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Definitions: Cycling Infrastructure

11 Oct


There are several different types of infrastructure that cities install to benefit cyclists. Each of these have different advantages and disadvantages and will encourage a different type of rider. One of the most important things for getting people to travel by bicycle is to provide a connected network of cycling infrastructure that allow people to get where they want to go and feel safe during the journey.

Sharrow:

This is a painted marking on the roadway. There may be accompanying signage that cyclists may use the full lane. Legally, a cyclist can always use the full lane… no permission needed but this indicates to cars to be aware of cyclists. Sharrows work well in residential streets with relatively little vehicle traffic. 

Studies have shown that Sharrows may actually be worse than simply doing nothing because it gives cyclists a false sense of security while doing nothing to protect them from vehicles.

https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2016/02/sharrow-safety-bike-infrastructure-lane-chicago/460095/

Pros: 

  • Almost zero cost (paint and perhaps a sign)
  • Connect other parts of cycling network
  • No additional equipment to remove snow

Cons:

  • Cyclists still mix with traffic
  • Rarely used by novice cyclists

Painted Bike Lane:

A bike lane is painted on the road, dedicating space to the cyclists. This is usually done with excess space in a travel lane, giving 4 feet of the existing roadway to cyclists. Cyclists no longer mix with cars but care must still be taken when cars pass cyclists in the bike lane. Further, if there is street parking, these lanes are often found in the “door zone” where a driver’s door would open into the lane.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive (cost of paint)
  • Easy to maintain as natural extension of street
  • Effective tool to narrow an overly wide driving lane, makes the street safer
  • Cyclists have dedicated space

Cons:

  • No barrier between cars and cyclists
  • Frequently used as parking for cars and delivery trucks
  • Tend to gather road debris
  • Often in the “door zone” of parked cars

Separated Cycle Lane:

This is a lane for biking that is separated from car lanes by some form of barrier. This can be a cement curb, planters, bollards, or even a lane of parked cars. By moving parked cars off of the curb to accommodate the bike lane, it creates a barrier of steel between the cyclists and the cars.

Pros:

  • Cyclists fully protected from cars
  • Induces all ages of riders because of increased safety

Cons:

  • Requires more road space for both the lane and the buffer
  • May require special equipment to plow snow in the winter
  • Parking meters are further away from parked cars, sometimes leading to confusion

Cycle Track:

(Lincoln, NE – N Street Cycle Track)

In a cycle track, enough room is taken on one side of the street to accommodate bikes going in both directions. This functions like a mini street just for bikes that is parallel to the car travel lanes.

Pros:

  • Fully protected from drivers
  • Can provide two way cycling even if the road is one way

Cons:

  • Most expensive option
  • Creates issues at intersections, especially if implemented on a one-way grid
  • Requires special tools for snow removal

Bike Trail

(Memorial Park)

(Elmwood Park)

(Keystone Trail)

There are many recreational trails throughout the city. These are not used for transportation as often as for pleasure or exercise. These are wider than a standard sidewalk and completely separate from any roads.

Pros:

  • Totally separated from auto traffic
  • Most inclusive of all riding abilities

Cons:

  • Not built with transit in mind, not always connected to where you want to go
  • Very expensive
  • Bikes share the space with joggers and walkers

Pedestrians in a Bird Cage

8 Oct

After raising the issue of walkability and construction zones, it was nice to hear from the Hotline Supervisor (see below) that some aspects of the Safer Sidewalks Petition are already part of city policy. Now that the city is more aware that this is a serious issue for Omaha residents, we hope that enforcing this policy will become a higher priority. Ideally, we’d love to see this as an ordinance so it is written and observable to all. And we need further clarification as to what happens when contractors fail to comply.

Hotline:

“If part of a sidewalk is closed during any project, the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street must remain open. If there is no sidewalk built on the other side of the street, a detour must be created  for pedestrian use. Similarly, in the rare instance that sidewalks on both sides of the street are closed, an alternate route for pedestrian access has to be provided.”

