The Harney Street Bikeway has been a top priority for the city, based on their own metrics, for the last 10 years. It took until last year, and a private donor, to make the “Market to Midtown” bikeway a reality.
Last month, the mayor decided she had seen enough. Despite the City Council’s unanimous support of the bikeway, she and the board of Metro Smart Cities, decided to end the pilot program. Bike advocates, including Bike Walk Nebraska – a leading contributor to the project, were shocked.
After a student-led protest of the bike lane demolition, the mayor announced that it would continue for the next year, until the new streetcar project pushed the bikeway out. BUT… that was only because a private donor (the same donor from the original pilot) agreed to pay for the ongoing maintenance.
We celebrated. The mayor’s capitulation in the face of protest was unexpected and exciting. But how did it come to this? Why is the city not funding popular, useful cycling infrastructure? Why do we need to rely on private dollars to maintain our current status-quo? Why, despite the full support of the city council, would the mayor decide to end this pilot. Why was it a pilot despite being one of the city’s best scoring projects for over a decade?
There are a lot of questions and very few answers. Mode Shift Omaha will continue to push the city to build more protected bike infrastructure as well as prioritizing pedestrian safety. We cannot let not losing what we have become a victory. We need to continue to push for more… a network of protected bike lanes, separated from traffic by physical barriers, to ensure that everyone feels comfortable biking in Omaha.
Join the conversation at our 10/26/22 Mode Shift Member meeting at 7pm on Zoom.