Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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?

Law enforcement/cyclists

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.

Planning/public works/cyclists

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.

In conclusion

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.

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Blogger Phillip said...

hello, just found your site googling around. I live in tulsa too and have been commuting for about 3 years now, and tulsa isn't a bad town to get around in, i've never really complained, but I just got back from portland and man o man was it ever so great for bike riding... most streets have a small 5 or 6 foot wide lane next to the left of the right hand turn lane. It's a really great system, I think if they just did a little repainting we could have something similar. That bike lane helps stay out of the motorist path so you get less of that "get the hell off the road" feeling when your riding. Any hoo, good read, ill come back!

8:03 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Bikes belong on the road...
Pedestrians have the right of way, but unfortunately, bikers forget that fact. Hence, kick them the hell off of the paths where they don't belong anyway. My kids are terrified of bikes because of the way the "racers" force everyone to move out of their way on the paths. New ordinance: No bikes on paths... PERIOD! Pedestrians are tired of being harassed!

4:55 PM  
Blogger Malcolm said...

Malcolm, East Tulsa - Hi all i ride from 71st & Yale to near Catoosa Hard Rock Casino & Hotel which is about 15.2 miles East & the amount of abuse i get is stupid by stupid ignorant un-educated people. Some think its smart to see how close they can get as they pass me at SPEED!! but most just shout "get on the sidewalk" well i do an average of 15 to 20 mph so i don't think its safe for me to be on the side walk at that speed. Thankfully there are alot out there that respect the law & give me room

10:34 AM  
Blogger Rachael said...

Hi there, thanks for the information here. I'll be moving to Tulsa in August and hope to do most of my commuting there by bike. It sounds like a relatively accepting community as far as bikes are conserned, but I am curious about infrastructure. How are the bike paths and bike lanes in the downtown area? You said you have to "take the lane"... are you always neck-and-neck with traffic, or are there accommodating paths for bikes as well? Thanks!

1:24 AM  
Blogger Ed W said...

Hi, Rachel...I should update this post since it's a few years out of date and much is happening. The Tulsa City Council will vote to establish (or not) a Bicycling Advisory Committee in the near future. The item was removed from their agenda at the last moment yesterday, and as yet no one knows why.

But the short answer to your questions is that bicycle access to downtown is very good. The River Park Trail comes up from the south and it connects with some trails going across the river to the west side. The Katy Trail and Avery Drive give good access from Sand Springs upriver, and the 4th(?) Street shared on street route is good to the east. INCOG has a map page that details all of this.

I'll get an update written and post it on my Examiner page:

5:13 PM  

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