The sounds of bikes zipping by are heard all around Provo. People are giving up driving their gas guzzling cars for a more healthy and efficient way to get around. Bicycles are seen everywhere around Provo these days, and thanks to new improvements and community outreach programs, Provo received one of biking's highest honors. It was recently named a "Bicycle Friendly Community" by the League of American Bicyclists.
"We’ve been working a few years in Provo," says Zac Whitmore, the director of the Provo Bicycle Collective, a group that provides refurbished bicycles and educational programs to the community, focusing on children and lower income households. "Working on all fronts, within the community, doing events, working with the elected officials, working with the different departments within the city. And all this time we have been working with these people and making Provo more bike friendly by educating drivers and educating bicyclists."
Whitmore says getting to the biking standard needed to be named a Bicycle Friendly Community was not an easy task:
“We’ve applied every year to be admitted into the league. The first year they said don’t even think about it. The next year they said you’re a little closer, a little closer. So this year when we finally got the affirmative brought back, it just felt really good. After those last three or four years of solid work from myself and all the other volunteers in the community, to see that reward was really nice to be recognized. They have a really great meter to dictate whether you’re bike friendly or not, so it really is a big achievement for Provo."
Provo is one of only three cities in Utah named bicycle friendly. The other two are Salt Lake City and Park City.
Provo built 42 miles of bike lanes in the past fifteen years. This summer the city added bike lanes to Seven Peaks Boulevard as well as bigger shoulders for biking on State Street from Provo to Springville.
"It was good to get that award," says John Washburn, the manager of Bingham Cyclery, one of Provo’s biggest bike shops. Washburn lives in Provo and bikes as much as he can. Although he says he is happy Provo received the reward, he says it still has a long way to go to go in improving bike safety.
“There's a couple things I’ve talked to Provo city about that they've not really thought long and hard about. What they could do to Center Street to make it more pedestrian safe, specifically cycling. One of our employees was biking to work, got hit, broke his arm and was out of commission for a year. Two other staff members cycle quite a bit to work and have been hit quite a bit. I’m not saying it’s Provo City per se, but it’s something the community needs to open their eyes more.”
But the improvement from years of poor biking plans in the past is paying off for Provo. The city recently received a $150,000 grant to create a master bicycle plan.
“From what I understand, this will open up some doors for us to receive some funding and support from the city to be able to take a look at how they manage cycling on the streets as well as some more improvements to the trails up in the hills."
With the new vigor for bicycling in Provo, Whitmore says there is one thing people can do to fully appreciate the new award.
"Ride your bike right? I always say bicycles are a literal and figurative vehicle for change. The reason for that is when you get on a bike, you can’t help noticing certain things. Particular roads feel more dangerous, particular roads feel more safe. Particular roads are smoother and particular roads are not. So when you get on your bicycle you begin to notice things about your environment and your neighborhood that help make you more active in those areas and make your community better in general. That’s why I always say bikes are a literal and figurative vehicle for change."