Sometimes, improving the place you live simply means doing your bit to nudge things in the right direction.
INCOG, the Tulsa metro's regional planning organization, wants as many folks as possible to participate in "Bike to Work" week, which concludes on Friday, May 20.
Bike to Work Week features a challenge to get your workplace peers to jump on bikes, as a group and get to work. In Portland, Ore., 8,000 people do so each week.
The weeklong event has hot support from several area businesses, including tutorials on biking for beginners, a set of "feeds" for hungry riders and drinks at a happy hour meet-up. Soundpony, Tom's Bikes and First United Methodist Church's Youth and Family Center are providing teaching space, food, drinks and ambient support for INCOG's aggressive outreach effort.
This ensemble, together with Tulsa outfits like Ren Barger's Tulsa Hub, a nonprofit bicycle resource/"mobilization" operation, are key to Tulsa's amazingly rich bike ecology.
Green Country has one of the most fully executed, best-planned and well-funded bike/multiuse trail systems in the United States.
With over 100 miles of trail for bike usage and plans for a multiuse path system of over 200 miles, we have the best system of any middle-sized city, Portland and a handful of other communities excepted.
Much of the credit for this singular achievement should go to INCOG Chief Richard Brierre. Brierre is a long time friend of mine (in the interest of full disclosure), but that doesn't keep me from saying is also one of the most effective public servants in our community. Brierre has been a passionate and effective advocate for bicycling and its related public policy, fitness and tourism yields for years.
The Next Stage
So how can we prod our increasingly bike friendly culture here in Tulsa to pedal to the next level, including making it easier to bike commute, fine tuning the critical bike/bus nexus and exploiting the outsized bike centric economic opportunities that may be just around the corner?
Viplav Putta and James Wagner, two of INCOG's transport planning gurus, have spent a lot of time considering these issues. Their thinking: make cycling a more weighty aspect of our transportation portfolio entails getting companies, public agencies and non-profits to provide showers and bike lockers at and near work places, working on the bike/transit connection by creating super shops -- places with safe access to bike parking -- and better street and trail linkages and transitions.
Putta and Wagner also suggest focusing on roadway improvements to better accommodate bicycles. They remind me that Oklahoma City's bicycling program efforts are profiled in this month in Planning Magazine, an article that chronicles the increasingly encompassing effort of OKC city planners and city officials to craft what some call "complete streets" -- streets that can readily accommodate transit, pedestrians, bikes and regular vehicular traffic. This is happening to some extent in Tulsa and is an integral park of what should be in our next capital project improvements round.
The Bike/Economic Link
Biking "economics" could supplement aerospace, energy and other Tulsa metro tracks. St. Francis and Tulsa's biking community have already conjured up a world-class competitive bike event -- Tulsa Tough, June 10-12 -- one that is widely viewed as one of the most lucrative and best organized in the United States. And Adam Vanderburg's brave and successful effort to reposition Lee's Bikes from a longstanding midtown location to Tulsa's booming Blue Dome District is a heroic and grand example as well. But we could explore, perhaps thru a range of private, non-profit and public venues?, even more aggressive initiatives.
Here is what city sustainability guru Joan Fitzgerald, in her new book "Emerald Cities," says about the economic impact that "bike ecology" is having in Portland.
"One unanticipated side effect (of biking interest in Portland) is that biking has become a niche industry in Portland. Oregon Business magazine estimates that about 50 bike related businesses have started in Portland in the past two years alone, with $90 million in sales. Alta Planning and Design, an international bicycle industry consulting firm based in Portland, estimates that the value of the bicycle industry grew by 38 percent between 2006 and 2008, from 95 to 143 businesses, accounting for between 850 and 1,150 jobs. About 20 percent of Portland bike industry is in manufacturing, including bicycles and precision components-- several customized bike makers have backlogs of more than a year. And some of the small companies have penetrated international markets."
Some readers may know that Tulsa will soon boast a "fab lab," a micro-factory facility that uses a combustible mix of laser cutters, 3-D lathing devices, molders and advanced fabrication and design software. This shop, about to open on 710 S. Lewis Ave., is one of a set of joint MIT/National Science Foundation seed efforts, but it's just the beginning of what some call the "maker" movement. Here is what writer Anand Giridharadas, in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine writes:
" ... the American romance with making actual things is going through a resurgence ... a nationwide movement of do it yourself aficionados is embracing the self-made object ... a quixotic band (they) contend that they can reverse America's manufacturing slump. America will make things again... not just in factories but also in their homes, and not because it's artesian or faddish but because it's easier, better for the environment and more fun. What makes this notion something less than complete fantasy is the availability of new manufacturing machines that are cheap, simple and compact enough for small companies, local associations and even amateur hobbyist to own and operate. What once only big firms with hulking factories could fabricate can now be made in the basement or by e-mailing a design to an online factory for hire."
What about it, Tulsa? Any chance we could join "maker" technologies with our rich manufacturing heritage and our emerging bike obsession?
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