By Darla Sheldon
Berlin is a city where less than half of its residents own a car. Its streets are very bike-friendly, with lots of bike paths and alternative routes. Biking makes it possible to hop off and explore sidewalk cafes, museums, parks or whatever catches your eye. In other locales, such as Oklahoma City, we whiz past scenery in a car, and miss so much.
Berlin visitors will find less than half of its residents own cars. Without a doubt, riding a bike can be the best way to experience the city. Biking makes it possible to hop off and explore sidewalk cafes, museums, parks, etc.
An estimated 32 percent of Oklahomans are at least occasional bicyclists and many more are getting the ‘bike bug” as they recognize the significant benefits.
Bicycle enthusiast James Nimmo emphasizes the need for safety awareness.
“I always assume any car containing a driver can be dangerous,” he said. “Beware of cars backing out of driveways and cars parked on the side of the street. A driver or passenger could open a door right in front of me. Never, ever, ride on a major thorough fare such as May or Penn. Always wear a helmet.”
Oklahoma City is becoming more bicycle friendly with the creation of the Oklahoma City Trails, a network of paved walking, running, skating and bicycling paths that will stretch across the city to many of its suburbs, he said. “The network includes the 10 mile long Lake Hefner Trail. The Hefner-Overholser Trail offers a convenient connection between the two popular Oklahoma City lakes.
The Oklahoma River Trails stretches over 13 miles on the north and south banks of the river and is free of motorized crossings. More than 200 miles of trails through the community are planned over the next 25 years as funding becomes available.
On May 24, the Oklahoma City council approved city ordinances that allow bicyclists full use of the travel lane when riding on designated bike routes. Other new bike legislation includes requiring bicycle safety questions on the driver’s license exam and designating Route 66 as the Historic Route 66 Bike Trail.
Downtown Oklahoma City is creating bicycle lanes and adding bike racks as part of the $141 million Project 180. A bike share program will begin with four downtown locations this fall and a full program launch next spring. Jennifer Gooden, director of the city’s sustainability office is meeting with vendors hoping to acquire about 90 bicycles. “It will all be in the central city — Automobile Alley, Bricktown, downtown, and it could go up into the medical business district,” Gooden said.
Bicycle advocacy groups are working to make communities safer and better for cyclists. The Oklahoma Bicycle Society (OBS), with over 400 Oklahoma City metro area members, sponsors a year-round program that includes weekly biking events like the Donut Ride on Saturdays wheeling through Mesta Park and Heritage Hills, the Sunday Morning Bricktown Ride and the Monday Recovery Ride accessing Hefner Trails. On Saturday, Oct 15, the OKC Ride for Refugees organizers expect over 3,600 riders to participate in the 5, 10 and 15- mile routes through the downtown area.
Formed in 2009, the Exfuze Women’s Racing Team is the first and only women’s racing club in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Earthbike Fellowship is a mountain bike club that promotes off-road cycling through trail advocacy and cooperation with land managers and users.
The OKC Velo Club promotes the sport of bicycle racing with one or more racing events and safety education.
The first Oklahoma Bicycle Summit, sponsored by the Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition, will be held Nov. 4-5 at the Chesapeake Boathouse. Keynote sessions feature the Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, Andy Clarke, and noted transportation engineer John LaPlante.
Bicycle shops serving the midtown Oklahoma City area are ready to get you started or keep you going down the right path. Check out Schlegel Bicycles, Bicycle Alley, Bikemine, Wheeler Dealer Bicycle Shop, Hoffman Bicycles and Melonbike. All have good selections.
Bicycling can be fun. With every turn of the wheel, you burn calories, enjoy more scenery, improve your health – and it’s earth friendly.