Three new bicycle tours led by expert local guides beginning Tuesday will enable groups to pedal around downtown and gain insights about its history, art and architecture.
Each tour will take a different route, covering about three miles at a leisurely pace, said Jill DeLozier, marketing director for Downtown OKC Inc.
“We could have made them hours and hours long with all the interesting stuff around OKC, so we kind of pared it down to a few highlights,” she said.
“We just encourage people to learn about downtown and experience it from the bike level.”
The Spokies bike-share program will offer free bicycle rentals to the first 30 people who register for each tour. Those riders also will get a helmet and T-shirt. People are welcome to bring their own bikes, too.
Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma Historical Society executive director, will share local history on Tuesday.
Peter Dolese, executive director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, will give a tour of public art Oct. 9, while architect Anthony McDermid will talk buildings Oct. 16.
Blackburn said he planned a ride on a chronological loop starting with the city’s early settlement and ending with urban renewal. He hopes to show how history lives in the present and how seemingly unrelated events in the past were all connected.
“If more people understand what happened downtown, then hopefully people can connect the dots,” he said.
His tour will start at N.W. Ninth Street and Broadway Avenue, leaving for the Centennial Land Run Monument on the Oklahoma River. Next will be stops in Deep Deuce and Automobile Alley, and at the Civic Center Music Hall and the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
The structure of OKC and its suburbs was formed through the history of transportation, Blackburn said. Now the city is poised to change again with a streetcar line and pedestrian-friendly amenities.
“I think that the future, the quality of Oklahoma City is going to depend on transportation innovation,” he said.
That’s what motivated Blackburn, who remembers biking downtown with his kids in the 1980s and 1990s, to get on a bike for this tour.
“I’ve given probably 100 bus tours of downtown, and I’ve given walking tours, and I’ve even given a running tour,” he said.
Getting a group of people on bikes to learn about their local history is not only a nice bit of street life, but hopefully another step in moving toward better transportation options downtown, said Blackburn.
Helmets are required for the tours and all participants must be 16 years or older.