By: Bill Elliott
On March 26-28 I attended the Texas Trails and Active Transportation conference in Fort Worth. I was there because OBC was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the last day of the conference, talking about cycling advocacy in Oklahoma and some of the successes/challenges we face as a conservative state.
This is a summary of the various conference sessions that I attended, as well as some thoughts about how we might use some of those ideas in Oklahoma.
Session 1 . Using social media for cycling advocacy. The presenter showed the use of Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and other social media programs for communicating cycling issues. It was suggested to limit posts to 1 or 2 a day for Facebook and hourly for Twitter.
Ideas for Oklahoma: We are using a Facebook page for the U.S. Bike Route 66 status, but not for the overall OBC updates. We should create an OBC Facebook page and promote people to “Like” it from the OBC web page and emails.
Session 2 . Building Regional Partnerships. Two groups shared their progress for bike action. First was a group of communities between Dallas and Fort Worth that are leading an effort to build bike trails that connect Dallas to Fort Worth. The second group was from Brownsville and they shared their progress for building out bike trails and lanes in their city. Both groups were successful in leveraging their local governments and key proponents including the local health organizations.
Ideas for Oklahoma: inter-city bike connections are possible and should be pursued by gaining buy-in from government, Metropolitan Planning Organizations ( i.e. ACOG and INCOG ), health agencies, and department of transportation.
Session 3. Keynote address from the Mayor of Fort Worth. Betsy Price is the Mayor and an avid cyclist.
Ideas for Oklahoma: Encourage our elected officials to ride bikes.
Session 4. Building a Bicycle Friendly Community . presented by Andy Clark . Leader of the League of American Bicyclists ( LAB ). A Bicycle Friendly Community is a town ( or school, or business, or state ) that has applied to LAB to be a “Bicycle Friendly Community”. There are criteria that indicates whether a community is eligible and if so, to what degree. Levels are: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Portland is at the gold level, while a town such as Amsterdam would be Platinum.
Ideas for Oklahoma: There could be a more active role in assisting towns in filling out their applications. Promoting this program to companies and schools would be a worthwhile endeavor. Even if the entity does not get accepted the first year, the exercise to fill out the application would help to drive more bike friendly results.
Session 5 . U.S. Bike Route System. Ginny Sullivan has been working with OBC for over two years on the Route 66 project. We are currently at an impasse with ODOT to get the approval for the designation.
Ideas for Oklahoma: Develop a better relationship with ODOT, encourage them to devote more resources towards bike/ped issues, and continue to build our case to getting Route 66 approved as a U.S. Bike Route. There are two other multi-state bike routes that would be applicable for Oklahoma: The Chisholm Trail which goes from Ft. Worth, up highway 81 through Oklahoma, and ends in Hutchison KS. The other is the Trail of Tears, which starts near the East Coast, travels through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and ends in Eastern Oklahoma. Persons from many of these states were at the conference which may facilitate starting conversations for getting the trails defined.
Session 7 . Building an effective local advocacy organization. This was led by a staff person from the South Carolina Bike Coalition. As I discovered, Oklahoma was the only state advocacy organization at the conference that did not have a paid staff person. Texas has over 30.
Ideas for Oklahoma: Explore the availability of funding staff from various sources such as grants and the proceeds from “Share the Road” Tags.
Session 8 . Advocacy successes in Georgia. The Paid staff cycling advocate from Georgia shared how he gains support from city planners, street engineers and law enforcement to better cycling in his state.
Ideas for Oklahoma: Learn from our neighbor states how to build a volunteer base and develop plans to best use them towards promoting a friendly and safe cycling environment in Oklahoma.
Session 9 . Cycling successes in Copenhagen. The speaker lives in Copenhagen and demonstrated how cycling is used over 25% for all transportation ( as compared to less than .03% in most US cities ). One European city increased their percentage from 5% to 25% in three years with an aggressive effort to build cycling infrastructure. In many cases this was done by reducing the car lanes and adding a dedicated, separated bike lane. This is called a “Cycle Track”.
Ideas for Oklahoma: Work with street planners to promote the development of cycle tracks and other bike friendly designs.
Session 10 . Bike Friendly Business Districts. This session introduced the concept of working with businesses in a business district to make their facilities more bike friendly. Better accessibility to the district is key, as well as good parking for bikes when people shop/dine in the area. Businesses can promote their store with a “Bike Saturday” type event, encouraging people to bike to the store to shop and dine.
Ideas for Oklahoma: There are several areas in OKC, Tulsa and other cities that would be ideal for this type of program. Our organizations could be instrumental in promoting this program.
Session 11. Cycling in Quebec. This session showed how Quebec has built their trails, bike lanes and bike facilities over the years to make it the premier cycling location for citizens and tourists.
Ideas for Oklahoma: OBC in conjunction with partner groups could help drive bike tourism and improved cycling facilities throughout the state.
Session 12 . Building bike trails along electric transmission corridors. This session introduced the benefits and limitations of using transmission corridors. Electric companies are interested in keeping the area open for line and tower maintenance. Local governments can help facilitate permissions to use some corridors for bike trails.
Ideas for Oklahoma: Look for opportunities to collect information about possible trails on corridors and encourage the appropriate parties talking.
Session 13 . using strategic planning to move goals forward. This session introduced a style of meeting facilitation that could be used with a group of stakeholders to get buy-in for cycling projects.
Ideas for Oklahoma: Consider using this facilitating method for goal setting sessions.