5 Strategies for Planning for Walking, Biking, & Transit

A friend recently pointed out that while we often talk about culture in making walking, biking, or transit more viable options for our transportation, an equally important component may be planning.

This statement especially resonates when traveling with kids. If I don’t make a solid plan, weather, time constraints, and just plain life are more likely to sweep us back into our car. So here are a few ways planning helps us in our resolve.

#1: Plan for secure, convenient storage: I have been absolutely loving our garage for the past few years (see below for how we hang our bikes in a convenient place near the doors for easy grab-and-go) and I recognize what a privilege it is.

But we also spent 7 years in a 3rd floor condo, during which we kept our bikes locked to the bike racks outside. Sometimes, we did have to deal with unfortunate bike part theft, but we learned that a u-lock/cable combo did the trick in keeping it safe. I kept my daughter’s bike seat in a closet so I could easily grab it on our way down for a ride.

Planning for as much convenience for ourselves as possible in the way we store our gear makes a big difference in our active transportation goals.

#2: Plan for gear: As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just wrong gear.” I used to think that in order to ride in the winter, I would need a ton of crazy gear. Now I know that if I keep a few simple items on hand, it’s more doable than I realized.

My super fancy gear. U-lock in all weather, gloves, lights for the early evenings, a couple of running jackets layered, a stretchy infinity scarf I use to keep my face warm (sometimes 2), my high-top Converse from high school to keep my ankles warm. Also, I own two bike bags which I have loved for library books, groceries (inexpensive thermal bag helps in the summer), and diaper bag.

I also like having flexible choices available for our active transportation. Sometimes, I want to walk to the bus station, in which case our folding wagon is fabulous to hold the kids and fold away on the bus or at our destination.

Sometimes I want to bike with just one of our kids, in which case I like the seat; other times we use our trailer.

Our trailer has definitely seen better days, and according to the last owner via KSL Classifieds, it has had at least 3 owners. But it continues to serve us well!

#3: Plan for maintenance: Teach kids to get into the habit of checking their brakes and tires each time they go out. Fill tubes with high-quality sealant like Stans Sealant to help fight thorns. And keep a small pump and patch kit handy (consult Youtube if you aren’t sure how to patch your tube).

#4: Plan for distance: I often plan my entire day based on how long my biking, walking, or transit will take me. I start with the appointment time and work backward with the expected travel time, using Google Maps as a general guide.

Though it is true that this takes more time than just hopping in my car, I always see it as an investment because of all the exercise and family time that it builds into my day. Of course, there are times when jumping in our minivan just makes the most sense, but overall, if I’m in the habit of structuring our day to include walking, biking, or transit, it’s more likely to happen.

#5: Plan for making the most of when we do use the car: When I need to purchase bulk diapers, I try to think of other bulky items I’ll need soon and purchase them in the same trip. If there are several errands I need to run, I try grouping them together in one car trip (see Utah’s Clear the Air Challenge strategy of “trip-chaining.”)

During one of our recent trips to University Place via walking and the new UVX bus line, my kids and I got talking about why we walk, bike, and use transit so often when a car is faster. As we passed the holiday/rush-hour gridlock and packed parking lots, we contrasted that with how we were warmly snuggled along the back row of our bus. I told her that for me, holding my little ones’ hands and cuddling, reading, or snacking during a pleasant walk or ride fills my cup (whereas fighting stressful traffic drains it).

And that is worth planning for.

Provo Bicycle Committee Presents Bike-Friendly Ideas to Provo City Council

This Tuesday the Provo Bicycle Committee (www.provobc.com) was invited to present their progress and ideas at the city council study meeting. Committee chairman Zac Whitmore did an excellent job of giving an update on the many Committee projects and getting the council members excited about the need for a bicycle and pedestrian map in the general plan.

Zac showed a photo presentation of many of the Committee’s best events including bike tune-ups at the Farrer Elementary bicycle safety rodeo, Provelo bicycle picnic series, the Committee’s table at the Bike-to-Work-Day breakfast, and family / community bicycle rides.

