The Big Sweep

1 Apr

Safe sidewalk infrastructure should not be a joke. Yes, we’re publishing this on April 1st, but there’s nothing funny about the lack of maintenance and care that sidewalks in Omaha currently receive. Mode Shift Omaha plans to address this issue and sweep the sidewalks and intersection of 72nd and Dodge Streets, a job that the city says belongs to property owners. The property owners say either they don’t know about their responsibility or they view it as the city’s problem because the city is the one dropping loads of gravel, salt, and snow in the winter.

Creighton students from Dr. Wishart’s Environment and Society sociology course are volunteering with Mode Shift for this effort as part of their service learning about how transportation equity and sustainability are part of the larger environmental justice social movement. Keep Omaha Beautiful has supplied us with the gear to do the work. Please join us on Saturday, April 10th at 11:45 a.m. on the sidewalk in front of 7001 Dodge Street for “The Big Sweep” as we clean up and demand changes from our city. Avoid parking in private parking lots to participate in the event.

A hard to navigate sidewalk along Dodge Street is full of reddish sand and debris. A man in an electric wheelchair is trying to make his way up the street but is having a hard time. Wheel chair tracks are apparent in the soft mud next to the sidewalk because it's too difficult to make it by on the pavement.

Photo by C. Tefft; A mobility device user is maneuvering around the sand filled sidewalk.

Omaha Public Works has indicated that sidewalks will be dealt with on a complaint by complaint basis. This strategy is shortsighted, neglectful, and inefficient. Until sidewalks are truly recognized as modes of transportation with rules and regulations that are designed to keep pedestrian traffic flowing and safe, we cannot be the city of the future. As it stands right now you can legally park a car blocking a sidewalk for 24 hours before anyone will do anything about it. Even then it takes a complaint to get anything accomplished. We are stuck in neutral, choking on our own exhaust. We need immediate capital investment from long standing revenue sources with high quality maintenance and care contracts that prioritize pedestrians.

Without walkability, multimodal transit, and micro-park systems, Omaha has no future with young professionals who are uninterested in the current auto-centric system. A failure to attract young talent by virtue of our infrastructure alone is a shame and against so much that the Omaha Chamber of Commerce is working toward. While reading Omaha’s vision and plans, one feels like this may be the best place on earth by 2050. But how can that happen if we don’t start making the small choices now to invest in walkability and mobility and change the culture of Omaha? Do we want Omaha to be a place people rush through or a place to come and stay, shop, and play?  We know anyone can buy online, give them a reason to come to Omaha. Join us for the Big Sweep on April 10th, to demand Big Change and until the system is really fixed, light up the Mayor’s hotline with your sidewalk complaints (402) 444-5555.  

One Response to “The Big Sweep”

  1. Terry Hickman April 1, 2021 at 6:05 pm #

    Looking at the drifts of dirt and gravel and trash along our busted-up sidewalks, out-of-towners driving or riding through our main streets must think this is like a second-rate burg, and anyone not in the higher echelons of Omaha society – and certainly anyone who has to walk or ride a wheelchair anywhere here – feels like we’re definitely of no importance to our town. The evidence of that is everywhere.

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