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.
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.
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.