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.