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!|