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From left, Tom Jones, Steven Lassman, Sarah Kobus, Elaine Meek and Mitch Drummond conduct walk audits as Tulsa’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Temperatures were on their way to triple digits by 8 a.m., the meet-up time for a walk audit in late July with five volunteers from Tulsa’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee. 

The group, which advises the Indian Nations Council of Governments and City of Tulsa, is conducting walk audits in each of the nine city council districts this year through a grant from Pathways to Health. The walk audits report on the conditions of Tulsa’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, like sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes. A stretch of 100-degree days postponed the group’s scheduled July audit, so this crew volunteered to demonstrate an audit at the intersection of South Yale Avenue and East 91st Street instead.

Chairman Mitch Drummond passes out neon vests to everyone — reporter and photographer included — and debriefs the group: We’ll be walking in a square, starting with the northeast corner crosswalk.

Traffic roars in both directions down 91st Street, and Drummond points out the distance between the crosswalk button and the curb cut to enter the crosswalk going south, something the group checks during walk audits. (They also check functionality of crosswalk buttons during audits and sometimes find buttons that are broken or not ADA compliant.) It’s time to cross, and Sarah Kobus shows how a large concrete column obstructs motorists’ views of us.

“I’ve got cross sign. They’re turning,” says Kobus, pointing to a vehicle. “They won’t stop, and they’re looking the other way (for oncoming car traffic).”

Kobus is a BPAC member who represents cycling commuters and says she likes to ride to work when it’s not 100 degrees outside. Another cyclist, Tom Jones, rides mostly for recreation and notes the short distance from the nearby grocery store to the Creek Turnpike Trail, but the design of the area makes it difficult to access the trail. 

“If I want to get over here by bike, I have to ride two miles out of my way. I live a half-mile away,” Jones says.

That’s why Tulsa Parks is involved in the walk audits, explains Steven Lassman, parks planner at Tulsa Parks.

“We’re trying to coordinate with groups like the BPAC, and Streets and Stormwater and just all the different groups that we need to make it easier for people to walk to their neighborhood park or get to the regional parks easier,” he says.

Before the group crosses 91st again, this time headed north, Drummond mentions he saw a woman crossing here earlier in a brown dress and high heels — running. That’s the norm when streets are six lanes wide, he says, but what about people who use walkers? What about elderly people? What about all the Tulsans for whom being a pedestrian is not a choice? 

The cross sign is on, and as soon as the group steps into the street, the signal begins to flash impatiently, telling us to quicken the pace or risk facing traffic. The last leg of the audit, across Yale and back to the starting point, is somewhat calm, but Kobus notes that’s only because the area just north of 91st is a construction zone. Multiple members of the group point out throughout the audit that Yale, south of 91st, has eight lanes and measures about 104 feet across, which is wider than the Broken Arrow Expressway (where Yale and the BA intersect, six lanes of north- and south-bound highway traffic are 78 feet wide). 

Drummond says when construction north of 91st is complete, it will be about 92 feet wide with seven lanes, making the whole corridor wider than the highway as well. 

“Design it like a highway, people treat it like a highway,” Jones says.

Walk audits are open to everyone. Register to join the next walk audits, Sept. 1 and Oct. 12, at tulsawalks.org.

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