Safer Streets, Happier Feet: BikeWalk Provo’s Uphill Journey
Bike / BMX
When trekking onward through your urban expedition, the hive mind state of Utah supplies wanderers with many means of transportation: used car lots on State Street, Ubers or Lyfts for the raging nightlife and the UTA’s Trax system of light rails and FrontRunners stretching throughout the valley. The southbound nonprofit BikeWalk Provo engages Provo’s community into the earliest forms of “getting a move on” by advocating for the safety and overall importance behind everyday traffic routines.
BikeWalk Provo first began with the resurrection of the Provo Bicycle Committee in 2008. Operations Director Aaron Skabelund spearheaded the operation while biking to his day job at BYU. When he realized how dangerous the lack of transportation awareness made travel, even over a small distance, he knew there had to be a change.
With a helping hand from the mayor’s office, the Provo Bicycle Committee became a city priority. It wasn’t until 2020 that the committee would take off their training wheels and branch out to form BikeWalk Provo. Former chair and now PR Spokesman (creatively proclaimed as “Propaganda Minister”) Chris Wiltsie expresses how trailing off to be a nonprofit has allowed for more freedom. “[We became] a nonprofit so we could have more autonomy and do things freely instead of worrying about biting the hand that feeds,” Wiltsie explains.
“We want [Provo] to be more like building Disneyland and less like Hell.”
Today, BikeWalk Provo consists of over 40 volunteers and an expansive collection of members. “The team has become a lot more structured,” Executive Director Christine Carruth Frandsen says, breaking down the seven board members. “State politicians, local politicians, a university professor, middle school teacher […] all who come with their own set of skills.”
With each mile conquered by comfortable sneakers or on a 10-speed’s tread, the activist group encourages the public to travel by walking or biking and speaks out about making the streets of Provo safer. Their education efforts vary from the significance of road cleanup to the construction of bike parking, with tasks occasionally as monumental as the tactical urbanism project. Although sounding like a Guerilla warfare operation, Wiltsie describes the project as “prototyping low-cost treatment on how you want the street to look and function.” Each project and task, sometimes as simple as teaching kids how to ride a bike correctly, is another step closer to their goal of ensuring Provo traffic safety.
With National Bike Month (celebrated every May) sweeping away the blistering snowstorms, BikeWalk Provo has begun cranking out many outdoor events for the whole family to enjoy. Take off the third weekend of every month and meet at Provo Bicycle Collective for the family rides—bring your best banana seat or BMX Friday at 10 a.m. or Saturday at 5 p.m. May 5 is the 22nd annual Bike to Work (or anywhere) Day, where the local businesses of Provo set up stations throughout the city for treats, drinks and a fun atmosphere to meet new people.
“The intensity of infrastructure should increase as the intensity of vehicles increases.”
Although BikeWalk Provo generates great progress daily, it’s up to the city itself to catch up with the times. The most ongoing battle comes in the form of content-sensitive infrastructure. Provo is no longer the peaceful Main Street USA of yesteryear— production and expansion staples Provo to the map, bringing in more people and more hazardous roads. “We want [Provo] to be more like building Disneyland and less like Hell,” says Communications Director Jacob Brooks. The city needs to take action with simple tasks such as painting divided lanes for bikes on busy roads. “The intensity of infrastructure should increase as the intensity of vehicles increases,” Wiltsie says.
To follow ongoing events and make contributions to BikeWalk Provo, go to their website, bikeprovo.org, or follow them on Instagram @bikewalkprovo.
Read more about local activism and making a difference in the community:
Sweet Streets: Making Movements Safer for Salt Lake City
Cranky’s Bike Shop Caters to Utah’s Cycling Community
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