Come take a walk downtown; OKC looks to become pedestrian-friendly

Published: Friday, March 13, 2009 7:00 am

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY - As thousands of people move about downtown Oklahoma City on foot to-and-from basketball games this week, a streetscape plan for the city shows that the ways pedestrians get around downtown need improvement.

Enhancing pedestrian routes and making them safer and more inviting may spur private investment for shops and other businesses along those paths.

The Downtown Streetscape Master Plan was developed in 2006 and 2007 to help downtown plan for the future. The latest version of the report breaks down several aspects to form a cohesive streetscape, organize districts, improve the aesthetics of downtown, and create safe pedestrian access.

The plan was created by the city planning department and a consulting team.

Downtown districts identified in the study were Midtown, Automobile Alley, the Arts District, the Film Exchange, Deep Deuce, Bricktown and the Central Business District.

In addition to linking the CBD to surrounding areas by foot, the report defines the characteristics to make it safer and more fun for pedestrians to stroll about downtown.

Walking is on the mind of city leaders. The incoming president of Downtown OKC Inc., Jane Jenkins, on a visit to the city last month said she wants to see more people walking downtown. Jenkins plans to live at the Sieber, near NW 11th Street and N. Harvey Avenue, and walk about a mile each day, weather permitting, to her office at Oklahoma Tower.

Improved pedestrian accessibility can help districts like Bricktown and the Film Exchange.

Over the last 20 years, Bricktown has shaped up as a thriving entertainment district, but those on foot going to the area from the CBD must cross six lanes of traffic on E.K. Gaylord Boulevard.

Jim Cowan, executive director of the Bricktown Association, said pedestrian access is vital to the district, but it needs to be better connected with downtown.

"The one thing everyone can agree on is that we need to improve pedestrian access from downtown to Bricktown," he said.

Cowan said all options will be considered to make it easier for pedestrians to cross, including building bridges and tunnels or improving trolley service. Some of those ideas could be addressed as the city looks at a MAPS 3 project.

"We'll have to see what our city leaders have in mind," he said.

Bikes could help alleviate automobile traffic and give people another alternative to move about. Cowan said he has heard of companies that rent bikes. An option like that could be viable for Bricktown.

And bike riders now have a number of bike racks installed recently around Bricktown by the group Urban Neighbors.

"As we start moving toward a more urban feeling downtown we can come up with some ideas that help people get around," Cowan said. "Bikes could be a big part of that."


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