May 11, 2015 – The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) today released their annual Bike Friendly States rankings. Utah moved up three places to number 5. Idaho dropped a spot to number 21. Utah trails Washington, Minnesota, Delaware, and Massachusetts.
LAB uses a scorecard system to rank the states, and Utah received 54 out of 100. One of the new areas in which Utah scored points was the development of an initial Statewide Bicycle Plan. The plan was released in 2014. The plan is a beginning to a more comprehensive plan, and “will eventually comprise many different types of UDOT facilities in both urban and rural settings across the state.”
Utah improved its scores in Policies and Programs, Infrastructure and Funding, and Education and Encouragement.
Governor Gary Herbert responded to the ranking, “We are very proud of the high quality of life enjoyed by Utahns. We have worked to support and provide world-class bicycling opportunities across our state, both for commuting to work and enjoying the natural beauty around us. As we meet the evolving demands of our state and plan for the future, amenities like this will help Utah continue to be one of the greatest places to live, work and play.”
Cyclists in Utah were pleased with the ranking too. “I'm very happy with this year's ranking. Last year, only two points separated our eighth place ranking from fourth place, so there was enthusiasm about breaking into the top five. This is a huge step forward for bicycling in Utah and a testament to the hard work of many individuals and entities across the state,” said Phil Sarnoff, Executive Director for Bike Utah, the statewide advocacy group.
Angelo Papastamos, UDOT TravelWise Program Engineer, was similarly happy, “The Utah Department Of Transportation (UDOT) is extremely excited to be recognized by The League of American Bicyclists as the #5 bicycle friendly state in the country. UDOT is proud of the progress it has made in active transportation in the State and would like to recognize Evelyn Tuddenham, UDOT’s Active Transportation Coordinator, for the amazing work she has done to lead UDOT’s Active Transportation Program to this #5 Ranking.”
What lead to Utah’s jump in the rankings?
According to Elizabeth Murphy, LAB’s Communications Director, there were a number of reasons:
“The big story is probably the bicycle master plan adoption and the many agency-led and interagency initiatives to create broad understanding and support for the inclusion of biking and walking infrastructure in transportation projects. Staff are working collaboratively with diverse agencies and levels of government in order to normalize and speed up implementation of active transportation (biking and walking) concepts and infrastructure.
Also: UDOT’s annual conference hosted training sessions on “Innovative Bike Infrastructure Design” and “UDOT's Comprehensive Active Transportation Program” with over 150 attendees for those sessions.
·UDOT sponsored a cross-agency hands-on workshop with Utah Transit Authority to look at ways of adding active transportation infrastructure to projects.
·UDOT's Bike Signal Project has successfully worked with bicyclists across to state to identify unresponsive traffic signals on important bicycle routes. The signals were then replaces with new bicycle detection signals at more than 500 intersections statewide.
·The Utah Transit Authority, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments, UDOT and the Utah Department of Health joined forces, for the second year, to produce and conduct a Statewide Active Transportation Health Summit.
Utah adopted a state bicycle master plan in 2014.
State set Goals:
·No fatalities for bike/ped
Phil Sarnoff noted that UDOT has become much more involved in biking, “According to the feedback we have received, our biggest improvements were Infrastructure and Funding. Responsible entities across Utah have been much more willing to incorporate the needs of all roadway users as part of their planning, engineering, and construction.
The biggest change over the past few years has been the enthusiastic involvement of UDOT. UDOT is responsible for many roads across the entire state and they are taking a more comprehensive approach to transportation. They are on a very positive trajectory when it comes to incorporating the needs of people on bicycles.”
Angelo Papastamos offered this insider view of the changes in UDOT,
“The UDOT continues to be guided by our Vision, “Keeping Utah Moving”, and our Mission “Innovating transportation solutions that strengthen Utah’s economy and enhance quality of life.” As UDOT continues considerable focus on Optimizing Mobility and Integrated Transportation Solutions, we will constantly and actively work toward improving all bicycling and walking movements throughout our state transportation system. A few specific bicycling improvements over the last year include:
•Additional Road Respect community planning and safety efforts
•Moving toward seamless, collaborative efforts with all transportation agencies, advocacy groups and local governments
•Continued collaboration with the Department of Public Safety (DPS), and state law enforcement on bicycle safety
•Increased number of bicycle commuters (through our TravelWise Program)
•Developed and Improved our Statewide/Regional Bicycle Plans
What can Utah do in the future to improve? Despite the great ranking this year, with 54 out of 100 points, there is certainly room for improvement. The League noted numerous places where improvements could be made in their Report Card: Download: BFS2015_Utah
The League noted the following areas that are in need of improvement:
“Consider ways to include bicycling in short and long-range planning processes and provide a clear vision for bicycling in the state of Utah.
