In theory, Oklahoma City should be one of the most bikeable cities in the nation. It’s very flat, built on a simple grid system, and the weather is always fantastic. Okay, that last one was a lie, but still – what excuses do we have left as a city to just sit back and watch people die because of shitty infrastructure?
Before we get into solutions, let’s take a quick dip into this article from Fox 25:
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — Steve Schlegel said he would like to see Oklahoma City do a lot more to make the area more bicycle-friendly. The owner of Schlegel Bicycles in Automobile Alley said he thinks this is the way the city is going.
“It’s a slow process with the bureaucracy and getting those dollars to actually producing the infrastructure,” Schlegel said. “It’s just making the realization that this needs to become a big part of it.”
A report shows Oklahoma City is not doing well with biking safety. The League of American Bicyclists said from 2012 to 2016, there were 34.3 deaths per 10,000 people biking to work. That number leads all large cities in the United States.
In a metro overrun with people paying more attention to their phones than the road, and who also have a generally hostile attitude towards anyone who is not riding in their SUV, it is genuinely terrifying to ride a bike in Oklahoma City. Every day when I lock the door and carry my bicycle down the stairs, I think about how it might be my last moment on earth.
Are you still with me? Probably not, but if you are down to leave your Lexus behind, there are a few events coming up where cyclists are standing up for themselves. After the death of local chef Chad Epley in a tragic hit and run, citizens have been spurred to action. Chad was a friend of mine, and as a fellow cyclist, we shared that bond of choosing to get around town without driving. He wasn’t the first to get murdered by a car, and won’t be the last, but he was well-known enough to be a catalyst for change in OKC.
The anger amongst our cycling community has been rising for years, and we don’t want to politicize the death of our friend, but to take our feelings of frustration about the dangerous mishandling of alternate transportation in Oklahoma City and ply it into something that will not only save lives in the future, but also encourage people to get out of their cars.
The more people who can ride bikes, the cleaner the air, lower the traffic, and stronger the districts. We’ve recently elected councilfolk like JoBeth Hamon and James Cooper, who eagerly want to improve accessibility. But we still have stubborn stalwarts like Stuart Chai, OKC’s City Traffic Engineer, who want to keep us stuck in the destructive attitude of the 1950’s where we just say “Why walk when you can drive?”
If you share the collective anger of me and the rest of us who believe that our streets deserve protected bike lanes and safe infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists alike, there are three big protests coming up. You don’t have to be a spandex-wearing dad with a carbon fiber racing bike to join. Get that old cruiser out of the garage, oil the chain, adjust that saddle, and ride with us.
Here are some events to attend:
Tuesday, May 7th
This is my officially sponsored event of the three because I’m going to be speaking at this one. We’re meeting up at Stonecloud Brewing at 3:30, then taking up the entire northbound lanes on Classen to the place of Chad’s hit-and-run murder on 16th street. After a vigil at his memorial, we will continue on to the Tower Theatre for an event. Even though everybody at Tower probably hates me because I wrote a fairly negative thing about them on this site, we’ve smooched and made up to come together for this because we have a common belief in safe streets, and life is too short for petty grudges when cars are out here mowing down young people like they were feral squirrels.
Wednesday, May 15th
This ride, meeting up at the Myriad Gardens at 6:30, looks like the tamest of this list. Everyone needs to wear helmets, ride slower than 12 mph, and has the mission “to raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. The ride is also a chance to show respect for and honor the lives of those who have been killed or injured.” If you’re looking for a casual cruise to show solidarity, this is the ride for you.
Sunday, May 19th
In case you can’t tell by the barbed wire, this is the ride for the punx. Yeah, you’re likely to see a bunch of fixed-gear bikes out on the road, but those are the kids who are out riding every day. Even though there will be a lot of people in black sleeveless shirts and stick-and-poke tattoos, these are the people who rely on their bikes to get around, and important voices for this conversation going forward.
Whether you choose to participate in one or two or all three of these events, or decide to sit on the sidelines, please be aware of cyclists and treat them with care and respect.