O’Connor: Capitalizing on transportation diversity
Oklahoma City’s streets were developed with one primary consideration: to move cars. Today, our city planners consider many other aspects in how we get around our city – including how to encourage pedestrians and bikes and keep them safe while keeping traffic moving. Creating safe, walkable and bike-friendly areas actually has an impact on the economy since vibrant sidewalks improve retail and restaurant business and encourage healthier lifestyles, human interactivity and environmental awareness.
According to Smart Growth America’s “Dangerous By Design 2021,” Oklahoma ranks 14th as one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians. Oklahoma City is tackling this challenge with bikewalkokc, our first master plan for cyclists and pedestrians. The Planning Commission and City Council adopted bikewalkokc in 2018 and the plan identifies areas for bike lanes, trails, sidewalks and better pedestrian crossings and access in key areas across the city.
With the Better Streets Safer City funding, pedestrian projects have included sidewalk construction and ADA-compliant ramps, including improved walkability and connectivity for 22 schools and 16 parks and construction of nearly 60 bus stops. The city plans to spend $14 million of total program funding on updating bicycle infrastructure, plus additional dollars from grants and other sources. Currently, 10 bicycle infrastructure projects are in the design stage.
Watch for Me OK, a new public awareness campaign, kicks off this month to increase the visibility of pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues. The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, city of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Highway Safety Office have partnered on this initiative to share safety tips and resources for everyone on the road. The campaign details the laws that pedestrians, cyclists and drivers need to follow, making them clear and easy-to-understand.
Leaders across central Oklahoma are promoting Watch for Me OK, including Mayor Holt, Oklahoma City Ward 6 Councilperson JoBeth Hamon and incoming Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis. They are encouraging citizens to take responsibility for each other and be mindful of all forms of transportation.
This week is Bike to Work Week and our city is promoting Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 21 with morning community rides at locations across the city. Cyclists of all experience levels are encouraged to ride their bike to work. Our efforts help central Oklahomans put safety first while encouraging a fun, healthy lifestyle.
Learn more about Watch for Me OK at www.watchformeok.org.