TULSA – Bike lanes were approved for 4th Place between Yale and Sheridan by the White City and Glenhaven neighborhoods at a public meeting Tuesday evening. The bike lanes would be the first neighborhood bike lanes in the city and could be in place within a year and a half.
The City of Tulsa conducted the public meeting at Yale Avenue Presbyterian Church in an effort to reach out to the neighborhood and ask the citizens what they wanted their street to look like since the street is being entirely reconstructed as part of the Fix Our Streets program.
City Planner, Theron Warlick, conducted the meeting in an effort to build consensus among the neighborhood residents on the new design for the 40-foot-wide curb-to-curb reconstruction project. Several engineers from the City of Tulsa and District 5 Councilor, Karen Gilbert, were also in attendance.
Warlick presented attendees with four street design options. The first option was to simply rebuild the street the same way it is now, a four-lane street. Option A would change the street to a two-lane street with marked parallel parking. Option B, the one the neighborhood ended up selecting, converts the street to a two-lane street with two six-foot bike lanes and parallel parking on one side of the street. Option C involved converting the street to two 14-foot travel lanes and one 12-foot center turn lane, a design usually reserved for business districts.
All street design options include the addition of a sidewalk on one side of the street.
“At one time this was supposed to be an arterial street, just like Yale or Sheridan or 11th Street,” Warlick said, “but it never really panned out that way.”
When I-244 was built in the area, Admiral became the more important street, yet 4th place is still striped like a four-lane arterial even though it carries only 2,900 vehicles a day. Yale Avenue, by comparison, carries 20,000 vehicles a day. The traffic-control-device-free mile-long stretch of 4th Place encourages traffic to cut through the neighborhood, oftentimes much faster than the posted 35 mph speed limit.
“Cars zip up and down there at 60 mph,” said one concerned resident.
The task for residents at Tuesday night’s meeting was to determine how 4th Place could be turned back into a neighborhood street. Warlick began the meeting by asking residents what they liked and didn’t like about 4th Place, sometimes referred to by locals as “Big 4th.”
Many residents believed cars traveled too fast down the street, making the street unsafe for kids crossing on the way to school, edging the front yard, or even parked cars.
When asked if the street was safe for bicycles, one resident responded “it’s unsafe for cars!” He went on to say, “we just had two cars rear-ended for just parking there in the last two weeks.”
The experience of several residents having their parked cars rear-ended seemed to lead to their initial opposition to on-street parking. Warlick cautioned the residents saying the best way to slow drivers down is to clutter up the street.
“Really, what we understand as planners and engineers is when you allow on-street parking it does slow people down,” he said.
Another resident who was for on-street parking said a friend decided not to buy a house on 4th Place because he didn’t feel like he could have visitors park on the street. Someone else mentioned that he liked the idea of slowing traffic down because his friends are disappointed by the redesign, saying they would now use 11th Street instead of 4th Place, which caused the room to erupt in laughter and applause.
View Larger Map This Google Street View image shows the way Fourth Place looks today.
One woman spoke up for bike lanes in the design. “When we moved into the neighborhood, there were no young families. And now they’re everywhere. I’d love to be able to bike with my 3-year-old,” she said.
She went on to say, “I think we need to accommodate families, and I think that if we want to be a progressive neighborhood, we need to plan for people in this century using bikes and fewer petroleum products.”
After much discussion one resident summed up why the winning option worked best for everyone’s stated concerns. “It appears that Option B, even though some may or may not like it, accommodates essentially everything we’re trying to do here,” he said.
“We need more pedestrian access, we need bike access, some people want more parking. I’m narrowing in on Option B as the one that kinda has all of that. Yeah, it’s going to slow things down a little bit, but I personally don’t want to turn that thoroughfare into a business-district-looking layout. It needs to have the look and the appeal of a neighborhood street.”
Warlick responded by describing Option B as a “Swiss Army Knife.”
“A lot of people don’t carry Swiss Army Knives,” said Warlick. “I guess the question here is can some of you guys live with this, with the understanding that if it doesn’t work, it’s paint?” Warlick’s question seemed to indicate that the design could be changed if it failed.
Although a significant number of people opposed on-street parking, they were outnumbered by those who favored it. When Warlick asked those opposed if they could live with it, no one voiced their opposition and consensus was reached that Option B will become the design of 4th Place.
Fourth Place is part of an on-street bike route that runs along 3rd Street to downtown. If this bike lane implementation is successful, the possibility exists to extend the bike lanes all the way from Sheridan to downtown.