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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.

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.

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.

New Provo Bicycle Lanes This Summer

“If we build them, people will come … and bicycle”

At the last monthly Provo Bicycle Committee meeting, the city engineering informed us what roads would be blessed with bicycle facility improvements this summer. Most are the result of road repaving projects and correspond to what is called for by the city’s newly adopted Bicycle Master Plan. Here is the list:

– Bike lanes have already been painted in on 600 South (from 1600 W to 1100 W) and on 1100 W (from 600 S to 1560 S)

– Bike lanes are likely to be painted in on 1150 South (from 1600 W and 1100 W) pending a decision about removing some on-street parking

– Bike lanes on Canyon Rd (from Foothill to University Ave)

– Marked road shareway on 2320 North (from 2200 N to Timpview Dr) and 2230 North (from University Ave to Canyon Rd)

– Bike lanes on 2230 North (from Canyon to 2320 N)

– Bike lanes on 2200 North (from N Temple to 2300 N)

– Even though road work is taking place on 900 East, bicycle improvements will wait until BRT construction begins

– Roadwork will occur on Freedom Boulevard this summer (from 200 N to Bulldog) but there is no room for lanes. The Committee has proposed putting lanes in on 100 West (from 800 N to Center) where there is plenty of width so on-street parking would not be impacted.

That’s it. Enjoy the ride–it will be safer and more pleasant thanks to Engineering and the efforts of the Committee.

Post by Aaron Skabelund, Chair of the Provo Bicycle Committee. Thanks to Joli for the new lane photography.

Slate Canyon: A Park for Bicyclists of All Ages and Skill-Levels

by Aaron Skabelund, Chair of the Provo Bicycle Committee

Have you heard that Provo is building a bike-skills park this year in the new Slate Canyon Park? The park will be a hit for bicyclists of all generations and abilities. Located on the west-facing bench, its trails will be usually dry and rideable throughout the year thanks to ample sun. The park will be a boon for the surrounding neighborhoods and all of Provo, whose residents can easily access this wonderful amenity via the city’s expanding network of urban trails and bike lanes, and along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Bicyclists looking for a bit of fun and a challenge will no longer need to drive all the way to Park City’s Trailside Park or Eagle Mountain Bike Park. It will now be just a short bike ride away.

The Bike-Skills Park is part of Slate Canyon Park, located from the mouth of Slate Canyon down to and on both sides of Slate Canyon Drive on an expansive 63.9 acre site. The park plan created by Blu Line Design is divided into four different sites that will be developed over the next several years. The park will include grass play areas, tennis courts, picnic sites, a disk golf course, playgrounds, pavilions, restrooms, and of course Provo’s first dedicated park for bicycling. Read more

FAQs About the Provo Bicycle Plan

By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about the Provo Bicycle Plan – a document developed over the last two years that has still not been passed. If you have questions, we have answers.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get about the plan:

What is the Provo Bicycle Plan?

The Provo Bicycle Plan is a document that identifies ways the city can design complete streets; connect our existing segment of bicycle lanes; and create a safer community for bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers. Most communities that are known for having a high quality of life have already passed similar plans. This 204 page document was carefully crafted by major stakeholders during a two year period.

Who created the Provo Bicycle Plan?

The Provo Bicycle Plan was created by a steering committee made up of representatives from all major stakeholders: Provo City Engineering, UDOT, UTA, BYU, MAG, Parks and Rec, the Provo Bicycle Committee, the city council, and Alta Planning and Design – one of the top firms in the nation. It was the work of many groups that had not come together before for something like this in Provo. The Provo Bicycle Committee had only a single seat on the steering committee that created the plan. The entities that created it were those that have the power to make things happen and determine whether or not ideas were feasible and fiscally sound.

What kind of public outreach was involved with the Provo Bicycle Plan?

Extensive public outreach took place over the last two years. Neighborhood outreach for the plan has included: A notice about the plan and avenues for input in the utilities bill sent to every residence. A website created by the consultancy firm just for the plan with a copy of the plan and multiple avenues to provide feedback from home (a feedback form, an email address, etc). A banner across University Ave. and Freedom Blvd. with a URL that led to a website with additional info. Multiple posts on the front page of the Provo city website regarding the plan / meetings. Multiple articles in The Daily Herald, The Deseret News, and The Salt Lake Tribune. A private Provo bike blog with over 400 posts and continual updates on the status of the plan.  Multiple highly publicized public meetings with maps / plan overviews and representatives from city engineering, the city council, the administration, the state, and MAG. Opportunities to provide written feedback, discuss the plan with representatives, or give oral feedback to a transcriptionist available throughout the meetings. At the Planning Commission meeting, Casey Serr from engineering noted that the turnout rate at public meetings and the response rate for online surveys was high.

Was the bicycle plan rushed?

No. The plan was supposed to be completed in less than a year (prior to December 2012). It is now approaching two years and we are missing out on opportunities to compete for funding and complete projects.

During this period, there was extensive public outreach, multiple representatives worked to iron out potential issues, and there was considerable education regarding bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure provided to involved parties. During this period, the plan was extensively vetted by Provo engineering, UDOT, UTA, MAG, BYU, etc.

By comparison, Orem’s bicycle plan took 11 months from start to finish. They now qualify for funding that Provo still cannot receive. Read more