Families and businesses need better walking and biking too

11 May

An Omaha businessman, Tom Chapman, coaches entrepreneurs and is one of the most connected in the midwest among new and old businesses working for community economic development. He recently wrote a blog that touches on many of the themes of Mode Shift Omaha and we commend his blog to you here:

https://www.chapmanandcompany.co/blog/covid-diaries-quarantine

He and his wife, a doctor of optometry, and their six children live in the neighborhood west of I-680 between Center Street and I-80 and east of 120th Street. They would like to walk and bike out of their neighborhood but the city makes it practically impossible. He writes:

“One of the borders to my neighborhood is I-680 to the east.  There is no way for me and my family to go to the east except by car.  Functionally, a sidewalk exists – but it requires us to walk in front of the interstate’s on and off-ramps.  I don’t want to do this alone, much less with a 9-year-old.  This means that our daily walks cannot lead us to the Keystone or West Papio Trail.  Instead, we are isolated to our neighborhood.  Building east to west trails and access is critical to make our city more walkable and bikeable.  We should not have to bike or walk along West Center. We should have some protection from the roads and congestion.

“Our city is not built on a human scale.  It has been built for cars and because of this, we spend a lot of money on roads and automobile access.”

Writing about Public Spaces and Local Government, he writes:

I am going to challenge myself to send my kids outside to play more and be part of organizations less. . . In order to do this, we need better public parks and access ways.  Omaha’s parks are woeful.  This represents a clear example of how our government has slowly atrophied focusing on business over happiness for its citizens.  We have a robust city budget and in general, Omaha is “well-run”, but we have not thought through the role of humans in our community.  Humans live at ground level – not in automobiles.  Automobiles are transported.  . . most of Omaha is unreachable without a car.  So, while I live ten miles from downtown, I cannot walk or bike there because of the interstates and large arterial streets.  Simply put, they make it impassable for someone without a car.”

It’s encouraging to know that there are many people in our city who would prefer to travel outside of an automobile and experience the city at human scale and that they are adding their voice to the conversation.  Tom ends his blog with the following:  “As I spend more time with my family, I think there are three basic lessons – build our schedules to be lighter, build our days to be freer and happier, and build our spaces to be more accessible.”

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