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Community Applauds New Lanes on 500 West

People who bicycle are praising the new bike lanes on 500 West, which were installed early this month. The lanes run from 300 South to the new Lakeview Parkway (road and more importantly, trail), a distance of 1.6 miles. They provide folks in the southwest neighborhoods a safe route into central Provo (though not quite to downtown) for the first time.

Going the other direction, they give recreational riders, including families out for a spin, access to the trail that opens up stunning views of the mountain, lake, marsh and farmland as heads west to the airport. They also connect bicyclists to East Bay workplaces via the trail in the opposite (easterly) direction and the bridge over 1-15. In short, the 500 West lanes are a significant step toward the creation of a robust network of bikeways in Provo and a boost to quality of life.

The lanes at their southern edge at the Lakeview Parkway. The trail runs on the south side.

Becky Hunt, a resident of Lakewood Neighborhood who uses 500 West to get her job at city hall, said “I love the new bike lanes. My commute to work is much safer.” Curtis Thacker, who commutes from south Provo to BYU and uses it for recreational rides to get to Provo Canyon, commented, “The new bike lanes on south 500 West are great. Before this change there were no lines on the road. Adding bike lanes makes the road much safer for cyclists. These new lines on the road effectively narrow the road through a school zone, naturally slowing traffic through that area. 500 West also provides great access to Lakeside Parkway which is great for cyclists. The changes are an all around great thing. I only wish the bike lane went further north on 500 West.” Another resident of the neighborhood and fellow city employee, Phil Uhl, upon hearing the news that the lanes would be installed exclaimed on Facebook, “My commute (4x per day on this segment) just got safer.” He must go home for lunch.

The lanes looking running north from the 1-15 underpass.

Bike commuters headed to work in the opposite direction at companies in East Bay are happy about the lanes too. A resident of the Dixon Neighborhood who had just started a new job in that area and was unfamiliar with 500 West without bike lanes said that he was sure glad they had been installed. He could not imagine riding safely on the road without them. Brandon Taylor, who lives in Grandview North Neighborhood and works in the old Novell building, said “the new lanes are pretty cool. They are very obvious as opposed to most bike lanes that can easily be looked over.” Perhaps it is the newly painted lines on a road that was completely devoid of any lines before.

Looking south at the lane just north of the train tracks.

In the near future, the new lanes on 500 West will connect to the wider network of lanes that is emerging in Provo. UDOT has indicated that next year they will be installing bike lanes on the part of 500 West that they control: State Street. Although they have not revealed their final plans, those lanes will likely run north from 300 South to Bulldog Boulevard, which will be endowed with protected bike lanes next year. Those two projects will connect people on bikes to the lanes on 500 North (going in this year); those going east and west on 800/820 North; the bike lanes on University Avenue, both those installed by UDOT north of 700 North to the mouth of the Canyon last fall and those that will be installed south of 700 North to 500 South as a part of the BRT project; to the Provo River Trail and College Connector Trail; and so on. The goal is an interconnected web of bikeways (absent of any gaps!) that people of all ages can navigate safely and conveniently making bicycling not an alternative form of transformation, but at least for short trips around town, a safe, convenient, and preferable mode of getting to work, to school, and to run errands. That will greatly improve resident’s quality of life.

A bike marker moments after it was painted in the lane on July 6th.

Thanks to Mayor Curtis and his Public Works team for understanding that and for their dogged efforts to ensure that bike lanes were installed on 500 West, despite the legitimate demand for on-street parking on the road. It’s now time to officially install bike lanes on another important north-south corridor, one with negligible on-street parking: Canyon Road.

Headed north on the new lanes from the Lakeview Parkway Trail.

by Aaron Skabelund

Complete Street Celebration: Sneak Peek

What do raised intersections, painted crosswalks, buffered bicycle lanes, signage, and bulb outs have to do with creating a safer street?

Find out for yourself by taking a look at the temporary 500 North Pilot Project, organized by neighborhood volunteers. The project will be up for a couple weeks (although the paint is freshest now!) until the city is ready to re-pave the street and will give the public a chance to try out potential new road features.

Come to the Complete Street Celebration and BBQ on Saturday, July 29th from 7-8:30 in front of the Rec Center. Also, stop by any time with your family and friends to take a look, snap some photos, and give the street a try.

Here’s a quick glimpse and what you’ll find:

Thanks to Christopher Wiltsie for snapping these early morning shots!

What were Provo Police, Neighbors, the Bicycle Committee, and People From All Over Provo Doing with Dozens of Cans of Paint at 2 a.m. on Friday?

You may have noticed something unusual on 500 North this Friday night.

Neighbors, police officers, city employees, the Provo Bicycle Committee, and people from all over the city joined together to paint the town. Literally.

What’s the deal with all the fresh paint (and bales of hay)? We’re running a pilot project to make 500 North a safer street for neighbors and residents headed to the Rec Center and North Park.

Come to the family-friendly 500 North Celebration (7pm on 500 N by the Rec Center) tomorrow (July 29th) for free KirbyQ BBQ and the chance to see the pilot and share your own ideas.

In the mean time, here’s a tiny sneak-peak of the fun we had in the middle of the night:

Photo credit: the good ones were taken by Christopher Wiltsie and I took the not-so-great ones.

