By Chad Mullins
Originally, my intention was to mention a list of events that deserve our bicycle community support at the end of this blog. Only through our participation can we hope to attract the political will needed to get active transportation projects planned and funded. But when I considered how few readers might remain at the end, I decided to put the list at the beginning. This may become a regular feature at the beginning of my blog.
Things to support:
- 2013 Utah Bike Summit: Keep Utah Rolling! – Friday, April 26 at the University of Utah – Guest House: This is an important opportunity to show Utah legislators that we are an important constituency. Registration is open for the 2013 summit, which features nationally recognized advocate, Tim Blumenthal, from Bikes Belong and an incredible program that includes Utah elected officials and local transportation policy makers. UTA has generously donated free Summit Guest Passes for all UTA transit (FrontRunner, TRAX and all bus) on April 26th. Attendees are encouraged to ride transit or bikes to the summit, but must register by April 19 to receive the UTA Guest Pass by mail or make arrangements to pick-up the pass. Register now for the Bike Summit!
- Open Streets Salt Lake City – Ci.SLC.lovia – Saturday, May 4 – 300 South
Salt Lake City will host Utah's first Open Streets event during Bike Month. The event is free and open to the public, we encourage everyone to come down and experience SLC downtown streets without motorized vehicles.
I’ve been struggling with the content of the first post to my blog. Whether to go back and rehash some recent editorials which related to the University of Utah over their plans to build more parking garages on campus, and whether that raises questions as to their commitment to reduce emissions from transportation both from a regional air quality and climate change perspective. Or, whether to post my critique of the most recent recommendations for transportation funding from the Wasatch Regional Council, which still show a major funding deficiency for active transportation for the Wasatch Front. Or, repeating editorials about the failure of our public leaders and officials to respond to our air quality problems and develop meaningful strategies.
One consistent theme which emerges is advocacy. I have been accused of always seeing the glass as half-empty, even though substantial progress is being made. And, I am delighted to acknowledge that progress is being made, but it is mostly making its appearance in the form of growing awareness and momentum. Awareness of active transportation is being manifest in the growing appreciation of the personal benefits to physical and emotional health, and community benefits to air quality, congestion and quality of life. And, of course, this awareness and momentum is demonstrated in the rapidly growing presence of bicyclists on the streets. University and college campus bike racks are overflowing with bikes. Growing momentum on the political front is reflected by the emergence of an Active Transportation Committee as part of the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC), the transportation Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Wasatch Front. Interest in local Bicycle Advisory Committees has grown from only 3 applicants for the Salt Lake County Bicycle Advisory Committee three years ago to over 60 this year. Last year Salt Lake County hired an active transportation coordinator/ traffic engineer and provided a budget to fund improvements for bicycling as a mode of transportation. And, there were over 80 applicants for the newly reorganized Salt Lake City Bicycle Advisory Committee.
However, in my role as an advocate, I feel it is my duty to point out what more can be done. And, to my way of thinking with a few exceptions, we are only beginning the conversation. The exceptions, with which I am most familiar, include Salt Lake City, Utah County and St. George. As Mayor Becker of Salt Lake City recently pointed out, Salt Lake has increased its annual budget for active transportation from $50,000 to over a million dollars. One only has to ride the streets of Salt Lake to appreciate what is happening there, and this is a work in progress.
Utah County is a wonderful example of a regional and local community partnership vision and effort. For over a decade the Mountainlands Association of Governments (MAG), the MPO for our neighbors to the south, have heavily invested their Federal transportation funding in active transportation. Go on-line (Interactive Trails Map) to see the wonderful active transportation network they are developing. This will be the subject of my next blog, which will go into more detail because this is an issue we may want to discuss with transportation officials at the Utah Bike Summit on April 26th.
Treat yourself and take a ride on the many separated active transportation paths in St. George. Planners in St. George are realizing the dream and making significant investments in active transportation for the benefit of local residents and the economy through tourism.
The good news is that active transportation discussions and planning are happening at all levels. The next major challenge is the realization of sufficient funding to implement change.
Another blog seems to have gone by and I still seem to be setting the stage for future content.
Remember the more bicyclists we have on the streets, the safer it becomes for everyone.