• Update the State Bicycle Master Plan with input from communities, advocates, and other stakeholders. Create a structure where stakeholders can provide input on UDOT projects as they are being developed rather than minor adjustments after they are planned and budgeted.
• Conduct a bicycle economic benefit study to showcase the positive impacts of bicycling for tourism, health costs, economic development, job creation, and transportation return on investment.
• Disburse SRTS (Safe Routes to School) funds. These have not been distributed for projects over the past two years and, to date, no RFP (Request for Proposal) has been issued for 2015. Create and fund a school-based bicycle education program.
• As the success, number and size of Utah’s biking and walking programs grows ensure that staff size and resource are increased so that the success and growth is sustainable.
• Adopt a statewide Complete Streets policy. The National Complete Streets Coalition has a model state policy and a variety of other resources to ensure adoption and implementation.
• Adopt performance measures, such as mode shift or a low percentage of exempted projects, to better track and support Bike and Walk Accommodation Policy compliance.
• Ensure that no funds from the Transportation Alternatives program are transferred for purposes other than bicycling and walking projects.”
Sarnoff noted an area mentioned in the report card, “One area we see as critical in making Utah more bicycle friendly, is a formal education program for Utah's youth. Many of us grew up in a time when getting around by bicycle was the only option. There have been notable drops in the number of youth participating in bicycling and other types of physical activity. In addition to more bicycle lanes, trails, and paths, we need to provide people with the knowledge and skills necessary to get around by bicycle.”
UDOT’s Papastamos indicated areas where Utah will see improvement in the coming years,
“UDOT will continue to emphasize “Integrated Transportation” and how to best meet the needs of all traveling publics, as defined below:
Integrated Transportation is an Emphasis Area in UDOT's Vision Document which states that “UDOT will actively consider how to best meet the needs of cars, bikes, pedestrians, mass transit, and freight when studying transportation solutions and ensure those solutions are applied to the most appropriate facilities. UDOT will strive to provide Utahns with balanced transportation options while planning for future travel demand.”
•Emphasizing Integrated Transportation in 2015/2016 by:
o Working together with our partners, to continue to improve, bolster and add to bicycling, walking, and transit movement throughout the State of Utah.
o Continuing to support and lead Integrated Transportation studies and efforts that focus on benefits, solutions and planning of our state transportation system.
o Identifying and establishing a Utah Route for the USBR (US Bicycle Route) system (in conjunction with the State/Region Bike Plan).
o Striving to increase the number of bicycle commuters (through our TravelWise Program)
Bike Utah's Phil Sarnoff closed with, “It is great to be recognized nationally for all of the efforts underway in Utah. However, we are shooting to be #1. This pursuit is not just for the ranking, but so bicycling can be a realistic transportation and recreation choice for all Utahns. We want Utah to realize the economic, personal health, air quality, and livability benefits that come from creating a state that is bicycle friendly.”
Elizabeth Murphy, the League’s communication director, offered this assessment of Idaho’s main strengths and weaknesses, “Idaho’s main strengths are the number of people regularly riding (it is one of 9 states where at least 1% of workers use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation to work) and great local support for bicycling, such as community rides, bicycle tourism, and official support of Bike Month.” See their report card for more details.
While Idaho’s ranking dropped one place to 21st, their overall score improved from 41 to 42/100. Idaho's bicycling report card (Download: BFS2015_Idaho) makes recommendations for adopting both a statewide bicycle plan, and a statewide complete streets policy.
We also asked the League about how states are using the Bike Friendly States (BFS) program to improve cycling conditions and how competitive the states are with each other. Murphy responded, “Some state absolutely compete with each other. The poster child for using the BFS program to improve cycling conditions is Delaware. Bike Delaware is an amazing statewide advocacy group which has been an essential partner in making sure that recommendations of the BFS program become priorities for the Delaware DOT (DelDOT). Each year we are in contact with many state DOT officials and advocacy groups about the steps they can take to move up in the rankings. Sometimes their goal is realistic (move up a few spots), sometimes their goal is rivalry-based (move past a peer state), and sometimes their goal is aspirational, but we strive to give them the tools to improve cycling conditions in their state – which has the side benefit of moving them up the BFS rankings.”
Other Western State Rankings:
40. New Mexico
For more information on the rankings and the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program, see http://bikeleague.org/bfa
Article by Dave Iltis