Sunday, January 14, 2007

INCOG Bicycling Subcommittee

When cyclists encounter a poorly designed section of trail, misleading signage, or a nonsensical intersection, they're tempted to ask, "Who built this piece of **** and wasted my tax money? Why would they do something this STUPID?" It doesn't take much effort to find especially bad examples. Some Tulsa area cyclists have tried to get involved in the planning process in order to extinguish bad ideas before they are quite literally cast in concrete. You'd think that planning agencies would be interested in avoiding some obvious mistakes, and they'd welcome the input from those people who expected to use the facilities. And you’d be wrong.

In Tulsa, we have (or perhaps ‘had’ is the more operative term) a bicycling subcommittee as part of the Indian Nations Council of Governments. INCOG does transportation planning, coordination, and due diligence for regional governments. This subcommittee included local cyclists interested in developing better cycling. I’m a member.

But the subcommittee hasn’t met since last spring. Meanwhile, various bicycle-related projects have been moving forward, all without any input from this committed group of knowledgeable bicyclists. It appears that the subcommittee exists to provide the appearance of citizen involvement without any actual commitment to hearing those pesky citizens. The agencies, INCOG and the various park and public works departments, would prefer to have a simple rubber stamp committee.

The frustration of dealing with agencies determined to go their own way, in defiance of AASHTO guidelines and the city’s own bicycle master plan is readily apparent in the following e-mails. They are re-printed here with the author’s permission.

My term as a subcommittee member will expire later this year. That’s a moot point because it appears the subcommittee will not be meeting. My frustration echoes the points made here by Brian and Gary.

From Brian Potter:

Bicycling advocates should read with an eye for incongruous details the article "Trail's extension is rerouted" by Brian Barber

Some folks have asked me why I no longer participate on the INCOG Bicycling and Walking Subcommittee. Because it is a useless waste of time. (I would define a useful waste of time as running for office without a prayer of winning--to make sure your platform is acknowledged both publicly and politically.)

The above article is a prime example of this waste. The bike lanes planned for Delaware are another. We have spent time working up plans, drawing from our experience and research, only to be ignored. The most embarrassing aspect of the article is that the previously planned "trail" through the Tracy Park neighborhood was purportedly going to use streets and sidewalks. This makes no sense at all. The obtuseness it takes to ignore our previous critiques about sidewalk facilities reflects poorly on the engineers and planners. I would blame the journalist for not knowing the difference between a street, a sidewalk, and a trail. But during our meetings with Public Works a few years ago, I discovered that Director Hardt does not know the difference either.

We asked INCOG and Public Works not to put a trail through the north side of downtown because it would be broken-up by so many cross-streets as to violate AASHTO guidelines (i.e., to minimize crossing traffic). So they decided to put one on the east side of downtown, where it will still be broken up by several cross-streets. The design suggests that the trail will need a giant cross-walk to traverse the extremely wide portion of 11th St. at HWY 75. Well done. Did anyone ask why we need this extension at all?

We consistently asked INCOG not to put a trail where the road can do the service. We asked the city to do the same. This facility will cost $1 million and is completely unnecessary. An on-road route would be a useful service. This project is a waste and a design disaster.

The final insult is a meeting "to inform the public." Gary and I have been to such meetings. No input or feedback from the broader community is seriously solicited--token forms of public comment are accepted to maintain the appearance of democratic social process. A neighborhood association attended by a few individuals is determining transportation design and policy, just as TU, a special interest group, did on Delaware. And Public Works seems to be guided by no particular rationale except the drive to spend public funds and the peculiar will of these individual fiefdoms. An illogical patchwork of meaningless, directionless pavement is the result.

Hats off, Tulsa. In the words of Charles Hardt, "You'll get your trails." Your 2025 tax money at work.

Brian D. Potter
League Certified Instructor #1064
Education Director
The Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition

This is from Gary Parker:

The thoughts Brian expressed were exactly the same as mine as I read the article. If they wanted our input they would have asked for our input. Remember the scope of the design had already been set for the Metropolitan Tulsa Trails Master Plan BEFORE our first input meeting on the plan was even held. The original scope of the design was for off-street trails only. These off-street trails would have required the use of an automobile to access them! It was only after much heated discussion that the on-street connector routes were added.

I agree about what has turned out to be a waste of our time to make bicycling an integral part of the Tulsa transportation system through encouragement, engineering, education, and enforcement. This is also exactly what I discussed with Rich Brierre, INCOG planner, when asked to donate my time to provide input on the Metropolitan Tulsa Master Trail Plan. I said "I was not interested in giving my time for a plan that ended up on the shelf." Well, I guess I know when I have been insulted, huh?

The poisoned fruit of our efforts was revealed at the informational meeting on bike lanes being placed on Delaware for the University of Tulsa. I brought up the point the Tulsa Trails Master Plan called for a share lane on street bicycle facilities, not bike lanes. The moderator acted offended I should have even pointed out this fact. I was quickly given the excuse, and it was an excuse, "This is a 'special exception'". The moderator acted offended! Incredible!

The fact the bicycle working group has not even been asked for input or met for months is the writing on the wall. I believe in our guts we knew what was going on. We knew back at the All Souls Church meeting, we were being "handled." I think that is the unofficial term for what was going on. A nicer description is, "marginalized."

Combined with all of the other fiascos perpetrated on Tulsa citizens under the guise of "planning". It is no wonder the public stays disgusted with the City of Tulsa in general and Tulsa Public Works in particular. The implicit message to the citizens of Tulsa is, "We will be doing plans however WE want. It the way we want to do our jobs. It is the way we will do our jobs. If we really wanted your input we would ask for it. Take the hint. The inconvenience will be all yours." This attitude by our "employees," which is what they are, is, in a word, incredible.

On the other hand the work of Sandra Crisp and others associated with the Community Cycling Project has been outstanding. It is impossible to overestimate the value of the work they have done to the benefit of the individuals who have been through the program. We should take pride in the fact that we were able to have on-street facilities establish at some locations in the city. Further many ordinances that limited acceptance of the bicycle into the transit system were eliminated.

The fact is Tulsa city officials are grounded in a circular argument to the defeat of transit bicycling, and the continued embrace of the automobile and city sprawl. The argument is, “We will support bicycling and defend bicyclists' legitimate rights to the public streets when and only when, we see large numbers of bicyclists using the streets."


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Blogger Paul Tay said...

Santa hates to say it. But, he will. He told ya SO. INCOG bike planning is a SCAM. Bike-to-Work Day is a SCAM. If you can't get your voices heard through "proper" channels, you now have ONE recourse: The First Amendment.

To INCOG, Tulsa Public Works, and motorists, cyclists are nothing more than NIGGERS of the roadway. We don't deserve our right to the roadway simply because we are NOT willing to stand up for it. If you want your right to the roadway, you have to fight for it like the Selma March, aka Critical Mass.

Merry Christmas and Happy MLK Day, guys.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Fritz said...

Cool, cheap idea: Zip ties for traction.

1:44 PM  

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