Plan Spotlight: Engaging Communities in Active Transportation Planning

Working to turn every municipality on this map green. Numerous partners did a full assessment of local plans using a recently developed set of Active Transportation Plan Standards. Now they are reaching out to those communities that need plans so we can work toward a complete bicycle network all along the Wasatch Front. Map from Bike Utah's Wasatch Bike Plan. Click on the image to make it open in a larger window or visit the website.

by Scott Hess, Active Transportation Planner, Wasatch Front Regional Council

A functional bicycle and pedestrian network is only as good as its weakest link. In order to make a significant bicycling mode shift, riders and potential riders need to know that they are going to experience consistent, safe, and reliable infrastructure regardless of crossing community boundaries. Implementation of consistent infrastructure is aided by consistent planning.

The Wasatch Front metropolitan area holds 85 percent of the state’s population within a thin stretch of land 100 miles long between the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake. This area consists of Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah Counties with more than 70 municipalities.  Multiple jurisdictions, a large population, and a desire for consistent bicycle planning led to the need for a broad-based effort to engage cities regarding how they can make their communities better for bicycling and walking.

In 2017, Bike Utah, Utah’s statewide bicycle advocacy organization, developed the Wasatch Bike Plan campaign with the goal of getting every community in the five-county region to adopt and implement an active transportation plan. However not all active transportation plans are created equal. An initial assessment of local plans across the Wasatch Front proved that there were a wide variety of “plans” adopted at the local level. These ranged from a simple ‘lines on a map document’ to text written in a general plan all the way up to stand alone plans with their own goals and strategies.

The first page of the Active Transportation Plan Standards. Click on the image to have it open in a larger frame. Or download the PDF of the document.

To help provide a consistent assessment and understanding of local plans, Bike Utah partnered with the region’s two Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Wasatch Front Regional Council and Mountainland Association of Governments, as well as the Utah Department of Health, Utah Transit Authority, and two consulting firms to develop the Active Transportation Plan Standards. The Standards document includes the following items: partner engagement, public engagement; vision, goals, and objectives; current conditions; facility type; implementation strategy; and performance measures.

The group of partners then utilized the A.T. Plan Standards in two ways:

  1. To assess existing local Active Transportation Plans across the Wasatch Front
  2. To provide a “how-to” guide for communities and consultants for development of consistent active transportation plans

According to the Active Transportation Plan Standards, 33 percent of the communities in the five-county area had adopted acceptable active transportation plans. The majority of acceptable plans are located in Utah County and are the product of broad collaboration between Mountainland Association of Governments and local communities. Bike Utah’s public facing campaign, direct outreach to communities, and dissemination of the Active Transportation Plan Standards have drastically increased interest in local communities developing plans.

In the summer of 2017, Wasatch Front Regional Council led an effort to encourage communities in Box Elder, Weber, Davis, and Salt Lake Counties to engage in active transportation planning through a funding program called Transportation and Land Use Connection. This program provides assistance to local communities for a wide variety of planning efforts. Through partner engagement and discussions with interested communities, there were 11 applications for funding to develop new local active transportation plans. If these pending applications are funded, and the rate of interest continues, all of the communities across the Wasatch Front urbanized area have the potential to have an updated active transportation plan within the next five years.

There is still work to be done, but the momentum is building. Soon the Wasatch Front will have consistent active transportation plans which will hopefully lead to more consistent implementation of bike and pedestrian facilities, ultimately improving the bike and pedestrian’s user experience. The biggest lesson learned has been to engage a broad base of partners to reach out to communities, including state advocacy organizations, MPOs, county staff, health departments, and local advocates. Multiple voices rallied around a concise, consistent message makes for a greater likelihood that communities will take note and update their plans.

For more information and to obtain a copy of the Active Transportation Plan Standards, please visit the Bike Utah website at

The Wasatch Front Regional Council builds consensus and enhances quality of life by developing and implementing visions and plans for a well-functioning multi-modal transportation system, livable communities, a strong economy, and a healthy environment. Visit


Scott Hess is the Active Transportation Planner for Wasatch Front Regional Council. His role is to provide a focus to Active Transportation within the 2019-2050 Regional Transportation Plan and Wasatch Choice 2050 Regional Vision. He brings over ten years of experience in various Planning roles. Most recently he worked as the Planning Department Manager for Clearfield City with prior work as Davis County Planner focused on regional trail and bicycle infrastructure implementation. He holds a B.S. in Urban Planning and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Utah.

Published March 2018

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