Under the cover of darkness and with the approval of the city, a group of nearly 100 people worked to implement some possible improvements to Provo’s 500 North street on July 28.
They added buffered bike lanes, simulated raised crosswalks and curb build-outs, as part of a project to reimagine how pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists could better use the street.
While the street will be milled next week, the paint and hay bails gives residents and the city a chance to try something a little bit different in the area, Provo Bicycle Committee chair Aaron Skabelund said.
“I think that it shows people value this sort of thing, they want to have a voice and a lot of people who live in the central part of Provo value a lifestyle and a place that is walkable and bikeable and they want it to be more that way,” Skabelund said.
The project, which was implemented from 10 p.m. July 28 to 2 a.m. July 29, brought nearby residents and people from surrounding areas together to increase signage, paint murals on the street and implement the other parts of the project.
On July 29, there was a celebration to show people what the street could look like and get feedback.
Skabelund said they selected 500 North for the project, which was primarily funded by a grant from the Utah Department of Health, because it was an area that the city already planned to add bike lanes to and had been an issue for pedestrians for awhile.
“You have to step out and dare them to stop or dare them to run you over,” he said.
While the street will be milled next week, Skabelund said he hopes the city will consider adopting the changes they made and improving the walkability and bikeability of the streets.
“That was the other point (of the project) to encourage the city to create as robust a pedestrian and bike friendly a street as possible,” Skabelund said.
“And it’s not over,” he added.
Gary McGinn, director of community development, said the city was interested in the project and even provided support, like police officers to block the street off, to make is safe for workers.
“We are always looking for great ideas no matter where they come from,” McGinn said. “This was a way for something to happen on a temporary basis and find out the public reaction. They may love it, they may hate it, but it’s a great way to find out what the public thinks about it.”
Part of the changes to the street also included removing some on-street parking in the area, which is only temporary for now.
“Most of the comments I have gotten have been positive,” he said. “There have been some concerns about parking being taken off the street. That is one thing about the city that we have to balance. We have to accommodate cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Timp Neighborhood Chair Shannon Bingham said she has heard a few concerns about parking from a few people in her neighborhood, which includes people who either live on the street or worry about where people will park during events.
“I think the overall greater good, the safety of being able to drive and for pedestrians and bikers 350 days out of the year — or how many days there are no events — then having the parking there for those handful of days when it is needed, it’s a much greater need,” she said.
Bingham and her neighbors have also seen and had issues driving, walking or biking around 500 North. In the past few days, she said one man whose home is on 500 North has already seen that the street is safer because of the changes.
She also said she hopes these changes become permanent and that it will be expanded throughout the city.
“For our downtown area, one of the most wonderful things about living down here, and this is why I live here, is that I can walk and bike everywhere,” Bingham said. “There is so much I can do without a car even with my four children.”
Kirby Snideman is the neighborhood chair for the North Park neighborhood, whose southern border is 500 North. He said the bikeability and walkability of his neighborhood is a big selling point for him and his neighbors.
“It hit me that if you polled all the homeowners in the North Park neighborhood and asked why do you love it, they are going to say the same thing I say … It’s that these neighborhoods are walkable and bikeable,” he said. “You can bicycle to the library or rec center or walk downtown when there’s an event.”
For Snideman, who has owned a home in the North Park neighborhood for seven years, the project showed him how many people were interested in improving and revitalizing the area.
“When you come out to an event like that and it wasn’t at 10 a.m. on a Saturday it was 10 p.m. on Friday and went until to 2 a.m. and 75 to 100 people showed up,” Snideman said. “It says there’s a lot of people who care.”
Austin Taylor, director of the Provo Bicycle Collective, said he decided to get involved with the project because he hopes to see more bike lanes and safety measures put in place across Provo.
“What I liked about it the most is it’s a very tangible demonstration of how streets could be,” Taylor said. “People could pass around fliers with images but you don’t get a sense of what it could be until you blow it up and actually see it.”