Is Tulsa Bicycle Friendly?
Brian Potter asked if Tulsa is a bicycling-friendly city. I almost cringe at the term because LAB often hands out their bicycle-friendly awards based on the facilities available in a particular city. While some amenities are necessary and desirable, it seems that LAB overlooks their own bicycling education program. Being bicycle-friendly involves more than bike paths, parking, or multi-mode transportation possibilities. They're a good start, but not the ultimate goal.
But our focus is on Tulsa, so let's discuss some aspects of cycling here. The main concern of nearly any road going cyclist is his interaction with area motorists. In general, I'd say that the overall relationship here is good. Most Tulsa motorists are accommodating toward road cyclists. They drive competently and safely, sharing the road with us. There are some exceptions, of course, but in my experience, they're thankfully rare. I should probably qualify that statement by saying that I commute to work regularly, and I see the same motorists day after day. They come to expect a bicycle rider somewhere on the commute. But even when I'm outside my usual hours or usual route, I seldom encounter hostile, irate motorists. I'd like to think that's because I take the lane when necessary, causing motorists to pass only when it's safe, but maybe being a big 220 pound guy has something to do with it too.
Most of the cyclists I've met on the road have been courteous and safety-minded. Some few, self-absorbed types have been so intent on their training that they couldn't respond to a simple, friendly wave, but I suspect they're arrogant dicks off the bike too. Occasionally, I've come across sidewalk riders who dart across traffic unpredictably. They're usually kids. I've seen numerous adults riding sidewalks in both Tulsa and Owasso. Once or twice I've met some wrong-way riders too, but again, they're thankfully rare.
I haven't heard complaints involving pedestrian/cyclist incidents that are more routine in cities like New York or Chicago. A few years ago, the River Parks Authority held a meeting about such conflicts at the northern end of the river trail. As I recall, the solution involved painting lines on the trail, dividing it into lanes, and providing more signage. Has anyone heard of other bicycle/pedestrian conflicts?
Most area law enforcement agencies have been positive and proactive regarding cyclist's complaints with one significant exception. I've had contacts with several agencies regarding enforcement or motorist/cyclist conflicts with very good results. Some officers are still woefully ignorant of both safe bicycle practice and bicycle law, but when an opportunity arises to educate his superiors, I won't hesitate to do so. I've been pleasantly surprised at their professionalism. That 'one significant exception' mentioned above involved a department that could not admit their deputy was enforcing his personal bias rather than the law.
The biggest failure I see in this area is in planning. Cyclists are the red-headed stepchildren of area transportation planners and public works departments. We should be getting routine accommodation when it comes to planning and designing streets and intersections, yet that is not the case. Frankly, I don't understand the willful exclusion of cyclists from area transportation planning. It seems our governments would rather design and build expensive infrastructure without any input from those of us who would expect to use it. I'm not talking about adding more linear parks, bike trails, or paths. I'd like to see traffic signals that reliably detect cyclists and building codes that require adequate bicycle parking. I'd like to see streets designed with cycling included as a normal part of the traffic flow. Those streets would be free of easily identified hazards to two-wheeled travel, like rough railroad crossings, wheel-trapping drainage grates, or angled motor vehicle parking.
As I passed the Shell station this morning, gasoline was at $3.10 per gallon. Every time the price spikes like this, more people turn to bicycles for cheap, simple transportation. Most of them begin as recreational cyclists. In fact, as I cruised garage sales on the Tour de Owasso last weekend, every garage I stopped at had a couple of bikes stored in a corner. Now, these folks might not consider riding to work every day, but they'll certainly think about using that dusty old bike to get milk-and-bread-and-eggs from the grocery store. We need to encourage them to try it.