NORMAN — After 20 years of living in Norman, I have come to a realization: My relationship with biking within the city is analogous to many Normanites’ relationship with God — loving but incredibly fearful. After nearly being run over twice in three days while on my way to class, I concluded that I do not want to meet any sort of maker anytime soon. After discussing this with other cyclists, Normanites and OU students alike, they indicated to me that they would not prefer a premature meeting with their makers as well or any sort of incident that comes close while biking. Thus, we agreed that for the safety of residents and students, the city of Norman needs bike lanes, and at the rate of its 21st century growth, it needs them now.
Given its compact nature, there is no reason why Norman should not be a bike-friendly city. One could have a picnic lunch at Lions Park and feed Duck Pond ducks the leftovers of that lunch in a 10-minute ride (maybe more if the lunch is sitting quite large in your stomach). However, there are no bike lanes on Main. There are no bike lanes on Lindsey. There are no bike lanes on Classen. There are no bike lanes on Robinson. There is one bike lane on Boyd, but it lies in a road-least-traveled no man’s land between East 12th and Classen. Outside of residential areas, there are no north/south streets with bike lanes in the entire city. However, there are streets demarcated with green signs saying “bike route” everywhere in Norman. Unfortunately, they are just that. They do not make anyone safer.
One may ask the question, “Why not just ride on the sidewalk?” The answer is that sidewalks should be a safe place for pedestrians and not zooming bicycles, for which they are the devil incarnate in pavement form. They tend to be poorly maintained, usually at uneven elevations, wind capriciously, end suddenly, and riding upon one will cause a particularly feisty Labrador to chase you and nip at your heels while riding along to the library on Webster, as I have found. Thus, both sidewalks and Labradors on Webster are the devil. Unfortunately, both of these somewhat sour the experience of biking in Norman.
According to an interactive traffic fatality map by ITO World, only four cyclists died in Norman between 2001-2009. The first was on I-35, the second on Porter. The third occurred in 2006 near Alameda and the fourth in 2008 on Flood. Upon first glance, I thought that only four fatalities within the span of a decade was a pretty good number to have in a city of about 100,000. Then I saw that both victims of the latter accidents were 14 years old. As anyone who has been 14 before knows, it is an age where riding a bike is liberating, free of parallel parking tests, and full of rides to the park to play with friends on carefree days. With that knowledge in mind, the death of one 14-year old is one too many.
As an elected body, the city council not only has the obligation to improve the lives of the citizens which it governs, but also preserve them by providing a safe environment in which to live. With the installation of bike lanes in a rapidly growing city, both of these duties would be fulfilled.
Our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, students, and professors would not only have a wonderful city to bike in, but the security of mind that they are safe to bike in it. With every road connected to an arterial street, there should be a bike lane. With every widening of an arterial road, there should be a bike lane to accompany it.
This is the position that the city council should adopt, and this is the position that my organization, Friends for a Bike-Friendly Norman, endorses. I hope that you agree, and if you do, that you will like our page on Facebook and sign the petition posted on the page which I will present to the council to make us all, drivers and cyclists, safe.
Thanks, and happy riding.