The United States long ago committed to highways over trains.

The United States long ago committed to highways over trains.

As I understand it, the most notable highways—the Interstate system—was initiated by the Eisenhower Administration as a defense measure, so that populations could be moved from targeted cities in the event of a nuclear attack and military forces could be efficiently moved to sites of most need.

The effects, of course, included encouraging purchase of automobiles and private travel over bus, train, or plane travel.  They also included boosting the truck industry over a train system as a way of moving goods from point to point.

Indeed, on some stretches of the interstate system, a person driving a car feels like a mouse among mammoths.  Huge trucks control the flow in both lanes.

In Europe, governments have generally committed to extensive rail systems, while making some improvements to the road systems.  However, anyone who has tried both—as I have—can testify that travel by train is much safer and more efficient.  I note that concerns about emissions’ effects on the climate have turned more Europeans to favor trains even over planes for continental travel.

If it were available, I too would prefer a train to Utah or Virginia, two frequent US destinations, over hours of (tedious) Interstate driving or expensive (uncomfortable) flying.

Here at home, the issue seems to be whether cars, including parked cars, can safely share the streets with bicyclists.  In the downtown, clearly the answer is no, on main streets with angle parking.  Even cars with rear cameras might not spot you in time.

On side streets and single lane streets, experienced bicyclists proceed with caution.  I once commuted by bicycle to OBU, when the weather allowed, and like most such commuters, worked out an indirect, side-street way to get there.

Let’s note too that the oldest bike group, the Pott. County Peddlars, gets out of town as fast as possible for their rides—often preferring unpaved, less traveled county roads.

When I rode with them, I would go directly down Broadway to the gathering place.  There was plenty of room for cars to go around me, and mostly they did.  I didn’t feel anything like the terror of Hardesty Road west of 177, when cars whipped by within inches. You survive if you don’t swerve.  You learn which streets and roads to avoid.

There is controversy about a Blue Zone proposal to add marked bike lanes to Broadway.  Is it a done deal?  Seems not. Not yet. It would eliminate street parking, especially an issue south of Wallace and other places where driveways are filled with vehicles or non-existent.  And how about special events such as parties, or Halloween on North Broadway? (Most of the “Save Our Street” signs are in the blocks north of Independence.)

Things have heated up on the “Next Door” site, reports of signs being messed with.  Side issues arise: one of the popular threads on the site is “Bike Lanes and Crime.”  Some stereotyping of all those big guys without helmets riding little bikes, sometimes seen carrying an extra wheel or even a bike body.  Reports that petty thieves use small bikes in some parts of town.  Report of one homeowner putting up barbed wire to prevent them from escaping through the backyard.  Not relevant to bike lanes, but adds to the fact that many see bicyclists as scofflaws.

(However, did you realize it is now legal--HB2354--for bicyclists to proceed through a stop light, if they stop first?)

Too there is the question of how the money could otherwise be used, though if most of the financing is grant funds (?), that limits the options.  (I could wish for a sidewalk on Independence, from Harrison to Kickapoo, for all of the walkers.)

I have noticed that there is room for a parked car, a bicycle, and a traveling car on each side of the double stripe.  Whether there is enough room is the question, I guess.  A new state law--HB2453--says motorists cannot pass closer than three feet from the bicycle, so maybe there is room, especially since the law also allows cars to cross the double stripe if there is no oncoming traffic.

Two graphics show solutions adopted by Orem, Utah and Salt Lake City.  One involves parking at the curb, a bicycle lane, and a vehicle lane.  The Salt Lake City solution features a bike lane at the curb, a parking “lane,” and a travel lane, thus separating the bicyclists from moving vehicles. Again, even eliminating the island in the one photo (look in the background), the question remains of whether Broadway has enough width.

Since we’re in this tangle of issues, I have to wonder how a traffic circle, tentatively proposed for the intersection of Broadway and Independence (as I understand it), adds to the safety of bicyclists. The circle will necessarily mix cars coming from different directions with bicyclists.  Will drivers concentrating on getting through the circle as quickly as possible always see the bicyclists and yield to them?

I confess I don’t bicycle as much and certainly don’t walk as much as I used to.  (I prefer the closed confines of a tennis court or  backyard for my exercise.)  But I’d like to see the increased use of the streets and sidewalks for walking and riding.  Would that more of you would get dogs that require walking or follow the example of our good senator who daily walks when he’s not required in OKC.

A town with sidewalks and bicycle traffic seems a more friendly town.

Heck, I’d love to see a bicycle and walking trail that follows the North Canadian or uses abandoned rail right-of-way. And, while we’re at it, how about train service north that would connect Oklahoma City to an east-west Amtrak line?

We can dream...and maybe lobby.

Bill Hagen is a retired OBU professor. He lives in Shawnee with his cat. Contact him at billha47@hotmail.com.