Norman voted safest city in Oklahoma for bike safety

Sep. 19—A recent nation-wide survey placed Norman as the 63rd safest city in the country for bicyclists, and first in Oklahoma.

A commissioned survey from Bisnar Chase law firm sent out questionnaires to 3,000 cyclists around the country, asking them to rate how safe they feel in their daily commutes from 1-10, with 10 indicating they feel the safest.

The City of Norman scored 7.2, higher than Broken Arrow, 6.7; Tulsa, 6.4; and Oklahoma City, 5.

Chad Shanks, owner of Neighborhood Bicycle Shop, said he wasn't surprised about the result.

"I've had the opportunity to ride in quite a few places. Bike racing has taken me all over the western U.S.," Shanks said.

He attributed the results of the survey to low speed limits, stop signs and red lights.

"There are so many stop signs and the speed limits are low. While we don't have very much bike infrastructure, such as bike lanes and multi-use path systems, cars don't really have the opportunity to drive at high rates of speed," he said.

Scott Martin, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, said these results follow investment in bike infrastructure.

"The community and the city have made purposeful efforts to be mindful of all modes of transportation, particularly bicycles," Martin said. "I think it's great that all the effort, planning and work that's gone into making Norman bike-friendly is getting a little bit of national recognition."

Jon Denton, owner of Buchanan Bikes, said he'd like to see the city do more to help drivers stay safe on the roads.

"As far as driving and riding, we need to have better pathways to get in and around town from East to West," Denton said. "We're not supposed to ride on sidewalks."

He said he is glad the city invested in some green bike lanes, but he has heard of many bikers that refuse to ride on them because of the preponderance of trash, which is dangerous and punctures tires.

"Roadies won't use them because there's too much trash, and they're likely to get a flat, and those who are commuting typically ride on the sidewalk," he said.

Denton recommended that the city invest in more bike paths.

"If you ever want to make a bike lane, it has to be protected," he said. "There has to be physical barriers."

Shanks said Norman makes for good riding because it is not a large city, which means it is easy for riders to switch from riding in the city to going down country roads.

"We're really lucky and blessed to have blue ribbon road riding," Shanks said. "To get to the beautiful farm roads, you only have to ride three or four miles and you are out of town; whereas, if you live in any city, you have to ride 15 miles to get out of town."

Denton said most bike riders in Norman are hobbyists, so they don't use their bikes to get to-and-from work. Amid heightened gas prices, he isn't convinced that most people are quite ready to peddle around town.

"People aren't necessarily getting out on their bikes just because the gas is going up. They have no way to commute. People are still driving their cars and folks who have bikes, they don't necessarily have the equipment to go to the grocery store. They use them for recreation, and or fitness."

During the pandemic, bike sales rose as folks sought out recreational activities outdoors. Denton said that in response, manufacturers overcompensated by producing too many bicycles, which is driving down prices.

"Bike sales have actually been quite low in the past year and a half, maybe two years," Denton said. "They placed huge orders assuming sales would continue. Now there is so much overstock they've put them on sale."

He said that he, as well as other bike shops, are sitting on a lot of inventory.

"With the knee jerk reaction to when the pandemic hit to all the orders that got placed, those waves of bikes are still coming in," Shanks said. "Though we've had a great year, not everyone else has. It's been absolutely dismal for most retailers in the bicycle industry."

He said right now is the best time to buy bikes, at least for the next six months.

"There's a lot of bikes sitting in warehouses right now that companies really want to get rid of, and so you'll find a lot of sales going right now," Shanks said. "We've seen a price reduction for the first time in four years because there was on average, I think it was six price increases over the last three and a half years. So this is the first time we've seen prices come down."

Brian King covers education and politics for The Transcript. Reach him at