Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Oklahoma Bicycle Coalition

I'm the OBC membership director. The board met in Stroud Wednesday evening about the Share the Road tag, the Texas Super Cyclist program, and some other business. Now, I'm not going to write about the board meeting because the minutes aren't official yet. But I do want to mention a few things about the tags and the Super Cyclist program.

I'm enthused about both.

The Share the Road tag is meant to heighten awareness of cyclists on our state roads. It's a straightforward message - share the road. What could be simpler? I have this vision of motorists and cyclists on busy roads as a normal part of their daily commute, so normal in fact, that the presence of cyclists is commonplace and unremarkable. That's hardly a radical thought, yet to some of the facilities advocates, it may be their personal view of hell.

Oklahoma has little money to maintain existing roads and highways, never mind build new ones. So the money that would build facilities like - dare I say it - bikelanes, is equally restricted. I'm not opposed to linear parks and multi-use trails since those are most often intended for recreation and are built with park money. But bikelanes are another matter. As a matter of public policy, it's hard to justify such expensive transportation facilities for the exclusive use of a small group of cyclists.

A better approach is to build wider lanes. Most lanes in this area are about 12 feet wide. A bicycle takes up about 2 feet of space. AASHTO design specifications call for a minimum of 2 feet clearance to each side (if I recall right), so the design space for a cyclist is 6 feet. That's half the width of most lanes here. That's too narrow to safely share with a motor vehicle. So a wider lane is better for cyclists. Fourteen feet would be nice, and sixteen would be even better.

So why shouldn't that space be set aside for cyclists by adding a solid white line? There are both practical and political reasons. The practical reason - money. Beyond the considerable expense of building a bike lane, there's the continuing expense of maintaining it. That area to the right of the white line attracts a lot of debris. Without regular street sweeping, the lane becomes unusable very quickly, and most municipalities here do very little street sweeping. Furthermore, without the abrasive action of motor vehicle tires, the surface weathers and roughens quickly. That's the dirty little secret of road cycling. We NEED car tires to provide a smooth surface.

As for the political reason - Oklahomans are populists. They are quite vocal about anything perceived as a benefit to a small group, like cyclists, and they are even more likely to vote against projects that spend public money to benefit such a small group. It's much easier for the politicians and planners to propose wider lanes since they benefit ALL road users, not just cyclists.

OK, I wandered away from the Share the Road topic a bit, but the thoughts just went together in a string. That happens.

The Super Cyclist program is from Texas. It's aimed at grade school children. The idea is that we would get our LCIs certified in the program, then they would teach it to elementary school teachers. I'm especially enthused about this because the kids would have a chance to start learning those judgment skills so critical to new drivers. In effect, they'd be learning the rules of the road and how to operate a vehicle safely long before they ever get behind the wheel of a car. This beats the standard 'bicycle safety' approach - "wear a helmet and watch out for cars!" - by a long shot.

Also, there's some federal grant money available for this program. If we received a grant, we could actually PAY our instructors for their time! Imagine that! OBC operates on a shoestring presently. We are all volunteers. It would be wonderful to be able to offer instructors fair compensation for their time. Think about giving up a Saturday with family and friends. What is that worth? ( I can put a precise dollar figure to it, since I'm a union member and I know what time-and-a-half brings in. There's no way I could ever earn that through teaching BikeEd, but it makes for a nice pipe dream!)


Blogger Rick Gardner said...

Great blog!
I'm a big fan of connecting all public schools to Tulsa's bike trail system. Actually little effort would be required and the potential savings of land dedicated to parking student cars would significant.

6:49 PM  

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