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.”