Monday, April 21, 2014

Let's Find The Worst Bus Stop In OKC - Contender #3

It's time to continue our search for the worst bus stop in OKC! 

Today's specimen comes from 6th and Walker, and at first glance, it doesn't seem to be that terrible. Once you start pulling back the layers, however, that onion gets pretty stinky. Let's talk about why.

It's not 100% apparent from this photograph, but this sidewalk is not only in rough shape, but it's also kind of steep, so this bench is sitting at an uncomfortable sideways angle. For once the bench isn't positioned in a way that tips forward or leans back, but don't get too excited with OKC bus stops, because they'll often find a way to be awful. In this case, you might fall off the side. Also, while the seat itself isn't leaning forward, the seat back is thisclose to doing so, which is definitely not a comfortable way to sit.

I think the starkest issue with this bus stop is the fact that between it and the utility pole directly beside it, the entire sidewalk is taken up. It's one thing for an able-bodied person to be able to squeeze by, but a person with a wheelchair trying to get through would get the Gandalf treatment. This bus stop is so inaccessible that it's basically come full-circle back to being accessible, in a way, because rather than not being able to get to the bus stop, a physically challenged person would have no choice but to stop and use it. So I guess in a way it's like an ADA-super-accessible bus stop.

I guess I should just be thankful that the stop isn't covered with heaps of trash and that there's no splintered wood sticking up out of the seat, but I have to say, this one is just so idiotically placed that I find it just as offensive. Maybe it's not even the bus stop's fault - even if the bench weren't sitting directly beside the utility pole, the sidewalk is still too narrow to accommodate both the bench and a wheelchair. That is the result of inadequate pedestrian infrastructure, plain and simple. It's not only disabled people that would be at risk; this stop is directly beside a school. And I'd like to see a mother with a stroller try to get past it. This bus stop situation is irresponsible and dangerous. On top of that, this is located in downtown. Is THIS what we want tourists to associate with OKC public transit?

Is this the worst bus stop in OKC? I bet we can find worse. If you find a terrible OKC bus stop, comment and let us know, or better yet, snap a picture and share it with us on Twitter using the hashtag #WorstOKCBusStop!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy Trails - OKC's Best-Kept Secret

As you may have read in our post from a couple of days ago, we’re riding bikes now! Living downtown, we’ve gotten to experience a little bit of riding in an urban environment, but one of the best kept secrets (maybe not that much of a secret) in downtown OKC is the river trails. Oklahoma City has employed great measures to activate a once derelict stretch of the Oklahoma River, with such success that it is now a certified Olympic and Paralympic Training Site for rowers, canoe-ers, and kayakers. 

There was a team of rowers practicing while we were down there.
We rode the roughly 2 miles to the North River Trail, which is a 6-mile stretch of well-paved multi-use path, primarily utilized by cyclists. We headed west and were very pleased with the wonderful views of downtown, the wetland habitats that are either being restored or maintained (not sure), plenty of people exercising, and a wide variety of waterfowl.

We rode all the way to Agnew Avenue and then turned around and rode east to the end of the trail at the boathouses, where we then went under Interstate 40 and into Bricktown. We did all of this without having to get off of our bikes or interact with motor vehicles. I’m of the opinion that these trails should be coupled with Complete Streets to increase the amount of biking in the city. If we prioritize streets that intersect with the multi-use trails around the city and improve them with sidewalks and bike lanes as connections to specific points of interest in the city (neighborhoods, districts, downtown, etc.), we can build the culture of alternative transportation that is struggling to take hold presently.

So, let’s talk a little bit more about the trails. Right now there are 80.5 miles of trails in Oklahoma City, the majority of which align with the major water bodies (Oklahoma River, Lake Overholser, Lake Hefner). There is an additional 53.5 miles of trails that are planned and in the process of completion, mostly funded through the MAPS 3 sales tax. The completion of these trails will create quite a large network around the city, connecting south to Moore and Lake Stanley Draper. There doesn’t seem to be a planned connection to Edmond, which would be a nice addition.

OKC Trails Network
What’s a reasonable distance to travel without a car to the trails? On foot, I’d say a half-mile, which is about a 10-minute walk. By bike, I’d say 2.5 miles, or about a 10-minute bike ride. The maps below show residential units that are within these distances. Nearly 45,000 people (7.2% of the total OKC population) live within a 10-minute walk, and a whopping 394,000 people (63.2% of the total OKC population) live within a 10-minute bike ride of the existing trails system, which will only increase with the addition of the planned trails.
18,000 homes are within a 10-minute walk of the trails
157,600 homes are within a 10-minute bike ride of the trails
Oklahoma City has an opportunity to increase the level of physical activity within the population in a fun and environmentally attractive way. I imagine that most of the people who live within a 10-minute bike ride of the trails don’t realize it. We need to spread the word and get people out on the trails to see their city while also getting exercise. The trails represent a great opportunity to improve public health, feature public art, host events that generate income, and many more positive things. We can make these trails more than just an exercise venue as well; we can better connect people to jobs, housing, schools and other daily needs if we invest the money needed to create a network of usable bike and pedestrian infrastructure fused to the greater network of the trails system.

Below are more photos from our adventures down at the river trail. Thanks for reading, and go vote for us for Best Green Blog on Green Oklahoma’s  website!

Ta-da! The trails.
People getting their exercise on with downtown in the background.

Elizabeth always finds time for a selfie.

This picture was taken from a moving bicycle, no Photoshop. It really captures the feeling of downtown from the trails. Who needs a tripod?