He also expressed to the council just how urgent a bicycle plan is for our city. Other cities including Salt Lake and Park City have comprehensive plans. Orem’s plan is almost complete. Now is the time for Provo to act. As Zac explained, a focus on bicycle and pedestrian transportation will reduce traffic congestion, ease parking problems, improve our (sometimes dangerous) air quality, strengthen our neighborhoods, and improve our downtown.

The council seemed quite supportive of the ideas expressed. Council Chair Johnson explained that she had taken the Mayor’s bicycle challenge and was surprised at how difficult it is to ride in some parts of the city. Councilwoman Dayton expressed interest in helping Provo recieve some of the funds available to help cities study their transportation plans and find ways to make roads safer for bicycles.

The Bicycle Committee was appreciative of the opportunity to share thier ideas and is looking forward to the inclusion of the bicycle map when the city council votes on the general plan.

To see a video of the Bicycle Committee presentation, take a look at Provo Channel 15 – Item 5a.

Urgent: Petition for Bicycle Lanes on University Avenue

The Provo Bicycle Committee is petitioning UTA and the Provo City Council to include bicycle lanes on the plans to re-do University Avenue. This is a unique opportunity to create a real “Complete Street” for our city, but your help is needed!

The current UTA plans will re-do the street to provide Bus Rapid Transit – busses that act like trains, arrive every 5 minutes, and have their own dedicated lanes. Unfortunately, bicycles have been ignored. The UTA has also proposed to shorten the sidewalks, making it difficult for cyclists to ride either on and off of the road. You can help make sure bicycles are included by including your name on this petition from the Provo Bicycle Committee:

It has come to the attention of the Provo Bicycle Committee, and citizens of Provo, that Utah Transit Authority (UTA) will be installing a BRT route on University Avenue from 700 North to 300 South (connecting to the Provo Intermodal Transit Hub). While this project will be a great asset to many citizens in Provo and a great help in making the FrontRunner train accessible and usable by all citizens in the Provo-Orem area, the current BRT proposal excludes any bicycle use on either street. We believe this to be a serious exclusion of many citizens in the Provo area. Since 1990 there has been a 96% increase in trips by bicycle to work. This statistic does not take into account students going to school, families running errands, or any other transportation-based cyclist.

By not including cyclists, UTA and Provo City are promoting incomplete streets and passing up a timely opportunity to have a north to south dedicated bicycle lane along University Avenue. This lane would not only connect Provo and visiting cyclists to the rest of Provo, but it would also connect cyclists traveling north and south to the main bicycle paths leading into Orem and up Provo Canyon. Making this connection is vital for cyclists in the Provo area. If University Avenue is going to be renovated into something better it should be made into something that is the best option: a Complete Street.

Complete Streets are streets that take into account mass transit, vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic, and bicycle traffic. Complete Streets are a backbone of livable communities and treat each form of transportation evenly and fairly. Complete Streets are a vital and important marker for healthy communities. This important accommodation will help relieve congestion on Provo streets, calms street traffic, help improve the air quality in Utah Valley, and improve the overall safety on the street for all users. It makes more economic sense for these accommodations to be made now rather than retrofitting the streets at a later date, a further expense to Provo taxpayers. This BRT project must have dedicated bicycle lanes to make it a complete and valuable asset to the community and citizens of Provo.

If you or anyone you know is interested in signing on to this statement, please email Tod  (todd.d.robbins AT gmail) with your permission for inclusion on the petition-statement that will be presented to the Provo Municipal Council on May 4. More details on the May 4 meeting will be sent out shortly concerning our plans for influencing the Council in the interest of bicyclists throughout the city and in the interest of Complete Streets policy. We encourage all of you to contact your council member by phone, email, or in person and share your concern for dedicated bicycle lanes along University Avenue. Every message is seriously considered.