By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Bicyclists in Stillwater are taking another step toward making their commute safer.
Stillwater Mayor John Bartley presented a proclamation July 16 creating a Stillwater Bicycle Committee.
Red Dirt Pedalers member Kevin Mussett said the idea is to create a group of advocates who will be able to take on bicycling issues in an official capacity.
“I think we’ve done some really good things in developing the corridors through town and the sharrows ... It just creates an awareness for drivers that bicyclists may also use that lane,” Mussett said. “We’ve done a really good job with signage.”
Mussett said he travels nine miles by bike on his daily commute to work with half of the travel going through city limits.
“I see more people riding bicycles on sidewalks,” Mussett said. “It’s five times more hazardous for a bicyclist to ride on a sidewalk than on a street.”
He said he believes bicyclists are uncertain about traffic.
However, traveling along sidewalks is dangerous as any vehicle that may be leaving a driveway or a business is looking for pedestrians and not bicyclists who will be traveling faster.
Mussett had approached Norm McNickle and Jason Peek with the idea of having stickers that showed the state law of three feet between vehicles and bicyclists who share the road.
“I took them to Norm McNickle and suggested they put them on squad cars,” Mussett said.
However, they took it a step further, having signs made and placed around bicycle corridors in town, he said.
He said he gives credit to the two for their help.
The Stillwater Bicycle Committee would look toward solving problems, he said.
“I think we could exert some pressure on (the Oklahoma Department of Transportation) to create a shoulder on the east bound lane of Highway 51,” Mussett said. “Right now, there is no shoulder or there’s such limited shoulder along the east side of that road that bicyclists are traveling against traffic on the westbound side of the road.”
He said he would also like to see the bicycle corridors in town expanded.
“Ultimately, we would like to create a situation where all those people on the sidewalk (and) everyone who might ride a bicycle might feel more comfortable riding in the street,” Mussett said. “It’s been shown that the more bicycle traffic there is on the street, the more awareness there is on the part of the driver and the number of crashes is reduced.”
Red Dirt Pedalers member Mary Cash said that in years past, if there was a bicycle-related issue, people would consult the Red Dirt Pedalers.
It’s good to have something officially in place now, she said.
“The goal is for future planning,” Cash said. “For making sure bicycles are part of our transportation system; that we’re not an afterthought.”
With the creation of a committee, the next step the group is taking is applying for designation as a bicycle friendly community.
“We made an application about 13 or 14 years ago and of course we weren’t anywhere close to being considered at that time,” Mussett said. “No one in the state was for that matter.”
Since that time, Edmond, Tulsa and Norman have received the designation. Mussett said he hopes they will be the next in line.
“We have done a lot of the things that would promote bicycling,” he said.
The group has received a grant for safe routes to school they will be implementing at the new location for Highland Park elementary.
This will create shoulders, sidewalks and crossing lights. Ten bicycle racks have been refurbished and are available at no charge to areas that could use them.
However, a new bicycle map of the city is needed, Cash said.
“Several towns in Oklahoma have bicycle maps and we don’t, so we need one,” Cash said. “That would be something for the committee to work on.”
The application for designation was written by another Red Dirt Pedalers member, Keith Reed, and was sent on July 20. The committee is waiting to hear the results.
“We were so intent on getting that part done that we need to take it to the next step and Red Dirt Pedalers need to determine who we hope to be on this committee and form that committee then,” Mussett said.
He suggested representatives of the police department, parks and recreation, someone from OSU and others.
“There are a lot of bicycle advocates that have worked for a long time on bicycle issues,” Cash said. “Those are the people that we should approach first because they have done the ground work.”
Cash said she is appreciative of the support the group has received in their work.
“I appreciate all the people in Stillwater that have supported cycling and do support cycling,” Cash said. “Cycling is a great benefit for Stillwater.”