Mode Shift Omaha|

Scott Ussery is a Mode Shift Omaha member and regular bike commuter who rides from his home in Papillion to his job as a statistician for an insurance company in Omaha.

Scott holding his bike

I use the Strava app to track my mileage, and as of November 5, I’ve ridden 4,200 miles in 2018, a lot of which was my work commute.

On the days I ride, I zigzag through neighborhoods past schools, through the LaVista Sports Complex and then east on Harrison by Seymour Smith Park to the Keystone Trail. At Karen Park I cut over to the South Omaha Trail and ride it all the way to the Field Club Trail. I’ll brave Leavenworth, eastbound, until I can bear north on Turner Blvd. When I get to Harney I can choose to grab a coffee from a favorite local coffee house, or head straight into work at Physicians Mutual Insurance Company. The whole commute is 12-13 miles, one-way, and takes a little over an hour.

The ride home is a little longer. I’ll continue south on the Keystone, past Harrison, to the West Papio trail. Sometimes, I’ll meet up with friends along the route and we’ll finish the commute together. Those are some of the best rides.

I sometimes do a multi-modal commute, cycling up to the Park-n-Ride at Tara Plaza just east of 84th. This is the southern extent of Route 93, the express route serving Papillion and Ralston. I’ll put my bike on the bus’ front rack and ride the bus downtown. In the evening, I’ll ride home on my bike.

Sun halo on the creek levee

When you’re riding your bike, especially early in the morning, you get a totally different perspective than you get from driving in a car. I enjoy the solitude, the opportunity to listen to your environment, see the world from a different vantage point. You get to see how the rising sun creates a halo around your shadow on the creek levee. You hear cardinals and jays call out to one another. Wild turkeys and Canadian geese wander around the trail keeping you vigilant.  

Turkeys on the trail

I like rolling past people’s vintage cars in the neighborhoods, and taking notice of the swelling creeks after a rain. The murals and graffiti under the bridges along the trails are something you can’t see from the roads. And at night you get the moon! A full moon is impossibly bright when you’re riding down the Keystone Trail and the darkness of a new moon is complete.

Moon over the Keystone Trail

Not to say there aren’t challenges to commuting by bike. People driving cars cannot for the life of them accurately judge the speed of someone on a bike. I’ve learned to use routes that have little or light car traffic. I still encounter cars pulling out in front of me or cutting me off to make a turn. It’s a real frustration.

But the frustration isn’t greater than the joys I get from the people I’ve met and got to know on the trails, coffee shops and other watering holes around town. I’ve met lots of riders through past Winter Bike Challenges, Live Well Omaha Commuter Challenges, National Bike Challenges, Corporate Cycling Challenge and various organized coffee rides, charity rides and theme rides. Many of us are “connected” on Strava where we give kudos to one another’s riding efforts, comment about rides, trails or photos and/or plan upcoming rides together. There is an entire two-wheeling community out there and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of it.


2 Replies to “Omaha at Human Scale: The Bike Commuter”

  1. tobin ehlers says:

    Scott, I can relate to all your descriptions, we change the world 2 wheels at a time, keep on rolling!

  2. Chris Behr says:

    Scott, thanks for pointing out the pleasures and beauty of riding our trails. Sometimes it feels like entering an alternate Omaha when you escape from street-world to trail-world, and it’s there to enjoy at all times!

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