the national level can ultimately have a big impact on how new streets are designed in Provo:

Joy Covey helped catapult Amazon.com from a small company to the global powerhouse it is today. Earlier this year, on a bicycle ride in San Mateo County, Calif., she was struck by a delivery van and killed. She was 50 years old.

Joy is one of hundreds of men and women killed while bicycling or walking on our streets each year.

This has to change — and a one-sentence bill in Congress could do it. 

Please contact your members of Congress today to ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 3494 / S. 1708, which requires the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and state DOTs to account for and work to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian deaths.  Take Action Here.

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed that biking and walking fatalities have continued to increase – now representing 16.3 percent of all traffic deaths and a total of 5,469 people killed.

Last year, Congress mandated the US DOT to set performance goals, including safety goals. We believe that those goals should include a plan to make biking safer. However, the US DOT has refused to set a safety goal for non-motorized transportation.

Congress doesn’t agree: Members of the House and Senate, from both sides of the aisle, have introduced identical bills specifically requiring US DOT to set a goal to reduce the deaths of those biking and walking.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act states clearly that the lives of all roadway users are important — and creates accountability toward ending needless deaths.

It gives US DOT the flexibility to determine the best method to meet these safety measures, and calls on our leaders to reduce the number of people biking and walking who are killed or injured on our streets every year.            

It’s time that we all stand together to say that the deaths of bicyclists and pedestrians deserve to be counted and prevented, too. Please help us build the momentum for this important legislation by contacting your members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor these bipartisan bills.

Without it, people who bike and walk, like Joy, will remain in the blindspot of our transportation system.

Join this effort, and tell your lawmakers to vote for these straightforward, bi-partisan bills. Take action. 

Thank you for your support!

First Wave Of BYU Bike Friendliness: Closing Roads and Sharing Bikes

 

BYU has not always been known for being the most bike friendly campus around. There have been movements and proposed movements over the years that would actually suggest that the campus was unsupportive of bicyclists and bicycles in general but, that is all about to change. BYU has announced two incredible projects that will increase the ease in which students can use bicycles not only on and around campus but also in and around our wonderful little city (Thank you Phil for the tip off). The first announcement has been in the works for a while and was fist officially announced yesterday. BYU will be closing Campus Drive to cars and opening it up entirely to pedestrian traffic! The plan is for the campus to piggy back on the construction that has been on 900 E starting this spring. The whole process is planned to be completed in 2015 and will yield a more ‘beautiful’ and ‘unified’ campus not to mention more options and reasons to walk/ride to campus. There are also potential plans of expanding student housing and making it car free! Do not worry if you use the bus as BYU is working closely with UTA to keep everything flowing smoothly.

To add to this incredible new environment that BYU is producing they have also begun a Bike Sharing program on campus! Students at BYU are now able to contact Outdoors Unlimited and rent bicycles for a term or a full semester. The rentals are very affordable at $15 or $30 a semester, and include a lock as well as maintenance when ever it is needed. The only thing I can add to an already awesome deal is that the students renting the bikes also get some sort of how to ride in Provo information so they obey the rules to the road. This rental program will be a great benefit for students who do not bring cars to campus and want to test out the waters or riding around before they commit. It will also help students get on a little bit nicer bike than they may be able to afford letting them enjoy and appreciate riding around instead of dreading it or having to worry about riding around on something that is broken and squeaky. If you can not tell from all the exclamation points I think that both of these programs will enhance student life by increasing transportation options and promoting healthy alternatives as well as our city in general, by setting great models in road design, and by getting more people on bikes. Way to go BYU!

Road Safety, Or Getting Their Faster?

For years there has been data coming from all over that talks about the cost of congestion on an area. The more congestion their is the more productivity is lost the more it costs an area. This data could help an area to realize that it needs to promote alternative forms of transportation, and get more cars off the road. Unfortunetly what it usually ends up doing is promoting the idea of faster, bigger, and wider roads. These types of roads may help short term with productivity but they ruin the areas they exist in making tons of noise pollution, lower home values, unsafe conditions for all road users, and as we all know if you build it they will come which only  adds to the problem of congestion. But how can you fight economics when it comes to data showing the need for less congestion (added to the mentality of bigger, wider, faster )? The answer is to fight it with better economics of course.

A recent study just came out from the Oregon Department of Transportation titled Metro’s State of Safety Report. The report shows that road collisions are costing the area over one million more dollars a year than congestion in property damage, medical costs, and productivity. As per usual the human element is brushed over with the comment, “not to mention the pain and suffering from the loss of life.” So roads are unsafe we already knew that, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the study shows the biggest culprit is arterial roads, the very roads that are supposed to be saving money by decreasing congestion.

In the area studied arterials made up 19% of the roads, and contributed to 59% of all serious/fatal crashes.

This begs the question then of what is the cost we are willing to pay to get somewhere a little faster? One life, two lives, 20 lives? What if that life is someone we care for, or our own? Our very own Bull Dog Boulevard (which at its most used point is seven lanes wide) is statistically the most dangerous road in Provo for bicyclists and cars, and is one of the most used road by BYU/high school students, and staff. Do we leave roads like this (500W, University Ave, 300S, etc) wide and fast or do we narrow them down a bit, slow them down a bit, take them down to a livable/human pace, and plan to wait an extra 5 minutes in traffic? It seems like an easy answer. This is a question all of us will have to keep asking as we strive to make Provo a better place to live, work, and ride.

Downtown Tonight Will Be a Bike Party!

July 4th is awesome. It is hard to dispute that fact: fireworks, hot dogs (or veggie dogs), BBQ, family, friends, freedom, etc. etc., however the night of July 3rd (tonight) is one of the most epic nights Provo sees all year. People take to the streets in mass, and the whole downtown turns into a giant block party. Tonight bike riders off all ages and types will be meeting up at the 7-11 on 500 N and University Ave at 10pm to ride around together, and add to the festivities. Make sure to grab a set of wheels, and come out for the fun. Also if you are going to be downtown in any form make sure to check out this post on the Mayor’s blog that talks about all the awesome promotions being offered by the local businesses. BikeProvo will be riding around on a bike with our banner on it so if you see us stop by and chat for awhile, we would love to hear from you in person. See you tonight!