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5 reasons why OKC needs more bike lanes

Unless you're driving a car, it's incredibly dangerous to get around in Oklahoma City. If you're on a bicycle, you have to worry about sharing a lane with maniacs in SUVs who are more interested in looking at the newest Snapchat filters than watching the road. For pedestrians, most of the city is like an off-road challenge, and you still have to be cautious for bad drivers.

I know all this because I use a bicycle as a primary mode of transportation. Now, the city is launching a master plan to dramatically improve the way we walk and cycle around. Dubbed Bike Walk OLC, the initiative "shows how to plan and build a complete bicycle and pedestrian network throughout the city to promote safer, healthier and more enjoyable active transportation choices." The city even allowed people to leave notes and comments on their comprehensive proposal up until... yesterday. Sorry for the late notice.

The problem with Bike Walk OKC plan is that it's about 160 pages. Who the hell has the time to read all of that?

The TL;DR is they want to complete the huge trail loop that circles around the city, build protected bike lanes and greenways in certain areas, and put sidewalks anyplace that doesn't look like they were just hit by a level 10 Frackquake. I skimmed enough to find a few facts that could convince some of the "Why walk when you can drive?" crowd that there are benefits to enacting this kind of infrastructure:


1) Less Spandex on the road

Let's be real, those old guys in Spandex riding sport frames that cost more than your car piss everyone off. Hell, I'm a daily cyclist, and even I don't like the weekend warrior types that clog the roads. One of the biggest parts of bikewalkokc is to complete the Grand Boulevard Loop bike trail that will wrap around the entire city. That means all those middle aged men in Lycra will have a separate trail to go play Tour de Oklahoma on.


2)  More trees

My first thought when visiting nearly any other major city is how much prettier it is than OKC. The reason every time: trees. I don't know what we've got against em here, but there's so little greenery, even compared to places like Tulsa. This could improve with another of bikewalkokc's ideas- establish greenways. In areas where neighborhoods need to be better connected to parks and schools, the city will build trails for bikes and pedestrians that will not only be safe, but lined with lush green trees. The trees and less cars on the road will also help with air quality. Oklahoma City is ranked 24th in the country for worst air quality by ozone amounts. That kinda surprised me, but I should know better by now than to be shocked when Oklahoma is high up on a "worst of" list.



3) Less traffic

Drivers are often upset at cyclists and pedestrians, viewing them as taking up space that belongs to cars. But practically any city planning study will show you that investing in bike infrastructure reduces traffic. Think about it: the more safe it is to bike, the more people that will likely ride. A giant car meant to carry 4 or more people takes up a lot less space than a bike. Congestion goes down, and if we have protected lanes, it's not even an issue of having to share the same space.


4) Screws the oil overlords

For as much as people complain about how our state is ruled by the oil and natural gas energy, we're sure addicted to their product. Your Facebook tirades about how fucked it is that the oil overlords don't pay enough taxes and teachers can't get paid will automatically get 30% more self-righteous if you reduce your oil consumption (Editor's Note: Ouch). Plus, it's a helluva lot cheaper to maintain a bike than a car. I probably spent as much on my bike last year as you did on your last two tanks of gas.



5) It's more safe for everyone

Between 2003-2015, 1,657 pedestrians were hit by cars and 120 died. In that same length of time, 790 cyclists were run down and 10 died. Not to mention that the amount of car accidents in that time are even higher. Basically, drivers make commuting more dangerous for everyone, so the more people we can get out of their cars and provide safe sidewalks and protected bike paths for, the better we're all off. As a bonus, you'll get some cardio.


Anyways, there's a LOT of information in this initial bikewalkokc proposal, and it's good that the city is soliciting the advice of the citizens so they can hopefully best serve us. I still can't help but be cynical, however. I mean, look how long it takes to get any stretch of road work accomplished in OKC. We've obviously always prioritized cars, so if it takes this long to appease motorists, will there be any sense of urgency when it comes to accommodating people who aren't in a gas powered vehicle? The city is still trying to finish trail plans that they started 21 years ago, not to mention the MAPS 3 from 2012 that isn't completed.

What are your thoughts on bikewalkokc? Let us know in the comments down below.

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