What Provo Can Learn from the 2014 Utah Bike Summit

bikegroup2Last weekend, many Provo cyclists, employees, and city officials headed down to the University of Utah for the 2014 Utah Bike Summit. We were inspired by the speakers and the collective enthusiasm of a talented group that is working to “make Utah the most bicycle-friendly state in the U.S.”

We have a long way to go, but there has been a palpable shift in attitudes towards biking and walking the state level…and a surprising number of projects are in the works. From Provo’s end, Deputy Mayor Dixon Holmes and Bike Committee Chair Aaron Skabelund manned a table about the shiny new Provo Bicycle Plan (woot!).

Here’s the low down of what happened during this all-day conference and what Provo cyclists can take away from this meeting of minds:

On the Need for Cyclists to Speak Up – Ralph Becker (Mayor of Salt Lake City)

Mayor Becker spoke about the many bicycling projects going on in Salt Lake. He particularly focused on the need for cyclists to SPEAK UP. When it comes to bike lanes, it’s hard for city council members to make a decision when there is opposition from people that are concerned about change. By coming to the table and weighing in on these issues, cyclists can make things happen. (We’ve seen this happen in Provo too…the more people that are talking to their council members about these issues, the more we’re able to accomplish).

Mayor Becker also commented on the huge success of the Salt Lake bikeshare program, GreenBike. So far, it is considered to be the most successful program for a city of that size and has been able to operate with 70% funding from the private sector. Way to go GreenBike!

The Power of the Pedal – Sarai Snyder (Founder of Cyclofemme Ride and the Girl Bike Love Website)

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Provo cyclists were particularly excited to hear from Sarai, since Provo will be hosting its first Cyclofemme Ride on May 10th. Sarai focused on the transformative power of bicycling and her efforts to encourage more women to ride by creating the Cyclofemme event. In particular, she pointed out that we focus too much on the challenges of cycling and the potential dangers – in ways that scare off some beginning cyclists. Sarai encouraged us to tell “really great stories” about our own experiences cycling rather than focusing only on problems. The Cyclofemme ride will encourage bicyclists of all levels to “Come Ride with Us.”

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Sarai gave a special shout out to the upcoming Provo Cyclofemme Ride and, after the presentation, several of the women from our group were able to meet her and talk about what is happening in Provo.

UDOT & MPO Updates – State and Regional Transportation Representatives

While cyclists have sometimes struggled with state agencies, there is a noticeable shift in attitudes towards complete streets. Andrew Gruber, Executive Director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council specifically noted that UDOT is “changing direction.” Both UDOT and regional representatives discussed an increased commitment to what they are calling “active transportation” (basically, walking or bicycling). And, they backed up their words by sharing recently completed projects and projects in-the-works.

UDOT has added over 500 bike signal detectors (those fantastic little systems that let traffic lights recognize waiting cyclists…so you don’t end up with a 20-minute red light during off-peak hours). They’ve also been changing the way they do chip seals and rumble strips to work with the way cyclists ride. The state is working on a number of projects that we will post about on the blog in the near future. UDOT representatives stressed that having a plan in place is the most important thing cities can do to help the state take action (good thing Provo’s Bike Plan just passed…)

The new UDOT Traffic App will allow us to check for bike routes and routes that have shoulders over 4-feet wide on any state-owned road. We can also use the UDOT See, Click, Fix App to report problems we encounter on the road.

Jim Price from the Mountainlands Association of Governments (the county representative over our area) discussed the grants that were awarded to help Provo and other valley cities complete their bicycle plans. Jim stressed that MAG has an “Aftercare Program” to help cities implement the plans they’ve created – something that Provo will likely benefit from. He also reported progress (more detail on these in later posts) on the Spanish Fork River Trail, the Mapleton Lateral Canal Trail, and the Murdock to Jordan River Trail. Most significantly, he announced the completion of the Provo River Trail to Murdock Canal Trail connection. Horary!

The Benefits of a Low-Stress Bicycle Network – Tom Miller (Alta Planning and Design) and Becka Roolf (SLC Bike / Ped Coordinator)

Many would-be cyclists are discouraged from riding because they don’t feel safe. These presenters gave a practical overview of their efforts to create protected bike lanes (bike lanes that are separated from traffic by more than a stripe of paint) in Salt Lake. Protected bike lanes have had huge success in many areas, but issues like snow removal and the loss of traffic lanes can be a hindrance.

Unfortunately, Provo doesn’t currently have any protected bike lanes. But we’re lucky that we’ll be able to learn from the successes and challenges from implementation in Salt Lake as we start to move forward with similar programs.

The “Cool Mayors” Comment on Bikes – Mayor Mike Caldwell (Ogden) and Mayor Curtis (Provo)

To conclude the event, two of the Utah’s three “cool mayors” shared their experiences and work towards becoming bicycle-friendly cities. Both Mayor Caldwell and Mayor Curtis have pledged to make bicycling to work a personal priority. Mayor Caldwell spoke about Ogden’s efforts to become known as a hip, outdoor adventure city. He discussed their bike infrastructure and the bicycle companies that have been attracted to choosing Ogden.

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Mayor Curtis shared his own story of learning to see Provo differently from the seat of a bicycle. He talked about the transformation our streets will take (using 300 South as an example of a place that is currently unsafe but will soon change significantly). He urged listeners to speak up, to show patience with their elected officials, and to run for office if they want to make a difference. (He also showed off old-school pictures of his childhood banana bikes).

What’s Happening for Bikes? A lot.

I could write up a 20 page report on the event…because so much is happening for bicycling in Utah. The good news is that there is a visible shift in attitudes from state agencies. It’s not just talk. Good things are happening.

The biggest take away for Provo is that we need people to keep speaking up. Things have changed and are changing at the state level because of your efforts. Things have changed and are changing in Provo because of your efforts. Now more than ever, we need people willing to show up, put in the time, and make their voices heard.

Want to get involved? Stay on top of the news and upcoming events by following the BikeProvo Facebook Page or send your email address to bikeprovo(at)gmail(dot)com for meeting announcements and updates.

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