Act Now on LB 1071

24 Feb

bike-lightThe Transportation and Telecommunications Committee is planning to hold a hearing this Tuesday for LB 1071. Please send an email NOW to the members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, expressing your support—to Chair, Senator Dubas and to Omaha-area Senators on the Committee: Beau McCoy (Elkhorn, far west Omaha), John Murante (SW Omaha, Gretna), and Jim Smith (LaVista, Papillion). Please check this map to see the detailed district boundaries. Several people from Omaha and Lincoln are also planning to testify on Tuesday. If you’d like to join them, please contact Mike Abboud.

This bill, sponsored by Senator Lathrop of Omaha, would task the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) with creating standards for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and would also more clearly define a person on a bicycle’s rights to the right of way; that is, “…a person lawfully operating a bicycle on a sidewalk, or across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.” Currently, there is no specific guidance on how to handle bicyclists in those situations.

By adopting standards at the state level, this bill would support the recently-created Traffic Signal Master Plan that was adopted by the City of Omaha in October, 2013. That plan states:

The increase in the use of bicycles both in mixed traffic and on exclusive bicycle facilities may create safety and/or operational issues that could be mitigated with better bicycle detection. The City should implement the detection for bicycles on corridors with bicycle lanes or corridors with high volumes of bicycle traffic. (p. 53)

Of course, these standards would also support the goals outlined in the Transportation and Environmental Elements of the City of Omaha Master Plan and implementation and expansion of the yet-to-be-fully implemented 20 mile bike loop.

LB 1071 would also give NDOR the opportunity to expand standards currently in place for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. National guidelines for “uniform standards for signage and signals” have already been created by NACTO and AASHTO, and in fact, they have been recently updated to include specifications for protected bike lanes and other infrastructure that have been proven to be effective for achieving physical safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. We encourage NDOR to adopt these standards.

Information currently indicates the City of Lincoln will be testifying in support of this bill. Lincoln has already adopted a complete streets policy and this bill would support that policy. Omaha does not yet have a complete streets policy; however, given the goals of the traffic signal and transportation master plans, it would make sense for the City of Omaha to also support this bill. We encourage the City of Omaha to do so.

See more information about the bill from BicycLincoln here. Also on the agenda tomorrow is LB 756, which would help define e-Bikes.

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