Tulsa Bike Share to Put City on the Cutting Edge
By EMILY RAMSEY
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Daniel Sperle entered his position as Tulsa Bike Share executive director in August and will lead the launch of Phase I of the city’s bike share program in September. The program will begin with 140 bicycles and 18 launching stations throughout downtown Tulsa.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Editor’s Note: Daniel Sperle, executive director of Tulsa Bike Share, is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 People to Watch in 2017,” as announced in its January 2017 issue. was the first news group in greater Tulsa to introduce “10 People to Watch,” which launched in January 2009.
Daniel Sperle’s role as executive director of Tulsa Bike Share combines Sperle’s enthusiasm for Tulsa and knowledge in urban design and transportation. So, when the opportunity to apply for the position came along last year, “a lot of people were telling me that this was in my wheelhouse,” he says.
Tulsa Bike Share was started by INCOG (Indian Nations Council of Governments) in 2014. It is part of the GO Plan and will receive a portion of funds from Vision Tulsa.
Sperle learned about the job from one of his instructors at the University of Oklahoma’s Urban Design Studio in Tulsa, where Sperle was finishing up his master’s degree.
Sperle earned his bachelor’s degree in visual communications from the University of Oklahoma in 2013, with his original career plan revolving around graphic design.
However, as he became more interested in architecture and city design, after graduation he worked in urban planning and development in Oklahoma City on projects that involved downtown and river development.
“I was working on some cool projects, but I wanted to be working on something like that in Tulsa,” says the native Tulsan and Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences alum.
As he further developed his love for the built environment and urban planning, his next step was to pursue a master’s in architectural urban studies at OU-Tulsa. While Sperle was considering other master’s programs, part of what attracted him to OU’s program specifically in Tulsa was its focus on interaction with city leaders and its hands-on real-life projects, he says.
James Wagner, formerly with INCOG and now serving as Chief of Performance Strategy and Innovation on Tulsa Mayor Bynum’s staff, was one of Sperle’s teachers.
One project that Sperle played a role in was creation of a redevelopment plan for 11th Street. The students worked with many local entities and stakeholders, including Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, City Councilor Blake Ewing and University of Tulsa President Gerard Clancy.
It has been fun to see some of our suggestions implemented along Route 66, he says, like the Fuel 66 food truck park, 2439 E. 11th St.
Sperle officially took the position of Tulsa Bike Share executive director in August.
“Transportation has always been an interest of mine in how it can impact the way a city is built,” he says.
Sperle has brought his millennial energy for walkability and multi-modal transportation to his role, including his push for Tulsa’s bike share program to be “at the forefront of where bike share is going,” he says.
Although, bike sharing is nothing new to Tulsa, and in the circle of bike share experts, Tulsa is well known, notes Sperle.
Tulsa was the first North American city to launch a bike share program: Tulsa Townies in 2007. Additionally, Tulsa Townies continues to hold onto its popularity, with each bicycle averaging close to two rides per day, says Sperle.
As the national trend skews increasingly toward active transportation, Tulsans have shown their embrace of cycling with a growing number of cyclists appearing on roads and sidewalks and the continued growth of Tulsa Tough.
“Cycling is not a cultural norm for Oklahoma, but it is for Tulsa,” he says.
With an eye toward progress, a few changes have been made to Tulsa Bike Share’s timeline and set-up after Sperle and Tulsa Bike Share’s board of directors considered the future of bike sharing programs nationwide.
Instead of launching in the spring with 108 bicycles, Phase I will launch in September with 140 bicycles and 18 launching stations throughout downtown Tulsa.
“I want to show that Tulsa can be ahead of the curve,” Sperle says.
And mobile application is the way of the future for bike sharing, he continues.
That means that Tulsa Bike Share will incorporate a mobile app that will indicate the locations of available bicycles, and the bicycles will be “smart bikes,” equipped with technology that will allow the bicycles to be tracked and enable users to lock and leave bicycles anywhere, as opposed to only at “docking stations.”
Sperle hopes to see Phase II of the program rolled out a few months after Phase I, but that will largely depend on the amount of community funding assistance received, he says.
The Phase II extension could include bicycle stations at A Gathering Place for Tulsa, on the University of Tulsa campus, Brookside, Cherry Street, 11th Street, and in the Kendall Whittier area.
Also, in line with the launch of the Bus Rapid Transit line along 11th Street and Peoria Avenue, Tulsa Bike Share will introduce a universal pass that can be used both with bicycles and (Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority) buses, he says. “The plan is to install a bike station at every bus stop so that bikes become the last mile connector to people’s final destinations.”
City officials hope to launch both the Peoria Avenue and 11th Street routes in 2019.
“We want to make sure that we are servicing the community in the way that we need to.
“Bike share is intended to work with public transportation.”
Coming most quickly on the horizon is a rebranding effort by Tulsa Bike Share at the end of May, including a new name, says Sperle, based on input from focus groups and local stakeholders.
“We are creating something to add to Tulsa’s culture, and we want the community to feel like they own the system themselves,” says Sperle.