By Turner C. Bitton — Mayor Mike Caldwell of Ogden began his second term in January of 2016 and is known for his support of cycling, both commuter and mountain. He has been the Chair of the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s Active Transportation Committee since 2015. During his tenure as Mayor, Ogden has seen an increase in bicycle-related industry, infrastructure, and the city has adopted a Bicycle Master Plan (covered in my April 2016 issue column).
I recently sat down with Mayor Caldwell to discuss his work as Chair of the Active Transportation Committee and to get his personal advice for bicycle commuters in Ogden and throughout the Wasatch Front.
1. You had a much-publicized goal of commuting to work by bicycle each day that you were in the office in 2014. After a full year of commuting, what advice do you have for new commuters?
I think people just need to get started and figure some of the things out as they go. I had most of the equipment I needed but it was scattered through out the house and once you get started you figure out what you need to be comfortable and feel safe. I tended to stay off high traffic areas so I didn’t have to worry about or contend with as many cars and I would recommend staying on the same routes where possible, it really helps to know if there are potential hazards such as potholes or school areas that require more attention. High quality lights on the front and back also make a big difference. At the end of the year I rode close to 2,200 miles and had one flat with no accidents; so it was a pretty good year.
2. You’ve been Chair of the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) Active Transportation Committee for over a year now. Can you explain what the committee does that benefits bicycle commuters and what your role is as Chair?
The Council acts as a great forum for all city planners, engineers and others to talk about best practices for projects in their communities that will make both cycling and walking safer and more enjoyable. We also work as an advocacy group to make sure that cycling and walking are legitimate forms of transportation and general health in communities. Health care in America is the 7th largest economy in the world and healthier communities that encourage more active modes of transportation can really help with that. We meet regularly with key stake holders like our Legislature, UTA and UDOT to find ways to improve the safety of our streets for these ways to move through our communities. We also make long term strategic plans cities can add to their master plans to include some of these upgrades.
3. What would you say is the overall sentiment of the committee as it relates to bicycles? How does the WFRC’s work support the new Ogden Bicycle Master Plan?
They are all a very passionate group about getting people outside and more involved in their communities. Interestingly enough, not all of them ride bikes as you might expect. Many of the communities represented have heard loud and clear from their residents that these are very important elements of the community they want to be raising their families in and have made it a priority to work on. WFRC’s work supports Master Planning of transportation along the entire Wasatch Front and they were the organization that gave Ogden City a grant to have the study completed.
4. One of the key areas of interest to cyclists are the so-called “Bicycle Networks” that are included in the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan. Can you explain what these networks are?
Bicycle Networks are just that: a network of connected pathways that go places you want to go and connect all the important gathering places in our communities. The vision is to have all the surrounding communities connected so these pathways don’t end at city boundaries. They also allow for racks on UTA busses and space on both Front Runner and Trax, it is a complete ecosystem that is interconnected.
5. What project are you the most excited to have worked on as chair of the committee? Are there any specific projects that you feel readers should be aware of?
UTA is undergoing a study right now to do regional Bike Share programming along the entire public transportation network they have built. First and Last mile are issues they constantly work to address and this is probably the easiest way to solve some of those problems. We were also excited to see Prop 1 dollars eligible for Active Transportation corridors and facilities. [Editor’s Note: Proposition 1 passed in Weber County, but not Salt Lake County or Utah County] Master Planning for smaller communities that might not have the budget but need to start making plans has also been a great benefit.
6. What is the most important impact that you being chair has had for Ogden City?
It has allowed us to be much more robust in our planning and aligning of resources in Weber County as a whole. I also felt it was important I practice what I preach which was part of my reason for riding every day in 2014. Being a regular bike commuter with a very busy schedule brought some attention to its viability.
7. What is your preferred route to work? Are there any infrastructure improvements outlined in Ogden’s Bicycle Master Plan that would have made your commute safer or more enjoyable?
I rode through Weber State and followed the recommended roads above Harrison to 26th street and down to the Municipal Building. It was about 5.5 miles each way. One thing we have talked about is road clearing during the snow storms we get in the winter, some of those commutes through heavier snow was definitely more challenging. There are protected and prioritized pathways that are recommended that would have made it safer as people wouldn’t be able to park in the designated or protected bike lane. As you know Ogden is very unique and diverse and seeing all the different parts of our community made every ride very enjoyable. Not sure that we can improve on that a lot!
Given recent developments in Ogden and the announcement that Bike Utah is working to establishing Bicycle Master Plans throughout the state, the work of the Active Transportation Committee is more important than ever and will affect the commutes of cyclists for years to come. For more information on the Active Transportation Committee visit www.wfrc.org.
Turner C. Bitton is an avid cyclist and serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations and in many volunteer leadership capacities. He lives in Ogden with his fiancé Chase and their two dogs Charley and Moose.