Regarding the Elimination of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Position

1 Aug

If Omaha’s budget for next year is adopted as proposed, our city will no longer employ a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, the city’s only staff member dedicated solely to addressing the needs of people when they travel by foot or on bicycles. We strongly believe that this action would be a step in the wrong direction, and we urge the City Council to restore the position into the budget.

An urban planner focused on pedestrians and bicyclists yields many benefits. Our current Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, Carlos Morales, has shown us that. Since he began his tenure in 2010, he has facilitated the addition of roughly 20 miles of bike lanes and sharrows, overseen the installation of more than 400 bike racks, and initiated a citywide dialogue on the needs of pedestrians. He regularly provides technical support on private and public projects throughout the city, and importantly, he has helped secure several million dollars specifically for bicycle and pedestrian educational and infrastructure projects.

Carlos has done a great deal of good for Omaha, but one can hardly say that all of our goals related to non-motorized transportation have been met. Simply, it is far more difficult and far less safe than it ought to be to travel around our city on foot or by bicycle. There is plenty of space in the public right of way for us all to enjoy a bit of it, but we need an advocate with specialized knowledge who can participate in daily conversation at City Hall to help make that happen.

Recently, it was suggested that the revival of a volunteer committee (the Active Living Advisory Committee, formerly the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee) could fill the void created through the removal of the Coordinator position, and the mayor reinstituted it on Wednesday. We applaud the resurrection of the group, but we disagree that it alone can meet our needs. The committee will do a good job providing additional perspectives on bicycle and pedestrian projects, but it cannot be expected to do the difficult work of ensuring that best practices are met on every streetscape redesign. Its members will not take the time to fill out lengthy applications for grant funding, nor will they be available to help review the plans of new developments to ensure that they adequately consider how people will access the locations from nearby neighborhoods or through transit. They will not fill requests for bicycle racks, and they will not complete the reports to document the state of walking and biking.

Ultimately, we need (and deserve) a paid staff member who understands that our city’s residents and guests want to get around without having to hop in a car. If combined with the new Active Living Advisory Committee, and the enactment of a Complete Streets ordinance, the City of Omaha will have the necessary elements in place to implement the transportation master plan and its vision for safe and balanced transportation in Omaha now and in the future.

Please help us take action to ensure that our voices are heard.

Contact Your Elected Representatives

If you agree, please take a moment to write your representative on the City Council and call the Mayor’s Hotline (402.444.5000).

Attend our Rally: August 10th at noon at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village

Show our elected leaders that we care about the state of biking and walking in Omaha. RSVP at the Facebook event page.

Attend the City Council Hearing

Attend the City Council’s hearing on the proposed budget on August 12th from 7:00 to 9:00pm at the Omaha Douglas Civic Center, 1819 Farnam Street.

 

Correction: A previous version of this post stated that the current Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator “raised nearly $3.7 million specifically for bicycle and pedestrian projects.” After further exploration, the exact figure directly attributable to his efforts cannot easily be determined.  We apologize for any confusion.

10 Responses to “Regarding the Elimination of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Position”

  1. Jane Doe August 1, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    It is not governments role or the tax payers burden to fund a position that is no longer needed. It served its purpose and now this project can be lead by a group of volunteers committed to serving this cause. 80,000k for someone to coordinate bikers “wants” in the city is hardly a good use of city money. There are more pressing needs in the city than bike racks and bike trails hence the need for outside funding for something so niche as this. Most of the city drives, this is just not a need.

    • modeshiftomaha August 2, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks for taking part in the conversation. However, we strongly disagree with your position. We believe that when people join together to form a city, we should provide a transportation system that allows people to choose how get where they need to go safely and comfortably. Providing options for people to travel without an automobile is the fair and ultimately more economically sustainable thing for our city to do. A lot of people don’t have cars, and a lot of people don’t want to drive, but do because that is seemingly the only option. A lot of people are not able to drive due to old age or youth. One other thing to consider: we didn’t get to the current state of automobile dominance without significant public subsidy and policy leading the way. Again, thanks for chiming in.

      • Daphne Eck August 5, 2014 at 9:33 am #

        ^^^this^^^ Thank you Mode Shift Omaha!

      • dirk August 7, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

        it’s unfortunate that the bike issue (a tiny minority cause for sure) has come to dominate the “alternative” transportation agenda and the coverage as everyone in Omaha doesn’t drive but at some point or another in the day we all are pedestrians and this city is unsafe to walk in to say the least.
        For politicians and citizens who like to talk up law and order we are tragically lacking both on our city streets (and with parking garages on our sidewalks) and we need someone who will champion policing traffic for all.

      • modeshiftomaha August 9, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

        Most definitely. We want to see safe transportation options for everyone.

    • Angie Eikenberry August 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      I think most of us would agree that it is government’s role to build and maintain roads. We expect potholes to be fixed by the City. And the City and State spend A LOT of money building and maintaining roads–but they are almost entirely for driving cars, not for people who want to get around by multiple means. The evidence in other cities shows that the cost of this system is not sustainable. A person (actually it should be multiple persons) who focuses on building safe roads for everyone will save money, serve citizens better, and make Omaha more attractive for economic development. Not having such a person or persons is bad financial management and a poor use of City money.

      Here is a pretty good overview on the cost of the current system: http://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme/.

  2. James Peters August 4, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Does anyone know how much federal funding did Mr. Morales’ job bring to the city? If he was able to bring in more grants and funds to the city that was greater than his salary, it seems like his position would benefit the city.

    • modeshiftomaha August 4, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

      Excellent point, James. That’s one of our points exactly.

  3. Cyndonna Tefft August 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    Have you checked into the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center at UNO for possible resources?

    I recently purposefully moved to an area where I can bike to the grocery store, bank, etc. via Keystone and some streets, more quickly than drive. One less car on the road with only one person in it using up gas. It would be awesome to see a good east west route somewhere along the Dodge St. corridor. Keep up the good work!

    • dirk August 14, 2014 at 7:29 am #

      CT modeshift meets @ the CEC/UNO, please join in there and lend a hand/voice thanks

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