I‘ve lived in cities that are bike-friendly. Oklahoma City is not one of them. Bike lanes are few and far between, the roads themselves can be treacherous (especially for thinner tires), and the concept of “sharing the road” with cyclists is foreign to most local motorists.
In turn, there’s not a lot of casual bike riding in this city, so there are relatively few experienced cyclists. I occasionally see serious cyclists in matching spandex, and I have two friends who often commute to work on their bikes, but you don’t have the casual cycling culture that makes people familiar with and sympathetic to the rules of the road regarding bike safety and traffic laws.
So it’s interesting, to put it mildly, when Tour de Biere, a charity event for the Central Oklahoma Humane Society and Safe Haven Animal Rescue, centers on bicycling up and down one of OKC’s busiest corridors. Add to this bike-centric event a pub crawl consisting of no less than a dozen drink specials at local bars, and you really up the threat level for what is, by its nature, an already perilous endeavor.
Still, it was all for a good cause, and organizer Marisa Frye told me $12,000 was raised during the event’s eighth year. In a Facebook post Sunday, she said the event had record turnout.
‘Can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning’
The quote above was included in the closing of a pre-event email from Frye, and many who attended Saturday’s event seemed to take the sentiment to heart.
The day’s first bar stop was at 10 a.m., but it was thankfully about 1 p.m. by the time I caught up with the then-ungainly peloton, and I watched from the edge of Rockford Cocktail Den as well-buzzed participants tried to cross Northwest 23rd Street headed north on Hudson Avenue. Riders would pull up to the edge of the intersection and wait for an opening, but, because midday traffic was already well underway at that bustling location, it wasn’t until some booze-fueled daredevil would soldier into the crosswalk that more reluctant riders would follow. Traffic on that side of the street would stop, but cars continued zipping along the far side of the street even as several riders made their way into the middle of the crosswalk. Brakes chirped, horns honked and a few choice words were directed at motorists who refused to stop.
“This could get ugly,” I remembered thinking.
‘I’m so drunk right now’
This was overheard at 3:29 p.m. at Red Rooster, an optional stop according to the pub crawl’s itinerary. About an hour later at VZD’s, I overheard a concerned woman on a cell phone mention the word “hospital,” so I asked her what happened.
The woman, who we can call “B,” told me that a friend she knew had come all the way down from Tulsa for Tour de Biere, but he wound up falling and busting his face, so he was headed to the hospital for stitches.
Across the street in the parking lot of Sipango, I encountered one of the day’s casualties firsthand:
A man we can call “Liquor Socks” told me how he had gotten well intoxicated and caused some trouble at a previous location by spraying champagne around. His mischief had given way to contrition by the time we met, and he felt sorry for causing trouble at an event with charity as a key impetus.
A few minutes after that encounter, a man in sunglasses hurriedly crossed the street from VZD’s to the Sip’s parking lot. Upon encountering Liquor Socks, he said:
“The owner of VZD’s just called the cops on me.”
Sure enough, police were there moments later:
At this point, my faction and I decided to move on down the road.
‘Cancel the ambulance’
That phrase was overheard later at Edna’s, the final destination of the official pub crawl route. While it was reassuring to know someone would not require an ambulance after all, the sentiment typified the day as one teetering on the brink of pandemonium.
Through it all, though, and beyond the charitable aspects of Tour de Biere, the most promising take away for me was hope that OKC could eventually become a bike-friendly city. The event illustrates that even novice and mostly inebriated cyclists can cover the bulk of the northwest quadrant’s drinking districts within the span of a few hours. At the same time, the event raises the visibility of cyclists so that motorists may be more watchful for them in the future.
In the meantime, don’t forget your helmet.