By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — City council making strides for cyclists
Norman residents spoke, and Norman City Council members are listening.
People who responded to the recent transportation survey said nearly $10 of every $100 transportation dollars spent should be used to pay for bike paths and bike lanes.
Currently, Norman spends well under 1 percent on bike paths and bike lanes.
“There is overwhelming support for adding dedicated bike lanes,” Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Gary Miller told the City Council Transportation Committee on Monday.
The transportation survey also discovered that one-third of respondents have ridden a bicycle in the last year, but 57 percent did not feel safe.
Regionally, there is a move to improve multimodal transportation options as part of a portfolio for cleaner, more environmentally friendly municipalities and as part of a nationwide trend to reduce reliance on foreign oil.
That strategy, as outlined in the Encompass 2035 Regional Plan, includes enhancing transit service, exploring the development of rail-based public transportation, expanding bicycle and pedestrian networks, promoting efficient goods movement, maintaining and improving the street and highway network and encouraging sidewalk construction.
Norman, which participated in Encompass 2035, has made strides in most of these areas and, through the Comprehensive Transportation Plan, will identify future transportation needs for the city. Currently, the Community Planning and Transportation Committee is looking at upgrading Norman’s Bike Route Map as one of the next steps forward.
A bicycle route is designated by signs reminding motorists to share the road. Those signs are generally placed along designated bike routes.
Bike lanes are marked lanes that help protect cyclists and motorists by designating a specific lane for bicycles.
Bicycle paths, such as Legacy Trail, are physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic and are usually also used by pedestrians, skaters, wheelchair users and joggers.
Miller said Norman’s bike system includes advanced routes on streets with high volumes of traffic.
“The key word here is ‘advanced,’” Miller said. “You need to have advanced skills to be riding on these streets without bike lanes. It wouldn’t be recommended for less experienced riders such as children riding their bikes to school or purely recreational, family riders.”
Advanced routes are roads where cyclists are already riding, he said.
Bike routes and lanes, known in transportation speak as “bicycle facilities,” are becoming a bigger part of the city planning process nationwide.
“As we develop bicycle facilities, we are following a national standard,” Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said. “It’s very well thought through.”
Norman has earned the designation of a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community and would like to maintain or even upgrade that rating.
“It plays into lifestyle and your image in the community and your quality of life,” Miller said.
The designation helps promote the city, making it more attractive for visitors, new businesses and new residents.
Along with more accommodation to cyclists will come more responsibility for cyclists to obey traffic laws. Public education goes hand in hand with making a community safe and bicycle friendly, Miller said. Bicycle lanes can help facilitate that process.
Designating existing bike routes as official bike routes on the map also will allow the city to qualify for federal funding for improving those roads by making projects more competitive, O’Leary said.
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