OKCís bikewalkokc plan to increase opportunity for active lifestyles
Oklahoma City is a draw for new residents, with a growth rate that doesn’t appear to be slowing down. To help meet the needs of more people living in a growing urban environment, the City of Oklahoma City recently adopted bikewalkokc, OKC’s first comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian master plan.
“The lifestyle of everybody driving every trip they take doesn’t work well in a dense urban environment,” said John Tankard, associate planner with the City of Oklahoma City. “Making sure that people have alternatives that are safe – things like public transit, sidewalks, bike lanes and trails – are important.”
"Our development priorities lead to more people living in an urban environment, and a good pedestrian network is crucial for making sure that works."
- John Tankard, Associate Planner, City of Oklahoma City
When the City updated and adopted its comprehensive master plan in 2015 called planokc, 14 of the 21 transportation initiatives were directly related to increasing opportunities for active transportation – which refers to any human-powered means of getting around. The City’s master plan also calls for a more efficient method of development, focusing on reinvesting in Oklahoma City’s existing neighborhoods.
“Our development priorities lead to more people living in an urban environment, and a good pedestrian network is crucial for making sure that works,” Tankard said.
But before Tankard’s team could focus on providing more infrastructure for active transportation, they first needed to identify why people don’t currently walk or use a bicycle as a main means of transportation. While the desire to have more walkable communities has gained momentum, Oklahoma City was built in a way that reflects a dependence on automobiles as a primary means of transportation. Some destinations, districts and recreational resources may not be accessible by anything other than an automobile.
Oklahoma City residents who responded to a survey during the planning process also indicated that dangerous interactions with automobiles and a lack of infrastructure kept pedestrians and cyclists from feeling comfortable on the road.
“Our city council has the priority to have a transportation system that works for everybody,” Tankard said. “Residents have been saying that they want to walk and bike more, and they want public transit that is useful and dignified. We’ve got these different sets of infrastructure that need to fit together.”
Based on resident feedback and an analysis of the needs of different communities throughout Oklahoma City, the plan focuses on four main goals: improving the safety of walking and cycling in Oklahoma City; increasing the number of people who bike and walk; better neighborhood connections to jobs, transit centers, schools, parks and retail centers; and removing barriers to walking and cycling.
To meet these goals, bikewalkokc focuses on expanding the city’s existing bicycle network with integral projects like completing the Grand Boulevard Linear Park, a belt-line trail around central Oklahoma City, and improving specific crosstown corridors so that there will be one east-to-west and one north-to-south route to connect residents to other parts of the city.
The plan identifies priority areas that represent the best opportunities to create walkable areas. New and improved sidewalks in these areas will increase the ability to get to nearby destinations safely and comfortably. In addition, the comprehensive plan calls for neighborhood greenways, 102 miles of new multi-use trails and bicycle and pedestrian bridges to address the barriers of highways, rivers and railroads.
While the plan was just approved in May, the ongoing infrastructure funding approved by Oklahoma City residents allows work to begin on some projects immediately. As the plan comes to fruition, Tankard hopes that more people adopt an active transportation lifestyle, no matter in what area of Oklahoma City they live.
“Both planokc and bikewalkokc don’t shy away from the fact that we have all different types of lifestyle opportunities in the city,” Tankard said. “You could live in the highest urban development in the state, or you could live in a pastoral rural community, all within our city limits. It’s a unique situation and it’s in our best interest to preserve and enhance that.”
This article originally appeared in the September issue of CityScape.