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FAQs About the Provo Bicycle Plan

285480_2254385359645_3251958_nBy 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.

How did committees in other cities handle the bike plan?

In Orem, the plan was facilitated by the same consulting firm (Alta) and followed a very similar vetting process. It was considered by the Planning Commission during a single session and approved by a unanimous vote. It was also approved by the City Council by a unanimous vote. It took half the time that Provo has already taken with the plan.

What does Provo City engineering think about the plan?

Please do ask engineering representatives about their experience creating the plan. After the original TMAC vote, Brad Jorgenson from the engineering department came to the Provo Bicycle Committee meeting and expressed that the outcome of the TMAC committee meeting was positive, engineering expected the plan to pass the Planning Commission, and be adopted by the City Council on schedule.

At the Planning Commission meeting, the Provo Engineering Department recommended in the official staff report and verbally that Planning Commission recommend the plan for adoption by the Provo City Council.

After the delay, Brad Jorgenson again participated in a Bicycle Committee meeting (on November 7th) and expressed support for the plan and the hope that it would pass. He noted that, like with any general plan, engineers anticipated that there would be some flexibility and that it was normal for there to be tweaks to a broad plan as the city grows. He additionally noted that having a plan in place would be highly beneficial to the engineering department as they are attempting to negotiate projects with the state.

Why did the Provo City Council send the plan back to TMAC?

During their Aug. 20th meeting, the City Council passed a resolution to vote on the plan after it was approved by TMAC and the Planning Commission. It was anticipated that both would be done within 90 days and approved by the Provo City Council during the November 19th meeting. After TMAC gave a cautionary recommendation, the Planning Commission interpreted the “cautionary” part as unorthodox and voted that they would approve the plan only if the TMAC would vote for a regular recommendation. So, the Provo City Council voted to send the plan back to the TMAC.

What Happened at the last TMAC Meeting?

Multiple members of the Bicycle Committee attended the TMAC meeting on Monday, November 11th during which the plan was discussed once again. Although we are hopeful that the plan will be passed at the next meeting, members of the Bicycle Committee were particularly concerned about some of the discussion and the fact that this item continues to be pushed back.

It seems unreasonable to ask a brand new committee that has never met before this point (and did not even exist while the plan was being developed) to alter the plan that took two years and was created by the major stakeholders. It is especially concerning that the committee is being asked to consider removing lanes and making any substantial changes to the plan without these stakeholders giving insight into their decisions and without any representatives from Alta – the planning and design firm. Taxpayer funds were used to hire one of the best bicycle firms in the nation to facilitate the creation of this plan. It does not make sense to wait until Alta is no longer being retained and the major stakeholders from the steering committee are no longer meeting to dismantle parts of the plan.

Additionally, the bicycle plan is being held to unreasonable standards that other general planning documents are not held to. For example, some have expressed that funding issues need to be completely resolved before the plan is passed. However, general plan documents are usually created as a broad guide that the city approaches as funding becomes available (i.e. A park may be included in the plan before the city has fully identified funding sources. At a later date, when funding becomes available and there is political will to make it happen, the City Council meets to decide the details).

At the conclusion of their discussion, the TMAC asked city engineering to re-write the chapter 11 (the bicycle section) of the Transportation Master Plan to give them more flexibility and voted to discuss the re-write at their next scheduled meeting. It is our hope that the changes honor the work that has gone into creating the plan and that the changes do not compromise the integrity of the decisions made by major stakeholders. It is also our hope that the plan is passed in a timely manner.

How does the plan correspond to Vision 2030?

The plan was specifically created to meet the goals of vision 2030 and outlines the ways in which it does so. For example, page 22 of the full document outlines five specific Vision 2030 goals that the bike plan addresses.

How does the plan correspond to the Provo General Plan and the Transportation Master Plan?

Again, the bicycle plan was created to meet the goals of these documents. Pages 17-20 express specifically how the bicycle plan will help move forward the stated intents of both documents.

Is the plan fiscally responsible?

Yes. Having a plan in place will allow Provo to stay in front of opportunities and make infrastructure improvements less expensive. As the city makes normally scheduled asphalt overlays, like the one on 1460 North, re-striping has to be done anyway, so having a plan in place will allow the addition of bicycle lanes at no / little additional cost (rather than adding the lanes at a later date).

The Provo bicycle and pedestrian modeshare is approximately 18.2%. More bicyclists leads to fewer drivers and less road maintenance, need for parking spaces, etc. The staff report given to the Planning Commission notes that approximately 150,000 trips are taken by pedestrians and bicyclists each day and that these trips reduce the number of non-freeway vehicular miles traveled by 7%. Current levels of bicycling and walking save approximately $130 per resident and $460 per Provo household. Savings are expected to increase as cycling and walking become safer.

80% of the costs incurred by the plan are a part of bigger projects (such as the northwest connector) that will fund bicycle infrastructure costs as a part of the project.

Additionally, substantial public and private grant money is available to cities that have a plan in place.

It makes no sense to simultaneously vote for a monthly transportation tax on all households while delaying plans to create streets that benefit all road users including pedestrians and bicyclists due to perceived funding issues.

What are the benefits of passing the plan now?

If the plan passes now, Provo can finally qualify for funding from public and private sources. As an example: the Bicycle Committee recently had to give up an application for a private funding program because the program required that applicant cities had a bike plan in place. Additionally, when a plan is in place, the city and state will make updates to streets as they are re-paved.

Passing the plan now makes Provo more competitive with tech firms that are looking to re-locate to the kind of bikable / walkable cities that appeal to millennials.

Additionally, now is the only time that the bicycle plan can come before the council that has worked to help create it. The Bicycle Committee has worked extensively to help council members understand the importance of the plan and funds were used to send several council members to Boulder, Colorado so that they could see the benefits of bicycle-friendly infrastructure firsthand. They also were involved in multiple discussions, personally received extensive public feedback, and participated in bicycle rides around Provo to see our disconnected network of lanes and discuss possibilities for the future.

Paul Goodrich from Orem’s Engineering Department expressed that continuity of leadership was a major aspect of passing the plan in a timely manner.

When a new council takes office in January, they will not have been exposed to the extensive education and outreach efforts that have helped the current council understand the benefits of the plan. The Provo Bicycle Committee plans to work extensively with the new council, but it will similarly take time to form relationships and offer education / local rides / exposure to bicycling infrastructure in other cities. This is likely to even further delay the plan.

When the League of American Bicyclists recognized Provo as a bronze-level bicycle-friendly city for the first time in its history, a major reason was the anticipated passing of the plan in 2012. If the plan does not pass, we may lose that recognition instead of working our way towards Gold status as outlined in the Transportation Plan.

The bicycle plan is a year overdue and progress has been on hold because of that. After extensive vetting by all major stakeholders, keeping it stuck in committee doesn’t make sense. It only serves to deprive us of opportunities.

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