Story provided by Melinda Caldwell, TSET Healthy Living Program Coordinator
Building physical activity into daily life is critical to the health, safety, and well-being of everyone. Thirty-two percent of adults in Payne County are obese. Many factors contribute to the high obesity rates in Oklahoma, but transportation is one of them. Research shows that each hour spent in a car per day is associated with a 6 percent increase in the likelihood of obesity. In Oklahoma, 82 percent of adults drive alone to work, with a quarter of those commutes more than 30 minutes long. On the other hand, each hour spent walking per day is associated with a 5 percent reduction in the likelihood of obesity.
Commutes to work represent only 13 percent of all car trips. Personal, family, social, and recreational travel make up the overwhelming majority of trips. This provides a significant opportunity to promote active transportation as people travel to meet their daily needs. When communities have safe, convenient places for people to walk and bicycle, many of these trips could be made by active transportation. Increasing opportunities for active transportation also benefit low-income households, who are less likely to own cars.
Research shows that people are more physically active, and mentally and physically healthier when neighborhoods are designed to promote active living and transportation. The use of sidewalks, bicycle lanes, street lighting, and other safe amenities allow people to be physically active, and healthier.
In Oklahoma, policymakers are beginning to take some first steps to support Active Transportation in Oklahoma by passing legislation that supports and helps protect fellow community members who choose to commute by alternative modes. Effective November 1, 2019, three new laws will go into effect that will assist those who choose to commute via active transportation. A paraphrased version of the new legislation from Bike Oklahoma is listed below.
Proceed through Red Light when Safe – HB2454 47 O.S., Section11-202:
The driver of a motorcycle or bicycle facing any steady red light may cautiously proceed through the intersection if:
(1) the motorcycle or bicycle has been brought to a full stop as required by current legislation
(2) the traffic control signal is programmed or engineered to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle and has failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle or bicycle because of its size or weight, and
(3) no motor vehicle or person is approaching on the roadway to be crossed or entered, or the motor vehicle or person is at a distance from the intersection that does not constitute an immediate hazard.
Safe Passing of a Cyclist when Traveling in the Same Direction – HB2453 47 O.S., Section 11-1208:
A motorist exercising due care when passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall:
1. If there is more than one lane for traffic proceeding in the same direction, a motorist shall move to the lane immediately left of the lane if available and reasonably safe to pass the bicyclist. The motorist shall not move back into the travel lane until the vehicle is safely clear of the bicyclist.
2. If there is only one lane for traffic proceeding in the same direction, the motorist shall not overtake or pass a bicycle at a distance of less than three (3) feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. Motorist shall not move back to the right side until the vehicle is safely clear of the bicyclist.
3. A motorist may cross the center of the road even when in a marked no-passing zone to pass a bicyclist if lane is not obstructed and the motorist does not impede oncoming traffic. Crossing must be done in a safe manner.
Electric Assist Bicycle (E-Bike) – HB1265 47 O.S., Section 1-104:
1. The definition of an E-Bike is a bicycle with 2 or 3 wheels. Fully operative pedals for human propulsion and equipped with an electric motor with a power output of not more than 750 watts that meets the following three classes:
a. Class One – an electric-assisted bike equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling. And that ceases to provide assistance when the bike reaches the speed of 20 mph. May be ridden on bicycle or multi-use paths where bikes are allowed.
b. Class Two – an electric-assisted bike equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bike, but cannot provide assistance after bike reaches 20 mph. May be ridden on bicycle or multi-use paths where bikes are allowed.
Both are subject to being prohibited by a local or state agency having jurisdiction over a bicycle or multiuse path.
c. Class Three – an electric-assisted bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that stops assisting when the bike reaches the speed of 28 miles mph. Cannot be ridden on a bicycle or multiple-use path unless it is within or adjacent to the road, or unless the local authority or state agency having jurisdiction allows it. Must be equipped with a speedometer.
2. E-bikes must meet manufacturing and equipment requirements adopted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
3. If the operator is under the age of 16, cannot carry a passenger.
4. No licensing or insurance is required.
5. An electric-assisted bicycle or operator shall be given all rights and privileges while following all the laws. For more information on how to plug into local Active Transportation initiatives in Stillwater visit the Stillwater Bicycle Pedestrian Ad Hoc Committee webpage at http://stillwater.org/page/home/government/departments-divisions/city-engineering/bicyclist-pedestrian-ad-hoc-committee