Monday, July 16, 2007

Tulsa trails...

This was my response to a well-meaning plea for bicycle trails servicing area schools:

Building trails that provide connectivity is certainly a laudable goal. But as always, the devil is in the details. There are a host of questions:

- Where does the right-of-way come from? Most schools have residential housing adjacent. Whose homes will be demolished to make right of way? Think about the elementary and middle schools in your area. Would it be possible to build a trail system that accessed those schools?

- Assuming the right of way can be found, how do you fund the construction? Trails cost roughly $1 million per mile. Should it come out of the school's budget, or is it more the sphere of public works or parks? Does it involve city,state, county, tribal, or federal land? Each entity has to sign off on the plan.

- Who will maintain the trail, or more directly, whose budget will pay for it?

If you're beginning to get the idea that planning and building a trail network involves a multitude of questions, compromises, competing interests, and protracted bureaucratic infighting, you begin to understand why they're difficult to bring into existence. A trail idea will not meet with universal acclaim. Quite the contrary, in fact. The NIMBYs, naysayers, and simple obstructionists show up at every public meeting. They can be quite vocal, and more importantly from the political classes point of view, they vote.

But that's just the political and planning end. Even if you have a trail system, parents have to permit their children to use it. Given the "stranger danger" paranoia that infects so many parents, can we really expect them to let their kids ride a bicycle to school? It would be pleasant to think that one or more parents would ride with them, but the days of Ozzie and Harriet are long gone. If I recall right, less than 20% of families have a stay-at-home Mom. Chances are, both parents are hustling off to work. There isn't time to ride a bike.

Before anyone brings up the idea of bikelanes that service schools, or the idea of utilizing existing sidewalks for the same purpose, let's remember that bikelanes complicate intersections and traffic interactions for adults. Children would have a much harder time negotiating such intersections. And sidewalks offer another level of complication as kids don't obey stop signs and motorists simply don't look for cyclists on the sidewalk. The crash rate is 3 times higher than it is on the street.

I attended an INCOG planning meeting some time ago when they made the initial proposal for the trail network in their service area. One of the planners said the typical timeline is 10 years from concept to completion. And that's true if there are no major complications. Tulsa's trail network is nearing completion, and despite it's wide-spread nature, it doesn't allow full connectivity in that it doesn't fully connect neighborhoods with schools, parks, businesses and shopping. You have to ride on the street to reach many destinations. That will always be true. However, the on-street bicycle route network complements the trail system by using lightly traveled neighborhood streets.

But think again about what I said about stranger danger. Do parents allow their children to use the existing trails and bike routes to reach their schools? Has anyone ever done a count of students biking to and from school on a regular basis? I think that would be interesting information to have before tying to launch a construction project.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Mike1727 said...

Blogged on our local campaign blog.

I'm struck by the similarities between what you describe and what we experience on this side of the pond. NIMBYism the concept that a car is the only suitable place of safety for a commuting child are global memes, it seems.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

It would be a simple matter for TPS Police to escort kids to skool, if the Board choose to do so as a matter of policy, without the bother of building more facilities.

12:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home