Join us this Friday, July 19, at the Hardy’s Coffee at the Highlander for our monthly coffee chat with Julie Tuttle Harris, Executive Director of Bike Walk Nebraska. Julie is a native of Scottsbluff, NE, and grew up in a neighborhood in which it was safe and easy to walk and bike to school and summers were spent exploring and bicycling the neighborhoods. Julie rediscovered her joy of biking as an adult and enjoys using her bike for transportation to run errands and to ride to the transit stop to catch the express bus to her office. She also enjoys recreational cycling on her road and mountain bikes.
1. What city in Nebraska has the best biking infrastructure?
Lincoln, and not just because they have the state’s only protected bike lane. The trail system runs in several directions, making it much more functional for transportation, complimented by the existing bike lanes and designated routes on neighborhood streets that add to the connectivity. I’m also very excited about Lincoln’s new Bike Plan that was created in 2018.
2. What are the greatest challenges facing biking and walking in the state?
Well, when you’re ranked 50th in the Bicycle Friendly State rankings, you have many challenges! The overarching theme is that we don’t have enough folks that understand the importance of multi-modal transportation; a mentality that facilities that make life safer for people biking and walking are “special amenities” rather than a legitimate need. This mentality impacts priorities, planning, policy, funding, statutes, you name it. Having said that, we are starting to see change happening, which is encouraging.
3. What is your favorite bike/walk success in the state?
The Johnson Lake Trail, south of Lexington. This trail has been built little by little and has the most fantastic group of champions that you could imagine. These folks have dealt with everything that The Bureaucracy can throw at them – state agencies, TWO sets of county commissioners, public utilities, natural resources districts, home owners associations, funders, and maybe even Santa Claus. Nonetheless, they persisted and have created an amazing trail.
4. How has adding walking to the mission of Bike Walk Nebraska changed the organization?
Walking has always been an informal part of our mission – you can’t talk about complete streets and safe routes to school and the need for trails without the words “biking and walking” being together in the same sentence. The new name and brand more accurately reflect the work that was already being done.
5. If you could magically change one thing in the state with regard to transportation what would it be?
I would waive my magic active transportation wand and throw down a layer of super cool traffic calming along every non-interstate highway once it hits the city limits of Nebraska towns. The idea that the efficient movement of trucks (read: avoid slowing down and stopping at all costs) somehow trumps the safety of the citizens of rural communities is my hot button issue. Don’t get me started.