Oklahoma had its first bike summit over the weekend at the Chesapeake Boathouse in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition organized the event.
Lon Haldeman, famed ultra-cyclist and the operator of the PacTours bicycle touring company, talked on the history and allure of historic Route 66 through Oklahoma. This state has more remaining miles of the original road alignments than any other state, drawing tourists from all over the world. This historic highway had tourist amenities roughly 20 miles apart along its length, a perfect distance for bicycle tourists. Additionally, other states have concluded that bicycling tourists spend as much as their motoring counterparts, yet they spend in a more confined area.
When asked, “What can communities do to attract cyclists?” Haldeman replied that two things help greatly: roadways free of drainage grates that cause diversion falls, and adequate signage to inform and direct cyclists along city streets. He mentioned that much of the signage for both historic Route 66 and cyclists has been vandalized or removed, and suggested pavement markings as an alternative.
Ginny Sullivan talked about the Adventure Cycling Association whose 44,000 members make it the largest national cycling organization. She said that the goal is to inspire bike travel. With hundreds of volunteers, maps, extensive social media contacts, and a website, Adventure Cycling is trying to attract a younger crowd as the present demographic is aging. One new idea involves bike overnights, simple out and back bike tours that begin and end at home. Sullivan spoke extensively on the economic impact of bike touring, both from the standpoint of a touring cyclist and those communities hoping to attract tourism dollars. Bicycle tourists spend $100 per day on average, and they do so in a relatively small area.
Joy Hancock, the new director of Oklahoma's Freewheel, shared her thoughts about the annual cross-state tour. As yet, no economic study has been done on the tour's impact in the small towns where it makes overnight stops, but she believes it contributes about $25,000 in each community. The first seminar that will detail the 2012 route will be held January 10th.
Sandy Pantlik, director of travel promotion for the Oklahoma Tourism Department, talked about the Scenic Byways program, bike trails, and the travelok.com website. She noted that the state had bicycling maps at one time, but they are no longer in print. Oklahoma attracts $6.2 billion in tourism spending each year, and bicycling would add to that total. Like Lon Haldeman, she also spoke on the state's close ties with Route 66 and its history. Oklahoma plans to develop Route 66 as a bicycle route, but as yet funding is not available.
The Oklahoma Bicycle Coalition conducted a brief meeting over the lunch break, introducing a bylaw change would allow for new initiatives to be proposed by two or more members and voted on in any meeting. The bylaw change passed unanimously.
Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, addressed the meeting after lunch. Clarke is an engaging speaker and covered a wide range of bicycling-related topics. He spoke of Copenhagen, where the average number of commuting cyclists would be considered a huge turnout for any North American tour. Clarke brought out the 'safety in numbers' argument, which seems to indicate that increasing numbers of bicyclists do not lead to a proportional increase in bicycle crashes. He said, “We need complete systems, not just infrastructure.” That includes promotion, marketing, and education.
Clarke was concerned over the possible loss of transportation enhancement funds due to the political wrangling in Washington. He strongly advised those present to contact their senators and congressmen. “It's all about showing up,” he said, referring to the political adage that policy is set by those who make an effort to attend meetings.
When asked about the Reed Bates case in which a cyclist was arrested and jailed for riding on a public roadway, Clarke said, “His case was a disaster waiting to happen. It would not have set a precedent. He was not a sympathetic character.” Clarke defended the League's record regarding challenges to cyclist's rights by saying, “We have been involved in a number of such cases over the last several years.”
This is the text that appears on the Examiner, along with that photo up at the top. Believe me, that huge, back-lit window gave me fits. It overpowered the anti-reflective coatings in both my Olympus lenses, leading to numerous ghost images. I took some photos with the 50 year old Konica Auto S2 also, and it will be interesting to see how they look.
This piece is straight reportage. I'll write an op-ed with my views on the summit in the next couple of days.