Stillwater News Press

May 5, 2013

Officials: Oklahoma lags behind in making biking a commitment

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Stillwater has dropped a few spots in the listing of bicycle friendly cities, according to the most recent League of American Bicyclists rankings.

Oklahoma is ranked No. 38 nationally. Stillwater Bicycle Committee member Keith Reed said the state was near the bottom of the list two years ago.

“They made a significant increase in 2012 and for 2013, we’ve dropped down, I believe, three or four spots,” he said.

Reed said the reasoning is the lack of support for bicycling issues on a state level.

“One person at ODOT, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, has a token appointment for bicycling issues,” Reed said. “It’s a very small percentage of their job responsibilities and they just really do not have any time to dedicate to bicycling issues.”

This, combined with little support from the legislature, was the reason House Bill SJR13 went no further than a second reading in the Tourism and International Relations committee.

“There’s been a group that has worked tirelessly to try and get ODOT to recognize Route 66 as a designated bicycle route through Oklahoma,” Reed said. “This group was not asking for funding or anything else. They just wanted ODOT to recognize that, hey, this is a valuable part of our state and we want to recognize that bicyclists use this route traveling across the country.”

He said the stalling of that bill was disappointing.

League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke said in a press release that the group was encouraged to see progress in states, including Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

“But, as the scores clearly highlight, there’s much work to be done in critical areas like infrastructure and planning in every state,” Clarke said.

Reed said states like these are taking notice of the potential benefits.

“I think one of the biggest things is that states all across the country and cities all across the country are recognizing that bicycling solves a lot of problems, whether it’s a transportation issue or a health issue, quality of life; and they’re being proactive in using bicycles,” he said.

“Once again, that goes well beyond recreational bicycling and that means people using bicycles to get from point A to point B in their daily lives.”

Reed said Oklahomans can do two things to see progress.

“If you’re a bicycle rider, you need to be talking to your legislator and elected officials and you need to let them know that bicycling issues are important,” he said.

In addition, using a bicycle more often would show that a need exists.

Reed said research shows the higher percentage of bicyclists in a community, the lower percentage per capita of accidents due to other motorists becoming more aware and expecting bicyclists.

In Stillwater, progress has been made, he said.

“Locally, we’ve made some strides within the last year with the bike sharrows and the give us three (feet) signage,” he said. “The community has been a big help.”

However, in a press release, Reed said more could be done across the state.

“While Stillwater is making some positive progress, Oklahoma continues to lag behind in making a real commitment to bicycling as a viable form of transportation,” he said.