One of the biggest problems I’ve seen in community development over the last few years has been how to get cyclists and cars to get along with the ever growing cycling population in our mid- and major-level cities. We’ve all heard the horror stories of road rage over the years as more and more cyclists take to the road. Cars have intentionally harassed cyclists. Cyclists have intentionally antagonized vehicles with reckless abandonment to traffic laws. Things have gotten so out of control I keep channeling the Rodney King .gif, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Oklahoma City is not immune to this behavior. I ride several days a week with some very, VERY experienced cyclists. One is the owner of our premier bike shop in the state. He has been riding for forty-plus years. To say he knows his stuff is an understatement. This is a guy who has such knowledge and control of this bike, he has actually held me up before so I wouldn’t crash. I weigh 194 pounds. That’s no easy feat.
We ride the roads with extreme caution and try to adhere to all traffic laws. But even then, we get the occasional vehicle who will try to cut us off or stop to scream at us. It’s a never ending exercise in tolerance for us. And I have to admit, our tolerance is very low at this point.
But the real question that should be asked is, How to we solve this problem?” Minneapolis solved this problem with education. They decided that promoting a cycling atmosphere needed, first of all, public acceptance and understanding of what a cycling city really means. Once they got acceptance, the public was more understanding of using funding to safely move the cyclists alongside the cars. The result was a cycling super highway that runs for five miles from east to west and connects all the cities trails. This allows commuters to head to the super highway and easily commute to work or more from one part of the city to another.
Granted, it takes funding to do this and right now, Oklahoma City is in the shitter because of the oil industry. So how do you accomplish this with no funding whatsoever?
Well, the first step is something I’ve been involved with for several years now call the Full Moon Ride & Run. This event is a combination run and ride starting in a large downtown park in Okc. The event is supported by a pre-set course for the run and ride but both happen separately. The whole thing has been a major success. And while there’s no statistics on the numbers of participants who continue to bike on a regular basis, I would imagine it has fostered much more than just a handful of riders. Participation numbers range from 200 on the small side to close to 1000 if the weather and day of the week (we go by the full moon, hence the name) are palatable. Obviously, weekend rides bring out larger numbers.
What this has done is help beginner cyclists and children get involved in a group ride setting without having to buy an expensive bike or worry about the speeds that most of us ride each week. Safety and inclusion are two key components of the ride. All riders are required to bring a helmet and lights and all traffic laws are strictly enforced to instill good habits to all riders.
I don’t know what affect this event will have on the city over the coming years. But with our participation numbers so high, I would hope that the cooperation between the cars and bikes would tend to grow. After all, those of us who ride also drive cars. That’s another important part of the equation to remember.
- What does your city do to promote cycling?
- Are there events like this that promote inclusion?
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