Help Us Re-Imagine 500 N!

500 N will look different on the morning of Saturday, July 29th. That transformation will be the result of a neighborhood experiment, funded by a state grant and supported by the city, to model a street safer for people to get to the Recreation Center, North Park, Timpanogos Elementary School, the Library, and other destinations. This means making the street friendly and safe for neighborhood residents, pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers (for EVERYONE!) who would like to use 500 N.

Please join us this Friday night (July 28th) as we make temporary changes to 500 N to make it safer for people who walk and bike. After a quick BBQ at 10:00 pm (prepared by the North Park Neighborhood chair), we will begin our work at 10:30 pm. We will be simulating a raised tabletop intersection at 300 W and and raised crosswalk at 400 W with paint. We will be installing buffered bike lanes between 200 and 500 W.

The City’s Street Division has already started the poject by painting in two parallel buffered bike lanes on both sides for the Street from 200 to 500 W. On Friday, one group will paint in the cross-hatching between these lines and bike markers on the right side of them.

Provo Police will be closing down the road from 200 W to 400 W so that we can safely implement the pilot. (Please wear bright clothing.) We will work in the cover of night but with the blessing of the city. This pilot is funded primarily by a $1,000 grant from the Utah Department of Health, sponsored by Bike Utah and supported by the Utah County Health Department. Please come prepared to have fun and make a difference.

Please RSVP so we can get an idea of how much food to prepare for the BBQ and how many worker bees we will have to execute the pilot from 10:30 pm. We hope to be finished by midnight.

Complete the Street Celebration

The following evening, Saturday, July 29th, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm we will host a public event to introduce the project to elected officials and the general public. Please join us on 500 N between 200 W and 500 W to re-imagine what our streets can be. The project will demonstrate possible changes to the street (that might be implemented soon or in the future) and start a conversation about our public streets. Most importantly, the pilot project requires… A GOOD IMAGINATION! Keep in mind that what you’re seeing is just a mockup of how permanent street changes might look. See beyond temporary items like chalk and cones to imagine how the street could look in the future.

Bring your neighbors, friends and family and come celebrate a completed street! There will be food trucks, information booths, activities, and lots of people. Hope to see you there!

For more information visit the Facebook Event Page.

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.

Imagine Riding the Provo River Trail to Deer Creek and Beyond: Imagine No Longer. This Will Soon be a Reality!

Besides funding for a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Union Pacific tracks at the Provo Frontrunner Station, the other major project related to Provo that the $20M Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will help make possible is a 2.75 mile extension of Provo River Trail from Vivian Park to the Deer Creek Reservoir Trail. At the reservoir, the extension will connect to the Provo-Jordan River Parkway Trail that stretches around the west side of Deer Creek. Four million dollars (one-fifth of the total) of the grant is to be allocated to this project. The estimated cost of the trail is $4.6M. The expected completion date has not yet been determined.

This is what part of that area between Vivian Park and Deer Creek looks like now. From above, you can see the road, the railroad track, and the Provo River. Some roadies brave riding on the shoulder of US-189, but for less risk-adverse, more casual recreational bicyclists (and pedestrians), there is no safe route up Provo Canyon after Vivian Park.

This is what part of that area between Vivian Park and Deer Creek looks like now. From above, you can see the road, the railroad track, and the Provo River. Some roadies brave riding on the shoulder of US-189, but for less risk-adverse, more casual recreational bicyclists (and pedestrians), there is no safe route up Provo Canyon after Vivian Park.

This is what the area looks like from the ground.

This is the view that most folks, including people on bicyclists, are most acquainted. It is the end the line. Here the immensely popular Provo River Trail, a 15-mile multi-use pathway starting at Utah Lake, dead ends at the start of the Heber Valley Historical Railway at Vivian Park.

Here is a map of the new trail as it will extend from Vivian Park to Deer Creek along “Heber Creeper” railway line. This project is made possible thanks to railway company opening up its right-of-way for the trail.

Here is an example of a rock and landscape separation between a trail and railroad.

And once you get to Deer Creek, bicyclists will be able to continue around the west side of the reservoir to Stringtown Road in Heber City, not far from Soldier Hollow.

Happy riding ahead! Please keep watching bikeprovo.org for updates as this project moves forward.

Breaking Celebration: Bulldog Blvd. Protected Lanes Just Funded!

Here’s something that should put a smile on your face: the Bulldog Boulevard project will be going through. The Regional Planning Committee just voted tonight to fund the project.

One of the most exciting aspects of the project is the protected bicycle lanes – the first in Provo! These lanes should help reduce the high number of bicycle / car collisions that are frequent through this corridor.

Funding is officially slated for 2019. However, it is possible that the project may begin sooner. Big thanks to the Regional Planning Committee, county commissioners, mayors, and (especially) our local engineering and planning professionals for their dedication on this visionary project.

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.

The 400 East Transformation

A bit of paint can be a game changer.

Take a look at the recent changes to 400 East, between Center Street and 300 South.

Top: Neighborhood residents were concerned about potential traffic issues on their wide street, particularly due to a lighted intersection will be added on 300 South next year. Bottom: city engineers transformed the street yesterday almost entirely with paint. Bike lanes, cross walks, zebra stopping, school zone notices, and still room for parking.

Room for all road users.