We finally found some beautiful nature in the downtown area, and we're very happy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Let's Find The Worst Bus Stop in OKC - Contender #2

Happy Tuesday! It's been awhile since I started this feature, but don't worry, I've been collecting the evidence. Today, let's take a look at another contender for the hallowed title of Worst Bus Stop in OKC. There's some stiff competition in this category, folks, but I'm determined to find the winner.

Today's example comes from the Plaza District. John and I came across this frightening specimen during a snowy walk to RetrOKC several weeks ago. The bus stop was empty when we discovered it, which is no surprise, because honestly, who would (or could) sit on that thing? I've observed before that OKC bus stops tend to tip forward like the occupant is teetering just over the top of the first hill on a rollercoaster, but this one really takes that concept to a new level. It's like something out of a carnival funhouse. Maybe that's what's been going on all along- OKC bus stops are specifically designed to make us feel like we're going crazy. Hats off to Tyler Outdoor Advertising for that one, because it's working.

(Who am I kidding... we know exactly why these benches are made to be so difficult to sit on.)

What kind of carnival funhouse only caters to the able-bodied population? I'll tell you what kind: the crappy kind. It's 2014, everyone; it's time to make your bus stops and pedestrian infrastructure ADA-accessible. A wheelchair ramp on a bus doesn't do much good if said wheelchair can't get to the bus stop to begin with. A decent, level sidewalk that's kept free of snow and ice would actually benefit everyone here, disabled and able-bodied, because no matter how you're getting around, that slippery snow bank is going to be treacherous.

I mean, honestly, this bus stop hardly fulfills minimum requirements. If people can't sit on it, or even get to it, what is the point of even putting it there? Oh yeah...

Is this the worst bus stop in OKC? This one is nearly impossible to use, but it's also not covered with garbage like the last one, so maybe we need to keep looking. If you know of a particularly awful OKC bus stop, comment and let us know, or better yet, snap a picture and share it with us on Twitter using the hashtag #WorstOKCBusStop!

Guess what? Carless In OKC was nominated for Green Oklahoma's Best of 2014 Reader's Choice Awards! We would really appreciate it if you would go vote for us in the Best Green Blog category - every vote counts! Feel free to vote for whomever you want for the other categories, but if you're stumped on the Best Green Service category, vote for Timecar!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Next Logical Step - Biking In OKC

Hello everyone! Despite today's snow, it's technically springtime, and we here at Carless HQ are excited because our range has grown considerably.

Watch out - we're on bikes now!

My bike!

Last weekend, we set out to find a bike for me, and we were fortunate to find a great deal on a Schwinn comfort bike in fantastic condition. John already had a good bike, so we took his in to Schlegel Bicycles in Automobile Alley for a tune-up. While we were there, we stocked up on a helmet, lights, and a basket for my bike as well. As someone who is new to biking and who definitely feels a bit intimidated by the idea of going into a bike store and dealing with really experienced cyclists, I have to say that the folks at Schlegel are awesome! Everyone that we talked to was helpful, kind, and knowledgeable. John paid a very reasonable amount to get his bike tuned up and into riding condition, and again, the bike shop guys were on top of their game and explained everything that needed to be done in a concise yet thorough way.

Once we got our bikes all set up and ready for the road, it was time to get acquainted with riding in OKC! John has done city biking a good bit before now, but I'm more or less an amateur. Luckily (at least in this scenario), downtown streets aren't very crowded outside of business hours Monday through Friday, so we're able to ride around without too many cars on the road, which is great practice without it being too scary. We've gone for several rides since getting our bikes going, and they've all been fun and safe!

John at the Skydance Bridge
This is a great development for us as a carless unit because it really expands our range and options on a daily basis. For example, we love the Plaza District, but because it's located about 2 miles away, which is around a 30-35 minute walk for us, it wasn't always the most viable option for, say, dinner on a weeknight. That distance was also too short to really warrant renting a Timecar. If I wanted some Fungus Among Us pizza from Empire Slice House, which is usually only available as a slice in the middle of the week, we would be looking at an hour of walking for dinner, plus the time it takes to eat. We have no problem with the time or distance in and of itself - we are very used to walking long distances - but on a weeknight after work, it's a little prohibitive to spend that much time traveling to and from a restaurant. Now, however, the Plaza District is an easy 10-15 minute bike ride, which is totally do-able on a weeknight after work. This means that I can eat my favorite pizza, Fungus Among Us, alllll the time!

Not to mention, we can now ride our bikes down to the river and then run on the pedestrian trails. The Paseo District is also way more accessible to us and we can finally do some real exploring there. Having our bikes also adds another possible method to the days when we need to cobble together a transportation plan, like yesterday when we went to buy the matching loveseat to our couch. We needed a truck to get it home, so we rented the Nissan Frontier from Timecar at OCU because the Ranger was unavailable at the Deep Deuce location, which meant that we needed to take an Uber to get to OCU in a timely fashion. We took the Timecar to 63rd and N. May to purchase our loveseat, loaded it up, brought it home, and then John threw his bike in the back of the truck, returned the truck to the OCU Timecar location, and rode his bike back home. This kind of patchwork transport may seem a little convoluted, but we've gotten used to it, and it totally works for us. Furthermore, it's rarely necessary; we only have to do this when there's some extenuating circumstance, like a large load that requires a truck.

Buster is pro-bike, too!
Expect more cycling-related posts this spring and summer as we really get into navigating the city by bike. We'll share our exploits, and hopefully we'll eventually have some tips and tricks for how to get around by bike in OKC. Likewise, if you have any pointers to share, we'd love to hear them! Comment below and tell us how YOU get around by bike in OKC!