Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Bicycle Bus

Yesterday, I wrote about meeting Pete as we commuted to work in the morning. When I left in the afternoon, a cyclist was about half a mile ahead when I reached 46th Street. I thought it was Pete. The light was against me, of course, so the distance kept increasing. When it changed, I put my head down and hammered, thinking I could catch him fairly quickly.

I pushed hard for almost 3 miles. Just short of 76th Street, I caught up to….her. It was definitely NOT Pete. I never got her name, but she works at the Tulsa Zoo in Mohawk Park.

I asked if she rode through 66th Street and into the north end of the park, rather than along Mingo Road with all the traffic. She was hesitant about 66th, partly because it’s been used as a meth lab dumpsite. There’s been one murder and a body dumped there too. It’s lonely. And when I though about it, I realized I’d be very nervous if my daughter wanted to ride there alone.

So here’s a problem. We have a countywide trail plan that connects most neighborhoods with parks, shopping centers, and employment, yet if people are afraid to use the more remote parts of it for fear of crime, is the plan really a good idea? It would be like building a turnpike between nowhere and nowhere, a concept we’re all too familiar with here in Oklahoma.

There is a solution – the bicycle bus – a group of riders who meet and travel to a common destination. This is the perfect introduction to commuting for new riders or fearful riders. Think of it as an opportunity for a traveling version of LAB’s Road1/Commuter class.

Owasso had a bicycle bus for a while. It was a group of 6 or 8 guys who met on a corner of Main Street and rode together to the AA maintenance base. But the group disbanded with the onset of cold weather, and didn’t resume the next spring.

I return to this idea now and then. And it’s true that when I wear the yellow and black jersey, school kids line up on the curb as I approach. When Joni Mitchell did “Big Yellow Taxi” she was singing about me. What can I say? I’m a big guy and I could be the bus driver.

The sticking point is how to publicize this thing. With the spike in fuel prices, more people are turning to bicycles. We want to educate them in safe road practices, and what better way than by demonstrating those practices?


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