NORMAN — Most days University of Oklahoma professor Scott Williams rides his bike to work from his home on Lahoma Avenue to Gould Hall where he teaches classes in architecture. It’s a short commute of less than a mile and riding a bicycle is faster than driving a car and looking for a parking space.
Still, Williams said he is often surprised how many colleagues will drive their cars similar distances.
“America’s grown up with the car,” Williams said. “In Germany, the car came much later.”
Williams lived in Germany for 23 years before moving to Oklahoma. His dad was in the military and he attended high school and college in the American school system in Germany. The cultural attitude toward pedestrians and cyclists is very different in Germany, he said.
“People love cars — Germans make BMWs, Porches, VWs, Mercedes and Audies, but they want their cities to be livable,” he said. “They have excellent public transportation everywhere.”
Williams said German drivers are very conscious of watching out for pedestrians and cyclists whenever they make a turn.
“It’s automatic for them, like putting on a seatbelt,” he said. “They have bicycle paths all over. They have definite bicycle rules — they’re a lot more stringent than here. The Germans want their children to be able to ride their bicycles safely in the streets.”
In addition to bike lanes on the roadways, the Germans have some wider sidewalks with special lanes marked for bikes where the roads are too busy for cyclists to be safe.
“They try to fit the solution to the context,” he said.
While Williams has found cycling to be more hazardous during the 12 years he’s lived in Oklahoma, he’s committed to it.
“We consciously chose to live in town,” he said. “We wanted to live close to work.”
That means he can cycle to work unless he has to haul something or the weather is really severe. A little rain doesn’t bother him, he just wears a jacket.
Williams encourages people who can find a bike friendly route to work or shopping to ride as much as possible.
“There’s fresh air. I like the breeze and it feels better than a car. It would be cool if there were more bicyclists,” he said. “As a kid, I would ride anywhere.”
Norman city leaders and local cyclists are encouraging everyone to bike to work on Friday. Bike to Work is an annual community event designed to raise awareness about the benefits of commuting by bike.
Annual Bike to Work Day events are coordinated by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. In addition, the city of Norman’s Bicycle Advisory Committee encourages cyclists to join one of the Norman-based group rides on May 17 to experience and learn how to incorporate biking to work as a regular or periodic mode of transportation.
Oklahoma City, Guthrie, Midwest City, Moore, Yukon and Edmond are also coordinating Bike to Work events on Friday.
The League of American Bicyclists has recognized the month of May as National Bike to Work Month since 1956, and National Bike to Work Day gives cities an opportunity to call attention to the benefits of bicycling and to increase safety awareness among bicyclists and motorists.
Norman Bike to Work Day participants have options for their group ride. Join the 7:30 a.m. ride from Moore Norman Technology Center and ride to Norman Regional Hospital’s Education Center parking lot or join rides starting at 8 a.m. at Norman Regional Hospital, 901 N Porter Ave., Norman Regional HealthPlex, 36th and Tecumseh, or the Murray Case Sells Swim Center on the corner of Asp Avenue and TimerDell. All groups will ride to Andrews Park.
Cleveland Area Rapid Transit— CART— has bike racks on all buses so cyclists can ride a portion of their commute and take CART for an additional portion.