Early this morning, Provo guerrilla urbanists descended on University Ave. to temporarily transform a block and help BRT decision-makers imagine what-could-be.
The group measured out the currently proposed BRT street plan, and placed flags where the new sidewalk will end. Flags were also used to demonstrate how bulb outs could potentially improve visibility and create safer intersections.
A colored shared-use lane was created with chalk near the side of the road. Currently, the large shoulder allows bicyclists and motorists to easily share the available space. However, the new plan will eliminate the large shoulder and push bicyclists into the lane. Bicycle lanes are not considered politically feasible for the entirety of University Ave. since they would eliminate parking – however, a colored shared-use lane (such as those used in Salt Lake) would be an effective way of promoting safety for those in cars and on bikes.
Potted flowers and trees were brought in to encourage the preservation of as many mature trees as possible and the use of green space throughout University Ave.
Businesses along the block participated by coming outside and having a more prominent on-street presence, creating a visual incentive for pedestrians to interact and enter storefronts. Signs, flags, and free samples enticed passerbys.
Zero Proof Mocktails set up an on-street gathering place with free (and delicious) drinks while conversations took place.
Meanwhile, around the corner, the use of inviting tables, umbrellas, and a mock bistro was so welcoming that people passing through the neighborhood naturally starting congregating and asking questions about the project.
In the end, the project hopefully gave decision-makers and Provo residents the chance to re-imagine what University Ave. might become.
The truth is that the BRT road construction process (like all major construction) is not going to be pleasant. People are going to get annoyed with the noise, the roadwork, and concerns about any potential changes. However, now is the time to make a thoroughfare that Provo can be proud of – a street that is bustling with business and inviting to all road users.
Rarely does a city have the opportunity (and the funding) to re-design a major street into a national example and a go-to destination. Provo has that opportunity right now…let’s encourage decision-makers to step outside of the status quo and take the lead on transforming University Ave.
A huge thanks to Bill Graff, Susan Krueger-Barber, and Aaron Skabelund – the dedicated urbanists that led out on this project.