O’Connor: Healthier trails ahead for OKCPublished: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record
Oklahoma City is making great strides toward building a healthier and active community through new walking and biking routes.
Last week, the city dedicated its first truly urban trail, connecting neighborhoods and businesses along an 8-mile route. The Will Rogers Trail makes it easier to walk or ride from Lake Hefner and across Northwest Expressway at Meridian Avenue. It continues generally south and ultimately connects to the Oklahoma River Trail system near SW Fifth Street and May Avenue. With the exception of a two-block section, this trail is entirely separated from vehicular traffic.
The city also recently broke ground on the Lake Draper Trail, the final of the three MAPS 3 trails. The 13-mile trail will circle Lake Stanley Draper in southeast Oklahoma City and is expected to be completed this fall. When completed, Oklahoma City will have more than 100 miles of multi-use trails.
The first draft of the bikewalkokc master plan was also released last week for public input. Bikewalkokc is Oklahoma City’s first bicycle-pedestrian master plan for building a complete bicycle and pedestrian network throughout the city. The master plan has two components, a Bicycle and Trails Plan and a Pedestrian Plan. The Bicycle and Trails Plan focuses on the expansion and improvement of the city’s bicycle network. The Pedestrian Plan focuses on 10 identified pedestrian priority areas where there is the greatest need and on transit stops, schools and parks. The public comment period is open through March 21. Visit okc.gov/bikewalkokc to access and make comments on the plan.
All of these efforts help to remove barriers for using alternative modes of travel and encourage an active lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it easier to be active in a community can help up to 25 percent more people get exercise at least three times a week.
Safe bike and walk routes connect us to the outdoors and to our community. The Will Rogers Trail alone will connect thousands of residents, workers, shoppers and visitors to neighborhoods and businesses along the route. Studies show that people in bike/walk-friendly communities are more socially active and civically engaged –resulting in healthier lifestyles and a healthier community.
Cathy O’Connor is the president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.