Amateur radio operators help keep cyclists safe during Tour de Tulsa

TULSA, Okla. — With hundreds of cyclists riding over a hundred miles in Saturday’s Tour de Tulsa, there was bound to be some help they’d need along the way. That’s where a local hobbyist group stepped in.

“Some of these routes are out there in the middle of nowhere,” Paul Teel said.

Some of the cyclists in the Tour de Tulsa ride up to 103 miles, and what they face is not all smooth.

“Stuff on the road,” Teel said. They’re gonna have flat tires. They’re gonna be tired.”

That’s where Teel steps in.

“We provide this as a community service,” he said.

He’s a member of the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club. His love for the hobby dates back to his middle school days.

“We’re all licensed operators and I’ve held my license since 1969,” he said.

During Saturday’s ride, his fellow club members hit the road too. Not on bikes, but in their radio-equipped cars.

“We have people out on the course who can assist the riders,” he said. “If they have a flat tire, give them a pump. Give them some water, first aid.”

At the same time, Teel and one other member stayed back at the start line. Their mobile command trailer comes equipped with a full mast and broadcasting equipment. From there, they communicate back and forth with their chasers along the route. They can also track their locations in real time with computers.

“With this map right here, I can see where everybody is,” Teel said.

The chasers, in turn, radio back when they find someone in need. Teel and his partner then dispatch help to their location.

The whole setup can be towed just about anywhere it’s needed.

“This organization and our technology have been used all the way back to hurricane Katrina,” Teel said.

Its capabilities go beyond just a bike ride.

“Without any internet, without any other support, we can be on a generator and provide communications,” he said.

Communications—that on Saturday—gave riders a little peace of mind.

“When you can help somebody fix a flat tire, when you can help people get some water, some first aid, or just a ride to the next rest stop, that’s great for us,” Teel said.