Hotline Supervisor City of Omaha – Mayor’s Office

Today, I visited with a man about a sidewalk he was blocking with a truck and trailer combo. He asked, “oh, do you know someone in a wheelchair who uses that sidewalk?” As if that would be the only reason to keep his truck off of it. What we have is a bird cage* situation.  The concept is that each obstacle in and of itself can be explained away as irrelevant. Whether it is the person parking their trucks over the sidewalk, the homeowner and trash collectors leaving trash cans in the middle of the sidewalk, a construction company closing both sides of the sidewalk, not warning people that a sidewalk is closed ahead – which causes them to have to walk in a busy street, or failing to accommodate pedestrians at major intersections like 84th and Dodge while it was under construction; these violations add up to a city that is difficult to navigate on foot or by wheelchair, or with a cane, or a stroller, or with a dog, or as a visitor.

At 90th and Dodge OMETRO is doing construction on the new ORBT station.  There may be advance notice before the intersection heading west alerting pedestrians to no sidewalk access, but there won’t be a sidewalk detour because of a limited right of way according to ORBT.  “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Consider switching things up and exploring an alternate route for the time being.”  The advice seems insensitive once you have studied the topography of the area. Walking and rolling by 90th and Dodge is not the same as it might be in other places.  The design of the businesses and the housing make self made detours a tricky proposition. I hope you know the area, have a map, an able body, and no kids or groceries.  

At 62nd st and Dodge OMETRO has another ORBT construction zone and pedestrians have been told to walk to University Drive East.  That’s great – except it leads you away from campus. When my sight impaired acquaintance was forced to do it she arrived more than 40 minutes late to a meeting and she was visibly disturbed, flustered, and frustrated.  MSO understands that the city is going to be under continuous renovation and many of those projects are exciting to everyone. What we need the city, and every member of our community to understand is that we cannot wait to be pedestrian friendly. Starting today let us be clear about our commitments and do not let us leave such an important matter to the domain of volunteers.

Distracted by roads and cars we have created a situation whereby it is virtually impossible to travel the city on foot or bicycle in comfort. City dwellers live in a compact and dense area making the lifestyle environmentally friendly and economically profitable.  We should be rewarded for that with a good quality of life.  Metropolitan Omaha has a 50 mile radius with 1.3 million people. What does that mean? It means, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting run over, you shouldn’t have to suck on anybody’s tailpipe, and you shouldn’t suffer because you can’t get where you need to go without major stress. All of us must demand safer sidewalks as a public good.  

Imagine miles and miles of interconnected and uninterrupted sidewalk access that we can count on our city and each other to keep clear and value as a common good for our health and our wealth. If you have any doubt as to the costs of the current 14% longer commute Omaha enjoys, let me explain it.  Driving takes a toll on your body. Over time that sedentary behavior makes you older and shortens your life. It makes you emotionally distant from your community and overweight, which furthers your likelihood of being lonely, which then impacts other aspects of your health. It is also stinking up your air and every year chronic lung disease is listed among the top 3 causes of death in Douglas county. 

Living in a beautiful, connected and walkable community means that the older folks can enjoy their independence a little longer, younger folks can enjoy their independence a little sooner, and everyone in the middle can stop playing chauffeur.  It also means new opportunities for micro entrepreneurs as the difficulty of daily travel diminishes, the quality of the travel improves, and neighborhoods come alive. Below is a good example of a sidewalk staying open during construction at 50th and Underwood street. The owners may have made the decision to keep the sidewalk clear for economic as well as civic reasons. Either way – it is a win-win for the businesses and the many pedestrians in this vibrant part of our city.

Pedestrian sidewalk protection past construction site at SW corner of 50th & Underwood

Think about it.Think. And sign our petition so that everyone knows what you think. 

Sources

http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/omaha-population/

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/lung-disease

https://www.unomaha.edu/news/2019/07/construction-on-dodge-street-through-august.php

*The birdcage is an analogy used by Marilynn Frye to discuss oppression.

Five Questions . . . Er, News Stories.

18 Sep

Usually, we ask our monthly coffee chat guest 5 questions, but we know Stephen Osberg. He will be our guest on Friday, September 20th at 8 a.m. at the Hardy’s coffee at the Highlander. We have asked him five questions. More than once.

We would like to get more information about the ConnectGO effort of the Chamber of Commerce

1.The Chamber has an official effort to study where people want to live and how people want to commute. You can see more here

2. Local Media picked up the effort.

3. Folks on Reddit didn’t ignore it

4 We can look back at at nice profile of our guest, Stephen, in the Reader.

5. And again an appeal to the youngest working generation.