By Charles Pekow
(from our Fall/Winter 2013 issue)
It took four tries, but Ogden was determined to get that Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) recognition. It finally did. In October 2013, it became the only community in Utah to win BFC honors from the League of American Bicyclists in the fall's round of awards. Ogden was awarded bronze status, up from the honorable mention it got last time it applied.
“Ogden is already a mountain bike mecca and the city is working on improving in-town cycling as well,” the League stated. It cited the city for building its first cycletrack, noted that the town of about 83,000 includes 16 miles of shared-use paths and 18 miles of natural path, slow speed limits on most roads, and a new mountain bike park complete with flow trail and dirt jumps.
League judges also praised Ogden’s schools for including Safe Routes to School curricula in all of them and mountain biking teams at all three high schools, including a Catholic one. The community sponsors a number of social rides and mountain bike races. It hosted the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in May and will host the Masters Road National Championships in 2014 and 2015.
The city government offices might want to also apply as a Bicycle Friendly Business. It lets employees who bike to work use a city-owned SUV to drive to places too far to reach on bike during working hours. City employees can also take out a zero-percent interest loan of up to $2,000 to buy a bicycle. The price is deducted in installments from their paychecks until paid off. The city budgeted for it and always maintains a waiting list of staff eager to buy a bike when the fund contains enough money, explained Josh Jones of Ogden City.
The city also features 12 bike shops and the Ogden Bike Collective and plans to open four bike fix-it stations this fall.
“They gave us some pretty good feedback on how we can move forward after our previous applications. We finally convinced them we were making enough progress,” says Ogden Bicycle Program Manager Josh Jones.
“Our mayor is very actively engaging with the cycling community,” Jones says. He sees how bicycling can help the local economy even without anyone pushing a pedal. Mayor Mike Caldwell “is trying to woo cycling companies to move their operations to Ogden,” Jones notes. TRP Brakes, which builds bicycle brakes, set up shop in Ogden. So did the expanding ENVE Composites, a manufacturer of bicycle wheels and components. And now, Volagi Cycles is moving there.
Ogden plans to work up to a higher rank (silver comes next) but doing so will require working on a few weaknesses cited by the League, such as a very small (.3 percent) ride-to-work mode share and a high crash rate. And while the city is included in a county-wide bike plan, it needs to finish its own, currently in progress, the League says. The city plans to spend $100,000 for a contractor to write a plan. “The county plan is a trails plan. Ours will be more holistic, with city planning, recreation, business, doing training with police officers” and more, Jones promises.
As to the low mode share, Jones says “the problem is we have no metrics. The only data we have are from the Census. I feel the mode share is higher than what they report but we have no counting method that we've employed to prove that's the case.” He said the city is considering performing scheduled bike counts.
“I've been riding my bike to work for about eight years. It used to be I was the only one but now I wave to about 12 other people” also riding to work, Jones says.
As to the crash rate, Jones says he can't compare Ogden with other communities but “we have had issues with the (indigent) population on Walmart bikes not obeying traffic laws. There are some trouble spots that need improved lighting and crossings,” he says. “Education may be the solution: tell these people to cross at the crossings (and) ride on the right side of the road.” He says the city may need to increase enforcement too.
And he acknowledges that the city needs more bike parking. “I'd love to see a bike parking ordinance where bike racks would be standardized. A lot of our grocery stores don't even have bike racks so you go to buy groceries and wind up chaining your bike to a shopping cart,” Jones says.
The city is also taking bids to construct its first cycletrack downtown and “we're always expanding the Ogden River Parkway” bikepath, Jones says.